YouTube is a website that many professionals, such as marketers, can use to connect with new audiences through video. On this platform, creators can incorporate their branding and style into multiple forms of content besides videos, such as YouTube Thumbnail. Learning how to use video thumbnails can help you attract attention from potential viewers while adhering to marketing style and branding guidelines.
In this article, we explain what a YouTube thumbnail is, how to create a YouTube thumbnail and why it’s beneficial to have a good one, then we share tips to help you use thumbnails to benefit a brand.
What is a YouTube thumbnail?
A YouTube thumbnail is the image that represents a video when viewers are browsing videos on the YouTube homepage, search results or on a creator’s page. This small image typically displays some of the people, images or text in the video to show potential viewers what to expect if they click on the video. Some creators choose to add text to their thumbnails to draw attention to their image or clarify the content in the video. Having a visually attractive thumbnail may help you gain more viewers and improve the credibility of your video or channel.
How to create a YouTube thumbnail
You can follow these steps to create a video thumbnail:
1. Research your competitors’ thumbnails
You may find inspiration for your thumbnail by researching thumbnails of other videos you find compelling. This research can help you understand thumbnail design trends and industry standards that may improve your design. Using your research, make a list of elements you might want to include in your thumbnail. Consider researching elements like:
- Background image
2. Choose an image editing software
Choose an image editing program to use to create your thumbnail. These programs typically offer a variety of fonts, visual effects and colors, so it might be beneficial to research to find a program that aligns with your style. Some online software programs also have thumbnail templates that you can use. If you decide to create your thumbnail in an image editing software without a template, make sure your thumbnail image fits YouTube’s parameters:
- Resolution of 1280 pixels by 720 pixels
- Minimum width of 640 pixels
- Format as a JPEG, GIF or PNG file
- Under two megabytes
- An aspect ratio of 16-to-9
Many templates already have these parameters set, but consider checking to make sure the parameters are correct even if you’re using a template. Checking the size and resolution can also ensure that the thumbnail uploading system can accept and display your thumbnail correctly. You may have the option to save your final image in a variety of formats, so ensure you’re downloading it in a compatible one.
3. Add a background image
The background image takes up the majority of the space in your thumbnail, and most creators use a moment from their video to give viewers an idea of what the video looks like. Look through your video for a frame that’s representative of the video without giving away too much information. You can also consider how the text in your thumbnail may appear against the background image. If the brand already has a color scheme or a visual aesthetic, consider picking a background image that adheres to that style.
4. Include text
Including text in your thumbnail can provide your audience with context before they click on your video. Text may also get your audience interested in viewing your video content. Try to include an engaging and relevant title that conveys the purpose of the video to potential viewers who aren’t familiar with your content. Since the thumbnail is small, consider keeping your text short and simple as well. If you’re creating a series of videos, you can also include the video number in the thumbnail text so viewers can easily find the right video.
Once you know what you want the text to include, you can design its appearance. Choose a font that’s easy to read in a small size, and consider picking a striking color that creates a contrast between the background image and the font. For example, if the background is primarily white, you might use black letters. Contrast can help viewers read the text quickly and clearly. It can also be visually appealing to your audience.
5. Create a template
Once you’ve created a visually attractive thumbnail that aligns with your brand and follows the thumbnail parameters, you can create a thumbnail template to reuse for future videos. Using a template can help you create thumbnails more efficiently. It also creates uniformity across your videos, which can make your channel look more professional and branded. If you’re using a custom thumbnail format, you may want to save the size and format of the thumbnail before creating a new one so you can keep the parameters.
Having one type of thumbnail can also provide visual cues to your audience. For instance, you might indicate that certain videos are part of a series by using a similar thumbnail for each video in the series. A signature thumbnail style can also help your viewers to recognize your content when searching the site for videos.
6. Upload your thumbnail
Once you’ve designed your thumbnail, you can upload it onto YouTube. To do this, select the image you want and upload it to the “Thumbnail” section of the video upload dialog box. If you’ve already uploaded your video, you can use these steps to change a thumbnail:
- Select the “Content” option. In your YouTube Studio account, on the left-hand side of the browser, select “Content” from the panel of options.
- Choose your video. Find the video you want to add a new thumbnail to and click on its preset thumbnail or title. Clicking the video makes various settings for that video appear.
- Add your custom thumbnail. In the “Settings” dialog box, there’s a section labeled “Thumbnails” with preset thumbnail options. Select “Upload Thumbnail” on the left side of the options.
- Upload your file. Click on “Custom Thumbnail,” which causes a dialog box to appear. Select the file that you want to use as your thumbnail and upload it.
- Save your file. After uploading the file, click “Save,” causing the dialog box to disappear and the thumbnail to update with your new image.
- Review your thumbnail. Review how the thumbnail looks to ensure the proportions and colors are correct.
Benefits of a good YouTube thumbnail
The thumbnail is often the first thing a potential viewer sees about your video or your channel. A good thumbnail could:
- Attract viewers: An attractive thumbnail may convince both current subscribers and users who are unfamiliar with your content to click on your video. Having a high click-through rate (CTR) may also benefit you in search engine optimization (SEO) as YouTube often prioritises videos with high CTRs. Having more viewers might increase your influence on the platform and help you share your content with more audiences.
- Establish branding: Thumbnails are a part of the branding of your videos and your channel. Having a recognizable thumbnail style can help people identify your brand when searching YouTube. Your thumbnail can have specific words, colours or images that share information about your brand.
- Increase your credibility: The more professional your thumbnail looks, the more credible your video might seem to potential audiences. Having a clean and well-designed thumbnail can tell audiences you’re knowledgeable about the platform and your field. A professional-looking thumbnail may also make potential viewers feel they can trust the content of the video, which could persuade audiences to choose your videos over your competitors’ videos.
Tips for creating a YouTube thumbnail
Here are some additional tips you can follow to create compelling thumbnails:
Use a high-quality image
When selecting an image to be the basis of your thumbnail image, choose a high-quality one so you can see the image clearly regardless of the thumbnail size. Having a clear image can better display the design elements in your thumbnail and increase your professionalism. Viewers who quickly glance at your thumbnail may also be able to understand the context of the video based on the clear image.
Use simple images
Thumbnails are generally small, so having simple images can be easier to view in smaller portions. For example, a picture with mountains, trees and lakes may look unclear in a small size. However, a close-up photo of a single flower can be easy to distinguish, no matter the size, because the image is simpler. Your thumbnail communicates the context of your video to the audience, so make sure they can see what the image is on their devices.
Display a person’s face
Including images of faces can encourage people to look at your thumbnail. This is because people often identify with emotions they recognize on other people’s faces. Showing people in your thumbnail can also allow viewers to gain a sense of familiarity with your content. For instance, if you have video series hosted by one person, having their face in the thumbnail for each video can show continuity and encourage viewers to watch the familiar content.
Follow thumbnail trends
The popular design formats, colour schemes and font choices for YouTube thumbnails typically change over time. Consider monitoring thumbnail trends so that you can update your template with new design elements that keep your thumbnails looking original. Regularly updating your thumbnail format according to these trends may also make your video appear professional.