Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thumbnails - By Deborah Cuneo

As an illustrator,  when you hear the word  thumbnail, you probably  think of  a rough, miniature doodle.  It's  always been a tried and true way to flesh out an individual piece or an entire storyboard.  And... while I do start each new illustration with a small, rough sketch, over the years, the idea of "thumbnail" has become so much more  a part of my entire, creative process.

I generally start every illustration with a rough thumbnail.  If I'm working on a group of spots for my portfolio, or a book project, I eventually end up with a series of these rough little drawings in the form of a  storyboard. I've also been using thumbnails to write out the text with illustration notes for myself. But, for me, their usefulness doesn't end there.

I like to work on the entire series or book project  all at once to keep everything consistent, but tracking all the details  while working that way, can be a bit overwhelming, especially now that I 'm working more with digital tools and layers. I tried many different ways to keep track of what I did, but being a very visual person, I kept coming back to those simple little rectangles with the line down the middle. I use the thumbnail format for everything from tracking how many of the main elements have to be rendered in separate  layers, any revisions that need to be done, to mini color studies to give myself a full color overview and pretty much everything in-between.

Color Tracking - Little Dragon Sky Pony Press-2017

Color tracking thumbnail, close-up - Little Dragon Sky Pony Press- 2017

I find that the "at a glance" of the entire book, at different critical points in my process, really help me to keep tabs on all aspects of the project. And, I always have the thumbnails close by, so I can look them over with fresh eyes from time to time. Kind of like occasionally stepping back from a painting, only in this case, it's the whole project. When I do that, I can see things about the project that I couldn't, by just looking at one piece at a time, for hours on end. If something jumps out, I jot it down on the thumbnail sheet and mark it off when I address it. It all becomes part of the documentation for my project and they're nice and small, so easily put in the file.

Overview thumbnails - Little Dragon Sky Pony Press-2017

I had always just printed out my own thumbnail sheets, but we all know what happens to loose sheets of paper, despite our best efforts to keep everything together. So,  I'm happy  to announce that one of my blog buddies, Diana Delosh, came up with a small portable book, with lots of pages of my favorite little rectangles with the line down the center.

ThumbNailer / interior-   created by Diana Ting Delosh
 It's lightweight, portable, feels great (I'm also a very tactile person), has 51 pages with 8 thumbnail boxes per page and best's totally affordable ! It's called ThumbNailer and you can get your book through Amazon.  I have Prime, so I got mine in 2 days and no shipping!
ThumbNailer /cover -  created by Diana Ting Delosh

I think this is going to work out really well, not only for the beginning sketching part, but also for keeping all aspects of my book projects together in one place.  For the price of a big, fancy cup of coffee, I can get one book for each project, as well as have one in my purse at all times in case inspiration strikes.

I'm just about done with the art for Little Dragon, but I always have another couple of book projects in the works that the ThumbNailer will be perfect for!


  1. Huge Thanks for the shout out for my ThumbNailer :) BTW The little duckling is so-o-o sweet! Looking forward to seeing more of him.

  2. Thanks Di. The duckling is really still in the development stage so your ThumbNailer will come in very handy!!

  3. That's a handy-dandy little gadget, perfect for those illustrators who still work traditionally. However, I do all my thumbnail storyboarding digitally. It saves on paper, is easily to manipulate, and I can take it with me on the same jump drive that I've saved all my full size images on. Girl, we gotta catch up soon! I've missed you!

  4. Hey Lisa,
    Actually, I work with both digital and traditional but the Thumbnailer is mostly for fleshing out ideas on the go. I always have a sketchbook of sorts with me and end up drawing the little boxes for compositions. This new little tool will eliminate the middle-man, so to speak! The rest of what I plan to use it for is just to keep all my printouts, revision notes/ideas , etc, all in one place for each of my book projects...multitasking!! Definitely have to catch up!