How Cropping Your Thumbnail Sketches Can Help You Create Stronger Paintings!

Hello everyone!

I hope this you are all finding time in this new year to follow your creative dreams!

So far this year I am succeeding at doing more in my artistic endeavors…painting in pastel, trying out new watercolor techniques, and even keeping up with my thumbnail sketches (fingers crossed).

As I have completed more thumbnails, I have discovered an unexpected bonus that I want to share with you. 🙂

Traditional thumbnails are usually done on paper with pen, pencils, or markers. They are small and are meant to be done quickly as a way to try out a variety of formats and compositions for a proposed painting before you invest time, money, and creative energy on a larger scale work.  The reasoning is that if a painting doesn’t work at this smaller size, it won’t work when it’s larger.

While producing thumbnails in this way doesn’t have to take a long time, it can easily turn into something that you skip altogether because it can feel like a chore….

As you know from my last few posts, I have recently begun using a few different art apps to help me create my thumbnail sketches (see my last few posts by scrolling down this page).

When I complete a sketch using these apps, they allow me to save the image I create to my Photos on my iPad.

From Photos I can select the image of a completed thumbnail, click on the “share” button, and then select “duplicate” from the menu which will place a copy of the image in photos right next to the original.

Then I simply select the duplicated image, and then select Edit.

My iPad’s photo editing is pretty basic, but one thing it does brilliantly is allow me to crop my thumbnails very quickly using a variety of sizes and formats. That means I don’t have to keep redrawing my original in order to try out new sizes and formats.

This saves time and can open up creative possibilities that I might not otherwise consider!

Here is an example of a recent thumbnail I did of a beach scene. I created this sketch using the iPastels app, and while I thought it’s ”okay”, I wondered if cropping could make it stronger. 

Original Thumbnail using iPastels

 I then duplicated the image and then cropped it into a variety of formats.

Vertical Format with a closer viewpoint


Square Format creates tension

Panoramic View

Extreme Vertical Format

As you can see from the examples above, you can easily try out a variety of formats, zoom in or out on your focal point, and just generally see if your proposed painting will “work” at this smaller scale.

It can also serve you in the future. Let’s say that I paint my picture using the square format, but a few weeks or even months later I decide to experiment with a panoramic view. I can quickly and easily do that just by duplicating my original thumbnail and cropping it into a panoramic format.

I hope this inspires you to put your photo cropping tools to use on your thumbnails.

Happy painting!


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