Drawing thumbnails for beginners

Miniatures are like “sketches before sketches.” They help to fully present the final result, providing enough opportunities for experiments. In today’s lesson from the “Digital Painting from A to Z” series, we will reveal the advantages of these tiny masterpieces.

What are miniatures?

Miniatures are small preliminary sketches that are usually framed by a frame and represent a snapshot of the idea of ​​a future drawing. Traditional artists have always used them to plan their work, so it is not surprising that miniatures moved into the sphere of digital painting.

Why can I use thumbnails?

Did you have a situation where there are a lot of ideas in your head, but you cannot get them together?

With the help of sketches in Photoshop, you can work out the perfect composition before you start drawing. This can be an important step in your journey through the world of painting, because with the receipt of new experience you are trying to prepare a drawing to avoid the typical mistakes of beginners.

And the main mistake of beginners is the lack of preparation. As you can see, good drawings do not fall from the sky. Behind each masterpiece there is a long list of notes, thumbnails and even small studies to perfectly draw every detail.

Types of miniatures

Creating thumbnails is a fairly straightforward process. Here are some different methods you can try yourself:

Notes and Studies

As a matter of fact, I always write more than draw. All my miniatures are accompanied by associative words that help clarify my vision better than visual interpretation. I call the colors I want to use, write adjectives to describe the drawing, and make many notes about important details that I can forget. After I have a general idea, I feel comfortable enough to start drawing.

However, not all artists are the same. You may need to draw 3 thumbnails or 30 before proceeding to the next step. Advice to beginners – just experiment, until you find a suitable process for yourself. Make lots of easy-to-understand notes and re-read them in order not to lose the idea.

Freedom vs. the details

I saw a lot of different miniatures, ranging from carefully traced beautiful sketches and ending with “stick people” and “chicken sketches.” They all work and each of them has its advantages. Every time when you draw without details, you leave space for further creativity. This allows you to quickly draw all the ideas, without wasting time on fine drawing.

However, the detailed miniatures are great at helping to notice all the details. This makes everything work out completely before proceeding to the final draft.

The best way to find out which type of thumbnails suits you best is to listen to yourself. Need to add more details? You know what to do.

Contours and shapes

What should the negative space look like? Where is the hierarchy of this picture? How will the eyes move through the composition? Before completing the outline, you need to answer all these questions.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is just draw the basic outlines. Want to paint a beautiful landscape? Include simple shapes in your thumbnail, such as triangles for trees or squares for buildings. Although it sounds silly, but in the end you will be surprised how your vision cleared up.

Colors and Values

As mentioned earlier, thumbnails are great for exploring. Therefore, do not forget to experiment with color and lighting scheme. If you deal with this at an early stage of work, you will avoid disappointment in the final result.

Because of its unlimited potential, Photoshop can often seem too complicated for newbies. Working with thumbnails, you can concentrate on a specific color scheme and not be distracted by all that is superfluous.

Basic settings: how to draw thumbnails

Creating your own thumbnail template is easy. However, you can also download the finished file (https://cms-assets.tutsplus.com/uploads/users/346/posts/23900/attachment/psdtuts_thumbnail_template.psd).

Use the tool Rectangle (Rectangle Tool) to create several rectangular shapes in portrait or landscape format. Merge all layers with shapes and secure them.

Create new layers and dedicate them to a specific concept. Now start sketching! After that save the file in the format .psd, to use it for future drawings.

We get maximum benefit from thumbnails

It was pretty simple, right? Now consider some tips for more efficient use of thumbnails.

Do not overdo it

Remember, this is just a thumbnail. A little sketch. It should not be too complex or detailed. If you see that you are already overloaded at this stage and do not know what to do next, calm down and come to this easier. Good ideas require a lot of experimentation, so learn to accept minor flaws, even if you draw a “stick man”.

Think wider

Sometimes frames don’t help, and a blank white sheet kills the desire to draw. Try changing the way you work with composition. If you get the same compositions each time, wean yourself from this habit even at the stage of creating thumbnails. Use circles instead of rectangles, play with perspective or color to change your attitude to the idea.

Know how to choose the best thumbnail.

You made some thumbnails. What’s next? Choose the picture that best reflects the story. Do not be lazy and carefully select the sketch. For maximum results, examine all the miniatures, paying special attention to those who look at. Just listen to yourself and find out what is best to choose.


It all seems like an extra work, but drawing thumbnails will help you succeed in creating stunning drawings. Thanks to extensive planning, artists will find out what works and what doesn’t.

Do not let your ideas go down the drain! Download the template and start creating, and do not forget to share your ideas! Good luck!

Author: Melody Nieves

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