Creating a graphic novel: Thumbnails to Finished Art

My new all-ages graphic novel is now live at To give a little bit of insight into my process, I thought I would share some of my sketches and show the stages I go through in creating the artwork.

1. Writing/thumbnailing

I start with a story goal in mind, a short written outline, and a loose series of plot points that I write out on a plot diagram. Since I’m very much a visual thinker, the meat of my writing process involves thumbnailing out small sequences of images. I create scenes organically as I let the pictures lead my thought process on where a scene is going. I fill many pages with scenes and snippets of scenes. Then I go through them all and refine and combine these small scenes into thumbnailed pages as the story fits together in sections. This is a lengthy push and pull process, and I find this method helps me stumble upon a lot of interesting scenes and sequences I may not have thought of if I was writing words with the more logical side of my brain. As I thumbnail I also jot down little bits of dialogue in the margins, but sometimes the visuals will give me a good indication of the story at this point without getting overly detailed about dialogue. In the end, I eventually end up with a rough story pieced together from these small thumbnailed pages. At this stage I do a lot of moving of pages/scenes around, adding dialogue, and adjusting things until I’m happy with the story.


2. Penciling

Once I have the thumbnailed pages – these are usually drawn very small at 1.25″ x 2.5″ – I scan them and place them into Manga Studio. (See this blog post for details on how I set up my story and pages in Manga Studio). I enlarge the tiny thumbnails to actual page size, and then draw my pencils on a new layer using the thumbnails as a loose guide.

The following is a step by step process for two pages…

Hand drawn thumbnails:


Pencils in Manga Studio. All dialog and word balloons are placed at this stage:


Inks in Manga Studio:


Pages are then exported and colour flatting is done in Photoshop:


Final shading and highlighting in Photoshop:


And that’s basically my process.

Also wanted to share some of my working/concept sketches. Here are a few cover concepts:


And the colour artwork for the covers. The cover I ended up using was the one on the far left:


Back cover/interior endpaper concept 1:


Back cover/interior endpaper concept 2:


Concept artwork:


I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look into my process.





About the author

  • Chris JonesCHRIS JONESContributor

    Chris Jones is a Canadian based children's illustrator. He has always been interested in telling stories visually, and his colorful style focuses on humor and expressiveness. A graduate of the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD), he has illustrated for several magazines and educational publishers. Chris is inspired by good music, good books, long walks, and generous amounts of coffee. Chris is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Tags: , , ,


  1. Julie

    That was great!  Thanks for the look.  How long was this process for you form conception to finish?

  2. Chris Jones

    Thanks Julie! I starting working on this in December 2013. As of right now, all pages are inked, colour flatted, and I have about 30 that are final with shading, etc. So, when all is said and done, about a year from start to finish.


Leave a Reply to Julie Cancel reply