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From Idea to Execution: Why Comic Book Thumbnails Are Crucial To Bringing Your Comic Book Vision to Life

Creating comic book thumbnails is a crucial step in the process of creating a visual story. It involves creating small, rough sketches of the story’s key moments, characters, and settings. Before you even start drawing the characters and start figure drawing, this technique allows you to see the entire story in a visual format. Overall, thumbnailing is an essential tool for any visual storyteller, and can help you to create a compelling and engaging story that resonates with your audience.

comic book thumbnails The Realm Ethereal
Comic book thumbnails, artwork by Rene Arreola for The Realm Ethereal comic book series.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

5 Reasons You Should Thumbnail Your Comic Book Story

comic book thumbnails

1. Helps with Visualizing the Story

Thumbnailing allows you to see the story in a visual format, which can help you identify any potential issues with the pacing, composition, or flow of the story.

Sketching up comic book thumbnails involves creating small, rough sketches of the story’s key moments, characters, and settings. By creating these small sketches, you can quickly and easily experiment with different layouts, compositions, and perspectives. This can help you to refine your ideas and ensure that your story is visually engaging and easy to follow.

Additionally, comic book thumbnails can help you to identify any potential problems with the story’s pacing. By creating a series of small sketches, you can see how the story progresses from one moment to the next, and identify any areas where the pacing may be too slow or too fast.

2. Saves Time and Effort

By thumbnailing your comic book story, you can quickly and easily make changes to the story before investing a lot of time and effort into creating the final artwork.

Imagine if you had to draw a standard comic book page. Here in the US, it’s typically done on 11” x 17” art boards. Whether you’re working on paper using traditional comic book inking tools or creating digital art, the main concept to grasp is working small and working fast!

My thumbnails are typically no larger than 1.5” inches wide by 2.5” inches tall. I draw small: stick figures, buildings, characters. Sometimes I make tiny doodles of characters in action, but the main thing is I work fast.

This means I can focus purely on translating a plot or script in an initial thumbnail sketch phase. The thumbnails are not meant to be perfectly drawn. Rather, the thumbnails are a way to brainstorm the written story in a visual format. This helps to make accurate drawings that tell the story.

By working fast and small, these thumbnails help with working through the story in a drawn format. Many times, I’ve adjusted my own thumbnails while working back and forth throughout the story. I’ve even changed things up in the flow of the artwork based on how I see the story visually developing.

3. Thumbnails Provide a Roadmap for the Artwork 

Thumbnailing provides a roadmap for the artwork, allowing you to plan out the composition, panel layout, and other visual elements of the story.

By thumbnailing your comic book story, you can quickly and easily make changes to the story before investing a lot of time and effort into creating the final artwork.

This process allows you to experiment with different layouts, pacing, and dialogue, ensuring that your story is as strong as possible before you start drawing the final pages.

Additionally, thumbnailing can help you identify potential problems with your story, such as plot holes or pacing issues, and address them before they become major roadblocks.

The other important factor with thumbnailing out an entire issue of a comic book is that you end up with mini version of the comic itself. I like to draw my thumbnails in reader spreads. What this means is I set up my thumbnails side by side for each page in the comic, much as the reader would be viewing the comic.

This allows me to plot out the story in a visual way, but I can also design the entire two pages side by side. This lets me see how my panels are being arranged and what type of panel layouts I am constructing.

Ont thing I don’t want to do is have two panels of the same size line up next to each other on two pages seen next to each other. This can cause confusing storytelling on the reader’s part, something we as artists don’t want to do.

Telling stories in comic books is about clarity in telling a story. Always second is making beautiful art. Remember, the art must serve the story first and tell it clearly.

4. Helps with Collaboration

If you are working with a team on your comic book project, thumbnailing can help you communicate your ideas more effectively and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

I work mostly on my own self-published comics these days. However, I have collaborated in the past with other writers. It has always been very beneficial to the entire creative team, especially the writer and editor, to create thumbnails and get approval to draw the full size artwork.

Comic book thumbnails allow for making changes on a small scale that can then be approved by any powers that be. This makes the artist’s job easier as well.

5. Allows for Experimentation

Thumbnailing allows you to experiment with different ideas and approaches to the story, helping you to find the best possible version of the story before committing to the final artwork.

Regardless whether my final comic book pages are drawn traditionally or digitally, I always create my comic book thumbnails digitally. This makes the process of experimentation even faster!

Both Photoshop and Procreate are my go-to digital drawing tools. Both offer the best worlds of working digitally. I sometimes use one or the other exclusively, depending on the project. Or, I may use both program in tandem. It really just depends on the project and final output.

Working digitally, I can scale up drawings, flip, or reverse my thumbnails very quickly. This allows me to really lean into my composition as well. I personally prefer to thumbnail my comic art pages on an iPad Pro.

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Overall, thumbnailing is an essential tool for any comic book creator, helping to streamline the creative process and ensure that your final product is the best it can be.

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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