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Pacing and Thumbnails

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, Nov. 2, 2018

Source: Comic Fury

Thumbnailing is a crucial part of the comic making process as it allows you to sort out your pacing and dialogue over the course of a chapter or issue, however, it is often a step that is missed by a lot of creators particularly those learning how to craft a visual narrative (me included).

In case you weren’t sure what I was talking about, thumbnails are a series of very rough sketches of pages that typically take up the space of an A4. The idea is to get the initial composition and panel layout on paper so that you can see how the necessary emotional beats move throughout the chapter and it helps you recognise when you might be repeating the same types of angles.

In the initial stages of creating a story, thumbnails can assist you in work-shopping an idea to see if it really is viable. Once you’ve written out your rough outline, maybe even going so far as to write some dialogue depending on what your process is, sketching it out allows you to see how it will read and where to re-balance parts of your story.

Not only does this stage of comic development help you maintain a consistency in tone and look throughout the rest of the comic, it gives you scope of what you might need to learn to accomplish certain shots or expressions or where you might need to tighten things up. It also gives you a chance to get messy and fluid with your drawings and is a good way to kick the “perfectionist” habit that we all sometimes fall into.

There is no right or wrong way to do thumbnails. It is more about the process itself. The point is not to love your thumbnails but to create a safe space for you to test ideas and see where it is that you might need extra work.

Do you use thumbnails as part of your process? Does it work for you? Let us know in the comments below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST) where we’ll be talking about this topic!

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irrevenant at 7:37PM, Nov. 6, 2018

The issue I have with doing small thumbnails of pages is that I often don't know how to map out a page until I can see how much space the dialogue takes up. You can't really do that with thumbnails. How do other people work around that?

PaulEberhardt at 2:13PM, Nov. 5, 2018

I usually have a pretty detailed script, and I've always got a very good idea of what I want the page and the drawings to look like. Whenever I start drawing it all is already there in my head with perhaps just one or two details needing to be added. That's why I've never really felt the need to make thumbnails. But I might use them for some crucial parts if I ever do a longer story.

EssayBee at 9:47AM, Nov. 5, 2018

I do my rough scripting in a notebook, and jot down panel thumbnails as I script. When I type up the rough scripting, the thumbnails, of course, don't come along, but I at least have them handy for reference. I always like when trade collections include page thumbnails/layouts as extras in the back.

Ironscarf at 7:42AM, Nov. 3, 2018

I thumbnail everything in advance on paper, then often do more thumbnails when it comes to drawing the page in question. After finishing the page, I shed many tears of desperation because all of these thumbnails look better than the finished page.

JaymonRising at 1:17PM, Nov. 2, 2018

That's nothing. In manga, even writers have to create thumbnails for the artists called "namaees", which are essentially rough draft thumbnails which the latter needs to polish.

AmeliaP at 12:48PM, Nov. 2, 2018

Oh, thumbnails. For me, it's that critical part where I decide which stuff stays and what gets out. I thumbnail out in a big panel, having the whole chapter visible in one single paper. I see the rhythm and patterns, usually divided between scenes with three to five pages. This process takes me days to finish.

Jcom at 9:06AM, Nov. 2, 2018

I'll be piecing most of my stories in my mind to better get a sense of the overall arc, and then I'll sketch the strip on panels one at a time. But I like this idea, too.

JustNoPoint at 7:43AM, Nov. 2, 2018

I used to do this on paper but now that my digital studio is mobile I do everything digitally. So now I'll start with a written script. Then I do a bit of a combination. Fast gesture rough thumbs hybrid. My thumbs are now full pages and with Clip Studio I can still see an overview of all the pages at once like in the image you've shown. As for the script/thumbs debate. I cannot script a fight scene well. So I'll note highlights of the fight in the script but I won't truly know how many pages it'll be till I do the thumbs. Because it's a more organic process to make fights in this manner. To me at least.

usedbooks at 5:19AM, Nov. 2, 2018

I write a final dialogue script and thumbnail just before a rough draft page. Prior to that, my story is written in script form (usually in many drafts, and in the initial phases, often fragmented)

Ozoneocean at 4:42AM, Nov. 2, 2018

I only thumbnail out page before I draw them now... I used to thumbnail whole chapters out rather than write out the script! But a written script works better than a visual one.

bravo1102 at 2:51AM, Nov. 2, 2018

Since many of my panels are from photos I often compose them looking through the lens like a film maker. Since the figures are posed as nd shot in sequence I map the flow as I proceed. Usually putting everything together in Photoshop I can play with layouts and layers as I go. Often the scripts are detailed enough to suggest obvious page breaks and transitions. I may not actually use thumbnails but I do everything short of it.

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