How to Start a Comic: From Script to Thumbnails

The Dreaded Thumbnail Brain Fog

Why is it so hard to get past the script stage of your comic and move to the illustrative stage?

Comic Brain Fog….

When I finish my script and get my pencil to start drawing I freeze…  Because all I see in my mind when I try to visualize everything are just grey, foggy figures moving around a grey, foggy surrounding. 

I’ve struggled with this a lot in the past and still struggle with it off and on now but I’ve learned a few things that help me finally clear out that fog and finally move from script to thumbnail sketches.

What are Thumbnails?

Thumbnails are just another way of saying storyboarding or sketching rough drafts. The basic explanation that I can give about what exactly is thumb-nailing – it’s a simple drawing of rough images – particularly ones that I visualize after reading the script and scribble them down either into a sketchbook, folded sheet of paper, or in an actual thumbnail book.  Thumbnails are sort of like the visual itinerary of your comic. 

Thumbnails are my Script Itinerary

Why is it helpful to Thumbnail?

I discovered that creating thumbnails before the main draft is helpful because… 

  • This helps me make sure I’ve mapped out the story as thoroughly as possible (so that I don’t miss any important scenes).
  • When I don’t thumbnail I usually run into a problem where the story doesn’t flow smoothly enough. 
  • Thumbnails help provide a visual to see where the story will end
Or you can wing it! Do what’s best for you!

The Supplies I Use to Make Thumbnails:

  • My thumbnail book – to keep my thumbnails organized
    • With the paper ratio the same so that when I enlarge it, the same amount of images fits in the page when enlarged or decreased so no panels aren’t cut off and the flow of the page is thrown out of whack
    • It also helps me keep everything organized so that the images don’t get out of order. 
    • There are also books that you can make or use online to help you make your own thumbnail book but usually I just fold up a paper in tiny squares and number the corner edges but do whatever works best for you!
If it’s paper I can still draw on it!

Visualize thumbnails from my script:

  • I use this helpful tool to help keep everything in perceptive when I’m trying to visualize the story like looking through a camera lens so that I can draw out what I see.  Using the 5w1h (who, what, when, where, why and how) helps me to turn that grey fog of shadowy figures in my mind to a clearer visual.  It helps me to stay focused on visualizing and drawing the things that are essential to the story and ignore the nonessential random things that might pop up in my mind.  Here is how I use it…
    • Who is in the scene?  Boom, I now see the characters.
    • Where are they in the seen?  Boom, I now have the location.
    • What are they doing in the scene?  Boom, you now have the actions that they need to be doing.
    • When is this taking place?  Boom, I have the time surrounding conditions like if it’s at night or during the day.  
  • Now the last two (How and Why), I sometimes don’t always have one because they’re usually found out when you put all the scenes together after drawing out the whole story but if you like you can still use it for example…
    • You can use the Why to help visualize why this is happening and that way if you need to draw up any foreshadowing this can help you remember to do so. 
    • For the How you can use it to look over the whole script and see if it answers the question “How did the story go?” and – after you look at your thumbnails – do the images you’ve drawn explain all that?
Comic creation is still very confusing for me…

Remember to have fun! 🙂

Trying to visualize your story can get overwhelming so using this can really help you keep the important things that need to be drawn in perceptive.  Thumbnailing (or storyboarding) along with keeping the 5w1h in mind are great tools to help you convey your story from your script as smooth and concise as possible!

The 5W1H helps me stay on track

Don’t forget that you can use anything to draw your thumbnails on.  To help keep things organized I’d suggest making sure to fold and number your paper, or you can use basic blank sketchbooks, or even thumbnail books that can be found online.

Back you MONSTER!!

Before you go!

If you would like to keep up with more of my Comic memo tips or Comic updates then feel free to join my mailing list: (Link Here)

Now get back to that awesome script of yours and get to thumbnailing!

I might not be able to respond to all comments but I do read and appreciate each one. Thank you for understanding <3

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