Text is boring. A thumbnail standing in for a line of text helps to visualize what the information is all about. In the age of visual search engines and visual computing, thumbnails (or thumbshots) are all over the place.
Thumbnails as “˜Tom Thumbs’ of the real thing allow us to pack in more within the screen real estate. The ideal size of a thumbnail differs with use and the setting. Ideally, a scaled down but recognizable version of the real thing can be called as a thumbnail. For instance, Flickr generally uses 240 pixel-wide images.
There’s no end to the utility of thumbnails. From illustrations to photo galleries, they are thumbed for the bigger picture.
How do we go about creating thumbnails? Well, it’s easy as cherry pie (eating it”¦ not baking!) with all the options on our thumb, err hands. I’ll be showing you the mechanical approach, as well as 4 free thumbnail generators in both Software and Online format. You have the freedom to choose which method you wish to use!
The Mechanical Path
Not the easiest but definitely the cheapest as we can work without spending a penny, using what we already have – the PrtSc (Print Screen) key and MS Paint.
- Open the document/webpage/object you want to take a thumbnail of. Resize it by dragging the edges to set the area for the image.
- Press the PrtSc key – the image is in the clipboard now. Alternatively, pressing Alt-PrtSc takes a snapshot of the active document or object only.
- Open MS Paint (All Programs – Accessories – Paint). Click on Edit – Paste to paste the image from the clipboard as a new Paint document.
- On the Menu, click on Image – Stretch/Skew Image.
- Choose a percentage figure to resize the image – for the same proportions, enter equal percentage for horizontal and vertical stretch.
- With the desired size, click on File – Save As. Save the file in a format of choice.
MS Paint can be substituted with the better image editors with enhanced image resizing controls (Example: Using Actions in Photoshop). For more demanding needs, we need to turn to the various free thumbnail generators that are available.
The Software Path
This 1MB software lives up to its name. The graphical interface is simple and it makes creating scaled down graphics a user-friendly task. The best thing about this free thumbnail generator is the batch processing feature.
Select an individual image file or an entire folder. Setting the rotation, brightness, contrast and size of your images is easy through helpful sliders. A unique feature for such a freeware is the range of compression settings provided which lets you reduce the file sizes; vital for a large number of web images. And the image window lets you preview (in real time) the thumbnail’s final look.
Easy Thumbnails runs on XP / XP64 / Vista / Vista64 / Windows 7 or on Mac OS / Linux in conjunction with Wine.
RightThumb is a tiny (398KB) context menu application which lets you create optimized thumbnails with a right click. Creating a thumbnail from any graphic file needs just a right click and choosing the option to ‘Create Thumbnail’. The program does not need to be installed which makes it ideal as a portable app too. To handle multiple images, just select all the images and right click.
With RightThumb, a thumbnail can be created as a Bitmap, JPEG, GIF or PNG graphic file or can be copied to clipboard, ready to paste. The only feature lacking are the image editing settings.
RightThumb runs on Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista.
If you are looking for a free desktop variant for the Mac then take a look at Paparazzi! which takes screenshots with the option of thumbnails.
But what if you are on a public computer without these software on the PC? Then, we must look towards the internet.
The Online Path
It’s as simple as uploading an image (or providing a URL), choosing the resize options and downloading the thumbnail image. As added security, uploaded files are kept on the Quick Thumbnail server for only 10 minutes.
Use a slider to resize by percentage or choose absolute measures in figures. Fixed size choices range from 32 pixels to 750 pixels. Images can also be scaled by using a drop-down list of standard dimensions like 100×75 for avatars and 150×112 for thumbnails. Added options include basic filter settings and watermark inclusion.
Resizr, like most image manipulation web apps has been designed keeping the unsophisticated designer in mind. Image resizing is free, requires no registration and also comes with some added options. The screenshot shows the options available. The slider easily lets you set the optimum size between small and big. Resized files can be saved as JPEG, GIF or PNG. The final image can be downloaded, forwarded to < a href=”//www.makeuseof.com/tags/facebook/”>Facebook or MySpace, sent to a cell via MMS (US only) or simply emailed.
There are other web apps of such ilk which make the thumbnail creation and image manipulation a snap. At MakeUseof, we have covered some of them over the course of a few posts such as WebSnapr: Free Website Thumbnail Screenshots and Thumbalizr: Website Screenshots.
Also read an earlier post by Kaly which started out by reviewing Resizr but soon jumped into other exciting apps.
Thumbnail creation by itself is something that any good image manipulation program can handle. It is about paying attention to the proportions and the quality. Which is your web app/software of choice? Do you use a dedicated application or an all purpose image viewer/graphics program? Share your experiences with us in the comments.