What Is A Thumbnail Sketch Essay

14 Apr 8 Reasons Why You Should Thumbnail Sketch

Thumbnail sketching is used at the earlier stages of design sketching. It is about sketching your ideas quickly and efficiently and then picking the one that stands out for your final design at the end. It is like going to a bakery to buy a cake, you see several different cakes on display, then you pick the one you like! It is great when you have multiple choices. Thumbnail sketching will provide you with those kind of choices in a small matter of time, if used efficiently. Here are 8 reasons why you should thumbnail sketch.

1. You save time.

I remember when i was in college, we used to come up with many ideas as possible in a short period of time. Sketching each idea on a large a4 or a3 sheet of paper was a waste of time and consumed too much energy, and funnily, you may never looked back at that large drawing ever again.

Thumbnail sketching meant to be much more quicker compared to original size drawings, well, mainly due to it’s size. Smaller size means smaller details, smaller strokes, thus meaning time being saved, and we all know how valuable time is, especially before exams or deadlines in design field.

2. You practice at quicker peace.

When you save time, you will have more time to observe and learn various things while sketching. You may practice perspective, line weights and other aspects of sketching at quicker pace. You will obviously make lots of mistake, faster you do them faster you learn.

3. More Choices.

Once you have gathered all your thumbnail sketches on a table, you will have dozens of ideas that’d been generated in a short period of time and you will have more choices to pick from for your final design concept. More choices, more solid decisions.

4. More sketches per page.

More sketches per page means less sketchbooks, less paper, more trees saved!

5. You observe various themes and forms much faster.

When you observe shapes and forms faster (and MORE), quicker they sink into your brain, into your visual library. More you observe and experience forms and shapes, the faster your visual library expands and starts working at faster speed as time goes by (and no…it won’t take you 4 weeks to get to this level, more like 3-4 years of consistent practice and observation).

6. You are less tired due to less arm movement.

Due to small arm movements, you will be less tired physically. Instead of making long and big strokes with your elbow, you will make smaller, shorter strokes with your wrist due to smaller sketch size.

But mind you, when sketching multiple ideas your brain tends to work faster, switching and jumping from one design idea to another, thus you may feel little exhausted at the end of each sketching session. I usually take break or even stop sketching after 30-40 minutes, go for a walk, then come back with fresh mind.

7. Testing your ability at which you can come up with ideas.

This is my favorite part. Thumbnail sketching puts your brain under pressure. It will test it’s idea generating powers. Instead of generating one but big idea/sketch, it will be generating smaller, various ideas but at quicker peace. And to get better at this, you simple do it more over time, more repetitions.

8. Chain reaction and knowing when to stop.

Thumbnail sketches are on their own idea generators. When you finish your sketches, put them on your desk and stare at them. While staring you brain will pick various pieces, forms, shapes etc. and organize them into one final piece, that final piece could be your final design, or not. This concept keeps going on and on like a chain reaction, for that reason, don’t forget to take a break or know when to stop. As a designers, this is the hardest part, knowing when to stop, making the final decision, and moving on to the next stage.

What are your thoughts on thumbnail sketching? How often do you do it and for what purposes?
I hope you enjoyed this post and gave you some value. Keep practicing!


This article is about scaled-down images. For the body part, see Nail (anatomy). For the AKB48 album, see Thumbnail (album).

For information about how to create thumbnails in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Picture tutorial.

Thumbnails are reduced-size versions of pictures or videos, used to help in recognizing and organizing them, serving the same role for images as a normal text index does for words. In the age of digital images, visual search engines and image-organizing programs normally use thumbnails, as do most modern operating systems or desktop environments, such as Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, KDE (Linux) and GNOME (Linux).


Thumbnails are ideally implemented on web pages as separate, smaller copies of the original image, in part because one purpose of a thumbnail image on a web page is to reduce bandwidth and download time. Some web designers produce thumbnails with HTML or client-side scripting that makes the user's browser shrink the picture, rather than use a smaller copy of the image. This results in no saved bandwidth, and the visual quality of browser resizing is usually less than ideal. Displaying a significant part of the picture instead of the full frame can allow the use of a smaller thumbnail while maintaining recognizability. For example, when thumbnailing a full-body portrait of a person, it may be better to show the face slightly reduced than an indistinct figure. However, this may mislead the viewer about what the image contains, so is more suited to artistic presentations than searching or catalogue browsing.

In 2002, the court in the US case Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corporation ruled that it was fair use for Internet search engines to use thumbnail images to help web users find what they seek.


The word "thumbnail" is a reference to the human thumbnail and alludes towards the small size of the image or picture, comparable to the size of the human thumbnail.[1][2] While the earliest use of the word in this sense dates back to the 17th century,[3] the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms is reported to have documented that the expression first appears in the mid-19th century to refer to 'a drawing the size of the thumbnail'.[4] The word was then used figuratively, in both noun and adjective form, to refer to anything small or concise, such as a biographical essay. The use of the word "thumbnail" in the specific context of computer images as 'a small graphical representation, as of a larger graphic, a page layout, etc.' appears to have been first used in the 1980s.[3]


  • The Denver Public Library Digitization and Cataloguing Program produces thumbnails that are 160 pixels in the long dimension.[5]
  • The California Digital Library Guidelines for Digital Images recommend 150-200 pixels for each dimension.[6]
  • Picture Australia requires thumbnails to be 150 pixels in the long dimension.[7]
  • The International Dunhuang Project Standards for Digitization and Image Management specifies a height of 96 pixels at 72 ppi.[8]
  • DeviantArt automatically produces thumbnails that are maximum 150 pixels in the long dimension.
  • Flickr automatically produces thumbnails that are a maximum 240 pixels in the long dimension, or smaller 75×75 pixels. It also applies unsharp mask to them.
  • Picasa automatically produces thumbnails that are a maximum 144 pixels in the long dimension, or 160×160 pixels album thumbnails.

The term vignette is sometimes used to describe an image that is smaller than the original, larger than a thumbnail, but no more than 250 pixels in the long dimension.

Thumbnail sketches[edit]

Art directors, storyboard artists and graphic designers, as well as other kinds of visual artists, use the term "thumbnail sketch" to describe a small drawing on paper (usually part of a group) used to explore multiple ideas quickly. Thumbnail sketches are similar to doodles, but may include as much detail as a small sketch.

See also[edit]


Shows a thumbnail image of a video in TubeResearcher
A human thumbnail, from which the word "thumbnail" derives its meaning.

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