Hello again!

So TURNCOAT Issue #3 is almost completed. Blimey. Time sure does fly. Many thanks to everyone who’ve stuck with us so far for our first webcomic. We’re learning on our feet and loving every minute. We’re especially enjoying the comments section – it’s nice to know we’re not shouting into the void.

I thought – benevolent writer/dictator that I am – that Plaid Klaus could have a single 10 minute break from pencilling/inking/coloring/lettettering/designing to talk about his thumbnailing process.

Over to you, brother.

Ryan O’Sullivan

Thanks, Ryan!

Thumbnails are the blueprint for the comic book illustrations.  It’s where the artistic war is waged, it’s where the battle is won.  So, when Ryan gives me a script, it’s time for me to prepare for battle.  My first thoughts are always, “Ryan who taught you to write, monkeys?”.  Ryan always apologizes for his primate ancestry (I have never apologised – Ryan) and we move forward with making comics.  Before any pencil is put to paper, I read the whole script, then go back and analyze each page.  Which panel is the “King” shot (most important).  I’ll even try to figure out the “Queen” shot (either setting up, adding impact to the king shot or just the second most important piece of information).  If I know I want to use an extreme wide or tall panel, I figure out how the previous panels need to be arranged to allow for that in the page design.  Next I realize my own existential dread and decide thinking is great, but if I don’t put anything to paper then I’ll have nothing to show for all my thoughts.  So it’s time to thumbnail…


If the page design doesn’t work at the length of one’s thumb it won’t work any better when seen at full size.  It’s important to take the time and make sure the elements work small before going into final illustrations.  There is a lot of information that goes into a page that needs to be considered.  Does  the composition lead the readers eye across the page?  Does the dialogue fit nicely in the resting spaces without covering important visual information?  Are the images even interesting to look at?  All these are important questions to ask yourself while developing thumbnails.  Let’s get into the trenches and talk about how these designs get made.


Like any good battle, you’re gonna need a few tools in your arsenal.  I like to have a ruler, eraser pencil, .05mm lead (for roughs) 2H and HB 2mm leads for the more refined thumbnails.  Now, the reason I have three pencils is because I do a lot of revisions at this stage.  My initial drawings are done really quickly and rough using the .05mm pencils. I don’t want to allow myself any details, just rough forms and concepts.  The initial stage is just trying to capture the images from your subconscious and tackle them onto the page.  Once you have an image on the page in front of you, it’s time to look at it, analyze it, and decide how to shift forms & shapes as well as frame the image in a panel.
As I said before, I spend a bit more time in my thumbnail process than a lot of artist, but I want to have everything figured out when I go into pencils, inks and coloring.  I rough out the layout and block out the forms using the light 2H pencils.  Next I’ll actually establish the light source before laying on the shadows.  I use toned paper which allows me to draw on the light source using a white conte pencil.   This helps me to figure out the strength and direction of the light.  Then I go in and draw the balance of tones, details and shadows with the HB pencil.


When the thumbnails are complete, I enlarge them to page size, reanalyze them and make minor adjustments in photoshop, as well as add the final white borders.  In fact, I go one step further, since I letter my own work as well, and I’ll place the lettering onto the thumbnails to be 100% sure that the comic reads and nothing is crowded or covered.  It’s a lot of time to invest in such an early stage, but honestly you have a comic by the end.  Sure, it looks rough and needs to be polished, but again the blueprint is complete, now I can start building.

 And there it is!