Brainstorming TRACK: Lesson 4, Thumbnail Sketches

  • Draw 6 thumbnail sketches.
  • Choose 2 of the 6 thumbnail sketches to add color to.
  • For the 2 color sketches, you can either color in the thumbnail as is, or try the tracing paper technique. (see below)
Intro to Gouache Painting, Thumbnail Sketches
Intro to Gouache Painting
Subject matter

Tracing paper

  • Tracing paper is a great way to figure out color schemes without having to draw every sketch from scratch.
  • Color drawing media that work well for this process are colored pencils, Caran d’Ache crayons, markers.
  • Place a sheet of tracing paper over your thumbnails.
  • Draw on the tracing paper with color drawing media.
  • You can take the tracing paper off the thumbnail and view the color scheme on it’s own without the thumbnail.
  • This is a great way to create color palettes.
  • Make sure your 6 thumbnails look very different from each other, they shouldn’t look remotely similar.
  • Consider point of view, is your composition a bird’s eye view? A worm’s eye view? Are you a person in the scene, or are you on the outside looking in?
Landscapes Track: Grocery Store Alien Landscape, thumbnail sketches
  • Is the composition zoomed in a lot, or zoomed out to show a larger space?
  • Tweak your thumbnails by drawing new lines so you can expand the thumbnail, or crop it.


  • Make sure the aspect ration of your thumbnails are the same as the final artwork.
  • For example, if your thumbnails are square, and your final artwork is going to be a rectangle, those square thumbnails will not be very helpful!
  • Draw literal rectangles for each thumbnail so you are conscious of the edges and corners of your composition.
  • Don’t draw grids and fill them in.
  • A grid makes it tough to see the thumbnails as separate compositions as they tend to blend into each other.
Jordan McCracken-Foster, banner
Jordan McCracken-Foster

Art Media

  • A sketchbook and any pencil or pen is fine.
  • Any digital media works too.
  • For color drawing media, colored pencils, Caran d’Ache crayons, markers are all good options as they are quick and not messy.
  • You can do any combination of traditional and/or digital media.
  • For example, you might decide to sketch in pencil, and then bring those pencil sketches into Photoshop to experiment with color.
Jordan McCracken-Foster, banner
Jordan McCracken-Foster


Artworks by Triplegem, SC McGill, Cynthia, Johanna, Brittany, Neil, Bowsers

We want to share your progress!

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Thumbnail Sketches

This video explains and demonstrates the process of how thumbnail sketches work within the artistic process. There are many benefits of thumbnail sketches: they can save you time when working on a final piece of artwork and allow you to explore more options for composition.

The demonstration shows simple strategies on how to crop or expand your thumbnail sketches and how to diversify your options. Demo and discussion led by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artist Cat Huang.

Thumbnail Sketches for a Landscape

This video is a demo for how to draw thumbnails of using several reference photos to create an original composition.

See the process of how to merge the reference photos to create a dynamic landscape that shows depth. Demo led by Art Prof Clara Lieu.

Brainstorming & Sketching Ideas for Comics

See a demo of how to quickly sketch ideas for comics in Procreate.

Tips for starting include how to start designing a character for the comic, what style to use for that character, and discussing elements of comics like point of view, comic panels, timing, storytelling, and more.

Drawing demo led by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artist Cat Huang.

Show us what you make!

Mixed Media Acrylic Painting, Lauryn, banner