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Thumbnails in comics - Why you should be using them

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, Sept. 4, 2020
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When crafting a visual narrative, creating thumbnails is a crucial and often overlooked part of the process. It’s about helping you figure out the pacing and dialogue over the course of a chapter or issue of your comic. As the story comes together you’ll also be able to see where the holes are in your story, as well as what needs to be cut away.

This method of planning is great for workshopping an idea to see if it’s viable before you begin drawing full pages. Once you’ve written out your rough outline (click here for tips on how to construct your own outline), sketching it out, at this stage of the process, allows you to see how it will read and where to re-balance parts of your story. In the end, it saves you a lot of time.

Thumbnails can be as simple as a series of very rough sketches of pages, typically taking up an A4 page. The goal is to get the initial panel layout/composition on paper and determine where the emotional beats should go. It helps you recognise when you might be repeating the same types of angles as well, and thus, where to mix things up.

Using thumbnails means you maintain a consistent tone and visual style throughout your comic. You’re able to understand the scope of what you need to learn, to accomplish certains shots or expressions as well as where you need to tighten plot points and loose threads. It also gives you a chance to get messy and fluid with your drawings which is a good way to kick the “perfectionist” habit.

There is no “right way” to do thumbnails. It’s about the process itself; sorting out what is in your head and getting it down on paper. It’s about creating 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 comic creation process? 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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Let us know in the comment section below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST)!

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comment

anonymous?

quinn o matic at 7:52PM, Sept. 5, 2020

Is always use thumbnails, but I feel free to edit and change them as I work. The more passes you go over something the better Imo. Thumbnails are just a first pass with no pressure to be good

plymayer at 8:27PM, Sept. 4, 2020

Of course if the plot, the story or the idea is already there ( in the mind's eye) I just wing it. Just do it. Thumbnails are a useful tool. But you don't always need a screwdriver. Although one would taste good about now.

pkism at 7:16PM, Sept. 4, 2020

I write a script for each chapter, then do the thumbnails and make sure there's enough space for all the dialogue to fit in. I'd like to keep my chapters under 30 pages, preferably 25, so thumbnails are crucial to making sure everything fits as well as keep continuity between pages and making sure they flow together.

usedbooks at 4:08PM, Sept. 4, 2020

I write patchwork scripts (pile of random scenes/thoughts as they come to me), organize them into a chronological-ish order. Then I write chapter/episode scripts. Then I rewrite those a few times. Then I script an individual page. Then I thumbnail the page. Then I rough draft the page. Then I final draft the page. Then I digital edit the page. Then I color the page. Then I add effect. Then I upload. Then I script the next page.

Banes at 11:09AM, Sept. 4, 2020

I still haven't been patient enough to thumbnail out a full story or chapter. I've done good-sized chunks of a story when the plot is more intricate, and it's very helpful. I believe in doing it and I intend to get better at it eventually. It would improve everything in the process, as well as the quality of the stories.

roma at 9:50AM, Sept. 4, 2020

I thumbnail everything. It helps me figure out page count and pacing.

Avart at 7:28AM, Sept. 4, 2020

Totally worth making them. Great article!

plymayer at 5:36AM, Sept. 4, 2020

How much thumbnailling I do really depends on how much of the story or idea is already in my head. Thumbnailling is certainly the smart way to go. Solves so many problems before they get out of hand. Making a rough out line first assists with the pacing and flow as well. When updating old comix from my younger days, the original can often become a pseudo thumb nail of sorts. https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/X_UP/5640612/

bravo1102 at 1:09AM, Sept. 4, 2020

I do when drawing a comic. In my other work everything is composed through the camera lens and blocking the scene. Multiple shots are taken from different angles and poses and I play with those images to get the rough edit. I probably should do more storyboarding but I find myself more concerned with scene composition as opposed to page. It's easier to draw then blocking and shooting. I draw stick figures I have to ice my right arm for a couple of hours after.

dpat57 at 12:08AM, Sept. 4, 2020

Very practical! They don't have to be works of art, no one's going to see them, basic stick figures will do at a pinch.


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