Grab a lesson on me. 
Cute thumbs up sketch with text that reads, "Free! It's my Art Teacher Secret Weapon! It's Thumbnail Sketches!"

13 Free Pages of THUMBNAIL SKETCH Printables!

Shhh! These Thumbnail Sketch Printables are my Art Teacher SECRET Weapon!

For my Art 1 students these small, quick, and often overlooked drawings play a HUGE role in shaping their artistic journey in my classroom. Here’s why they matter and why you should incorporate MORE Thumbnail sketches:

Visualization: A picture is worth a thousand words! Thumbnail sketches are a handy link between a student’s wild ideas and their finished masterpiece. They help teachers really get what’s cooking in the student’s mind, making it easier to give them spot-on advice. It’s like having a visual chat that’s a win-win for the student and the teacher!

Composition: Thumbnail sketches teach beginners the art of composition. We know at first most students don’t even have a thought in their heads about the size and format of their paper and how that effects placement of their subject on the page! With thumbnails, they experiment with different formats and (hopefully) get to understand the role the artwork plays with the edges of the picture plane. These early lessons in composition sets the foundation for creating better art in the future.

Ideation: Hopefully with these small, quick sketches, students can fearlessly experiment with many different ideas. This ‘no-judgment zone’ allows them to explore and take risks. Since thumbnails are quick and informal, there’s less pressure to get it perfect.

Hateration: Sure, they hate them at first,…but MAKE THEM DO THEM ANYWAY. Assign them and make them complete and least 6 before they can move on to their final artwork. This creates students who learn if they want to make good art they must do some planning first! The hate disappates eventually when they just come to realize thumbnails are just always part of the process.

So, we know thumbnail sketches are VITAL for beginning artists! BUT… Students don’t just automatically understand how and why they should create thumbnail sketches before their final artwork. I have to teach it and re-teach it and teach it again before they really start to get it.

The biggest thing I have to teach and reteach and reiterate and regurgitate is this: EACH THUMBNAIL SKETCH DOES NOT NEED TO BE A COMPLETELY NEW IDEA. Show them (over and over 😐) how to do this! I usually model it on the board for them.

Here’s what I do: In my first thumbnail box I draw a doughnut right in the middle of the page. Next, I draw two doughnuts where they both go off of the page. Then, I draw one in the middle and two going off the page. In my next box, I draw a doughnut off to the side and on the other side of the page, I draw a coffee mug…. etc. I keep that up until I have 6 thumbnail sketches of the same idea: a doughnut!

RELATED Thumbnail Sketch Resources:


Thumbnail Sketch brainstorming activity that encourages a lot a creative changes to thumbnail sketches to create better art!

For a more in-depth thumbnail sketch activity, check out this Thumbnail Brainstorming Activity.

Artwork Planning Guide - Three Page Printable Worksheets to help students plan and sketch out ideas for an original artwork.

For a very detailed artwork planning guide (better suited to upper level artists), check out the Sketch and Plan: A Guide to Planning an Artwork for High School Artists.

And I promised a FREEBIE!

This FREE resource contains 13 pages in a PDF file. Each page contains different size and format squares so students can create the correct size and format THUMBNAIL SKETCHES prior to beginning their final artwork. This product contains both Profile and Landscape formats for MANY different sized paper. You’ll find 9″x12″, 8.5″x11″, 11″x14″, 12″x18″, Ledger, Tabloid, Legal and Square options! 

Click the Image to Download:

13 free pages of Printable Thumbnail Sketch pages in different size formats! 9x12", 8.5"x11", 11"x14", etc.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share with a Friend:

Other Posts You Might Like:


Hi, I’m Erin!

I’ve been a high school art teacher at a rural school in WV for the past 14 years. I teach Art 1, AP Art + Design, Art 2 and 3. 
I’m a little obsessed with my sweet husband. Together we have FOUR kids and a rescue dog named Boomer! 
I love a bad pun and terrible dad jokes. I spend time looking at MBTI memes, cooking, listening to serial killer podcasts and Harry Potter audiobooks on repeat. I also teach yoga and indoor cycling. Click the button below to learn more about me. 

Find What You need

let's connect!




Freebie Process Grading Rubric