OCAD Studio: Thumbnail Sketching

You can use thumbnail sketches as a way to quickly note down ideas for drawings and paintings. They can be used for both abstract and representational work.

You can quickly test out lots of different compositions and proportions, just by placing the major features (such as the horizon and large objects or masses).

  • Thumbnail sketches are very small (usually just a few inches wide and tall). Make your thumbnails a variety of different proportions, this allows you to test your compositions in lots of different possible formats.
  • Imagine that your image is seen through squinted eyes, so all that remains are the major shapes and lines. Draw a few major lines and shade in darker values or add dominant colours.
  • Feel free to be as loose as you like, it isn’t necessary to add lots of details, it’s more important to make a lot of different thumbnails so that you can test out lots of different compositions and value/colour combinations.
  • Once you’re done, you can write down notes about individual thumbnails or the group as a whole and then pick a thumbnail to use as the starting point for your painting or drawing. Before starting the final artwork you can also produce a larger drawing or colour sketch to test out the basic composition with more details and a greater variety of values and colours.


See the pages below for a range of different sketchbook pages with landscape thumbnails produced on location.

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART


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