Apr 19, 2015

Thumbing My Way...

YESSSS!!!! I got a Pearl Jam song title into my own blog post title! Self props!

Anywho... I'd like to talk about thumbnails today, as I really haven't had much time to do anything other than those very things lately.

So what is a thumbnail? Well, a thumbnail is essentially a very small drawing or quick colour study with the aim of establishing composition and tone and various other key elements. It is usually done quite roughly, and the less time spent on them the better.
I think they are probably most used in the comics medium these days, though I've seen a lot of fantasy artists use them quite a lot too.
The general idea is to make a little mock-up of ideas you have for the final piece. You can work out figure placement, lighting, gestures and all of that fun stuff, while not having to spend a huge amount of time on making full size roughs of each idea as it comes to you. You can just scribble down your ideas on a really small scale and still get an impression of what works and what doesn't.

Basically, a thumbnail got its name from the size of the drawing. While most artists who utilise thumbnails would tend to draw them larger than an actual thumbnail, the name just stuck.

Personally, I use thumbnails (or thumbs for short) for many things. From paintings to illustrations to comic pages.
As I'm currently working on a comic at the moment, I thought I'd show you how I use them and why I probably need to change my system.

As it stands, my system is this: I work on a roughly 10 x 6cm thumbnail size. I have made the below frame using my beloved Adobe Illustrator, based on my buddy Bart Sears' preferred dimensions and have reduced the original size so that I can fit four of these on an A4 page-
I've kept the above picture at the correct A4 size, so if you want to use it as a template, go right ahead! Feel free to save the image and use it yourself.

So here are some of the thumbs for the 4-to-a-page sheet I've been drawing for the Dryad comic.
I have then been taking the layouts that I like and redrawing them on a 2-to-a-page sheet.
In this way, I can bump up the detail a little and get a better feel for the success/failure of the page. I like the idea of this system, but I think the execution of it is a little off and it needs a tweak.
Here the template for the 2-to-a-page layout:
I think the issue is that my initial 4-to-a-page thumbnail template is too large a scale. It is just big enough that I am still putting in detail and trying to get likenesses, proportions and such in there. Which is absolutely not what this stage is for. This stage is for big, dirty and ungainly strokes. It's about quickly trying out ideas and moving on to the next one within a really short amount of time. It's about the relationship of shapes and forms.

So what I am going to do is start using this template for that initial stage:
Again, if you want to use this template yourself, it's all yours.

I think the two-to-a-page size works well for getting in the slightly finer points. This is where I try to nail down likenesses and get the details loosely in there. What I then do is take one of those 'roughs' and put it into Illustrator and blow it up to the final page size. I have Bristol Board cut to this size and the guide lines pencilled in. So all I have to do is print out the scaled up rough and throw it on a lightbox with the Bristol on top and transfer the roughs.
Then it's just a case of tightening up the pencils to a point I need (which varies depending on the object) and then slapping on some inks. But I might leave this part of the process for another post, where I'll show you how the pages shown above progress.
Sound good?

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