The creative tutorial home of image wrangler, Lesa Snider.

Classy Thumbnails

April 20, 2005 by
Three simple steps to better, classier thumbnails

We’re all aware of how important it is to create thumbnails of larger images so that our web pages load nice and fast. This is especially important of photo galleries. What we may not be aware of, however, is that just a little tender loving care can really make those thumbnails enticing, and encourage visitors to take the extra step of clicking to get the larger version. I’m going to share with you three ways to create better, classier thumbnails.

Creative cropping

The main issue is the way we create thumbnails. Typically, we just scale down the original image (or we use software which does this for us) and that’s it. The problem here is that the visitor is unable to see any detail at such a small size. If the photo is of people, you can forget being able to identify them.

Instead, get creative with your cropping and focus on a simple element instead of the whole photo. In the following example, I’ll illustrate this point:

Another terrific example of creative cropping can be seen in Lisa Presley’s online photo gallery.

Give the above URL a visit and see how they’ve emphasized bits of her images so that the thumbnails are as elegant and interesting as the larger images.

Sharpen them up

After you’ve cropped the image into a pleasing thumbnail, sharpen it up a bit with the Unsharp Mask filter.

Step 1: Open the image, and click the layer on which the soon-to-be-thumbnail lives.

Step 2: From the Filter menu, choose Sharpen > Unsharp Mask.

Step 3: In the resulting dialog box, check the Preview button (so you can see what you’re doing), and experiment with the Amount, Radius, and Threshold sliders until you are satisfied with the results. I typically find that entries of 50, 1, and 1 (respectively) do the trick for my thumbnails, as shown below:

Give them a border

To add even more class, pop on over to my previous tutorial on giving them a nice hairline border.

Until next time, happy “thumbnails” to you ;)