Submitted 06.05.24

Unlocking the Power of Thumbnails: Why You Need This Essential Design Technique Fireside Tattoo Network

Hey there, tattoo artists and design enthusiasts! Let's delve into a technique that can revolutionize your tattoo design process: thumbnailing. These small, rapid sketches can significantly enhance your designs; we're here to explain why. Discover the game-changing benefits of thumbnailing and how you can start implementing it right away!

Importance of Thumbnailing in Tattooing

"Thumbnailing is crucial in solving shape and value issues in tattooing before diving into intricate details."

— Jake Meeks

Thumbnailing empowers you to create quick, simple sketches that develop your tattoo designs. It's a crucial step that allows you to solve major design problems related to shape and value early on, ensuring a smoother and more efficient tattooing process. By focusing on big shapes first, you avoid getting bogged down by intricate details too soon, leading to more compelling and cohesive compositions. This process puts you in control of your design, allowing you to refine and perfect it before adding the final touches.

Okay, How Do I Thumbnail For My Next Tattoo Design?

"I'm just thinking about the simple shapes that make up the design I want to make."

— Jake Meeks

Step-by-Step Guide:

  1. Start with Simple Shapes
  2. Create several quick sketches based on the general shape of the body area where the tattoo will be placed. Don't spend too much time on this—outline the potential areas and add a bit of musculature if needed to help define the flow.
  3. First Set of Thumbnails
  4. Use a complementary color palette or just black/pencil and white paper. Utilize basic shapes like cylinders, cubes, and spheres to outline the primary shapes and areas of the design. Spend about 2 minutes on each thumbnail.
  5. Refine Your Thumbnails
  6. Identify which compositions work best. Pick your strongest three and spend another 2-5 minutes refining those before moving on.
  7. Final Phase
  8. Out of the three refined thumbnails, choose the absolute strongest one. Spend another 2-5 minutes adding quick details before finalizing your design and moving on to the total value/color study.


In just 20-30 minutes, you've created a visually appealing tattoo design and saved yourself from potential design issues. This efficient process allows you to focus on what you do best-creating stunning tattoos for your clients.

Actual Benefits Of Using Thumbnails In YOUR Tattoo Design Process

"No one has ever solved a problem by complicating things or adding complexity. You only solve things by simplifying, and thumbnailing is the perfect tool to simplify your problems."

— Jake Meeks

Thumbnailing simplifies the design process by ensuring the basic shapes and values are effective before adding details. This approach emphasizes the importance of simplicity in tattoo design, helping you avoid wasting time on complex, ineffective designs. By repeatedly refining thumbnails, you can achieve the best possible composition, leading to more successful and visually appealing tattoos. This process instills confidence in your design choices, knowing that you've thoroughly considered the basic elements before moving on to the details.


"If it doesn't work dumbed down, if that arrangement of shapes you choose isn't pleasing to the eye, you will not fix it by adding fancy stuff. You will notice that cake and make it good; you'll waste a lot of time making a mediocre tattoo."

— Jake Meeks

Thumbnailing is a powerful tool for simplicity and efficiency in your tattoo design process. It's your secret weapon. So, the next time you embark on a design, don't overlook the thumbnails—embrace them! Start using this technique today and watch your art (and your clients) thrive.


Learn More about THUMBNAILING: 

Drawing For Tattoo Design: Thumbnailing Will Make You a Better TattooerFor Sure Fireside Technique

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