How to Make YouTube Thumbnails: Everything You Should Know

How to Make YouTube Thumbnails

If you’re a creator on YouTube, it’s important to think not only about the content you create but also about your overall YouTube presence.

YouTube is an extension of your company or business, concerning marketing and advertising. As such, your YouTube profile should be a clear representation of your brand and what you do, including your aesthetics, value, message, and more. One important part of your YouTube presence is your custom thumbnail design.

What is a YouTube thumbnail?

A YouTube thumbnail is a small still clickable image that acts as the preview image for your YouTube videos. This is the first thing viewers notice when browsing through YouTube.

The thumbnails are the small images that serve as the sort of “cover” for each video that you create. Video thumbnails appear on your profile page, as well as on search result pages.

YouTube thumbnails are like book covers. They either capture viewers’ attention or let them keep scrolling. As such, you need a thumbnail that is eye-catching and communicates the essence of your video at a glance. You want it to arouse curiosity and make people say “Oh, yeah! I want to watch this.”

Thumbnails reduce bandwidth and download time and make it easier to display a variety of images in one space. This gives viewers the freedom to decide what they want to watch.

Why should I use a custom thumbnail?

YouTube, by default, suggests thumbnails for you to use. But more often than not, the suggested thumbnail will be something like an old snapshot or a less arresting picture from the video. So, you need something more. That’s where your custom thumbnail comes in.

According to YouTube Creator Academy, 90% of the best-performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails.

A professional custom video thumbnail gives you YouTube channel cohesiveness which will improve your brand’s channel. Viewers can easily scroll through your channel to have a quick overview of what your channel has to offer.

Also, your custom youtube thumbnail will help you stand out among others when algorithms push your video to viewers.

Overall, the goal of your custom thumbnail is to:

  • Grab attention and arouse curiosity
  • Effectively summarize the content of your video
  • Compel viewers to click and watch your YouTube video
  • Stand you out from the crowd
  • Make your video easily viewed on any device whether desktop or mobile device.
  • Ensure brand consistency.
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How to make a YouTube thumbnail

Creating an eye-catching YouTube thumbnail requires some thought because it plays a vital role in your video’s success. To get it right, here are steps and considerations to follow.

Image selection

Since people are naturally drawn to clear images, your YouTube thumbnail plays a vital role in the impression viewers have about your brand and, ultimately, your streams. So, you have to choose a crisp, vibrant, eye-catching image. Also, the image has to be related to the content of your video.

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You can capture an image while filming your video. Try out different poses, facial expressions, and gestures. You can also take a quick snapshot from your video footage for the thumbnail image. Check out the size guide for YouTube thumbnails.

YouTube’s Guidelines & Terms of Service

Make sure that your images and texts comply with copyright terms and are age-appropriate for your audience.

Also, you need to choose the right sizing and dimensions as per Youtube’s guidelines. According to YouTube, 1280 x 720 pixels is the standard, with a minimum width of 640 pixels. An aspect ratio of 16:9 is standard and it’s often used in YouTube players and previews.

Image resolution

Choose high-resolution images for your thumbnail. Since YouTube videos can be embedded on websites and blogs despite showing up relatively small on search results, you want to avoid small images that you need to scale up. So, it’s better to choose an image that can be scaled down- top quality.

Once you’ve created your image save it as JPG, PNG, GIF, or BMP image formats and ensure the file size is within the 2MB limit.

Rule of Thirds

In addition to your image resolution, when setting the photo in your thumbnail design, employ the rule of thirds. This is a technique in photography aimed at creating balanced and engaging images.

 how to make thumbnails for youtube

The technique divided your design layout using two horizontal and two vertical lines. Then, you position a focal element at the intersections on one-third of the layout. You can do the same for your Youtube thumbnail page.

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Title Text

Adding texts to your video thumbnails is important for many reasons. The topmost reason why you need texts is to make sure viewers understand the context of your video.

An image alone will not suffice, no matter how simple and attractive it might be. It cannot tell how beneficial your video is to potential viewers. Also, text alone cannot captivate the audience. So, you need a mix of both in your YouTube thumbnail – a compelling background image plus overlay text can do wonders.

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You want to ensure your text is community-compliant and completely free of words or phrases that could be taken out of context. Also, make sure the text contains the title or keywords.

 how to make custom thumbnails for youtube

If you create a series, using a numbered thumbnail increases the chance of a new visitor searching for more of your content to consume.

Fonts and Colors

Fonts play a crucial role in branding. When well executed, your fonts can add depth to the messaging in your text enough to make visitors click on your video.

You want to make sure your thumbnails have a consistent style with functional fonts, balanced placement, and memorable colors. Check out the guide for how to choose brand colors.

 how to make good thumbnails for youtube

If you already have an established visual identity outside YouTube, use your headline font for your thumbnail text. If you haven’t be sure to choose a font that expresses your brand identity.

Some ideal thumbnail fonts include:

  • Impact
  • American Captain
  • Cooper Black
  • Lilita One
  • League Gothic
  • Lato Heavy
  • Obelic Pro Bold
  • Evogria

In addition to the fonts, ensure you choose colors that make your texts easy to read as well as fits your brand identity.


SafeSearch is a technology used by Google and YouTube to filter out explicit content such as pornography and potentially offensive content. While SafeSearch isn’t 100% accurate, it hides a thumbnail from search results if it picks up explicit content.

If your thumbnail design consists of anything that SafeSearch deems explicit it’ll lower your chances of showing up in the Suggested Videos section, ruining the number of views you can amass.

There are different SafeSearch analyzer tools online that can help you check if your thumbnail will be flagged as explicit. Your content can be scored from 1 to 5

  • 1 = very unlikely to be considered explicit
  • 2 = unlikely
  • 3 = possible
  • 4 = likely
  • 5 = very likely to be flagged as explicit.

Your content may be ranked from 3 to 5 if it contains:

  • Adult content – nudity, pornographic images or cartoons, or sexual activities.
  • Spoof – an offensive recreation of an original image
  • Medical images
  • Violent content
  • Racy content – close-ups of sensitive body parts, skimpy or sheer clothing, strategically covered nudity, lewd or provocative poses.

Tips to make youtube video thumbnails stand out

Make your Brand Recognizable

The most successful videos on YouTube use their branding kit as the base for their thumbnail design. You can also use some other consistent character, shape, color, icon, etc. throughout all your thumbnails so that the audience immediately recognizes that the thumbnail they’re looking at belongs to your brand. This is how you develop a connection with your viewers.

People enjoy the familiarity and the feeling of inclusiveness. So consistency will help you build your brand, as well as a loyal following. It will also increase your views and potentially make your videos go viral.

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Neil Patel is a great example of consistency within a YouTube channel. Neil does an incredible job with branded consistency, using colors, fonts, images, and graphics that match his brand perfectly.

You can clearly distinguish his works from others and you’ll see that he takes consistency seriously. It’s also clear he has YouTube thumbnail templates to keep you on track.

To ensure consistency, you can create a branded YouTube thumbnail template that makes it easy to create your designs without falling out of style.

2. Be honest & accurate in your thumbnails

If you use clickbait headlines or misleading images in your them with thumbnails, you are shooting your brand and reputation in the knee.

No matter how compelling and crisp your thumbnail is, if your viewer finds out it’s different from the video’s content, they would mark your YouTube channel as one to never expect good from.

Not only that, but YouTube also stops showing your videos in search results and the suggested videos section if your bounce rate is too high.

The thumbnail is meant to provide context, so using an image that does not depict the video’s content will harm you rather than benefit you. Identify the most important point or part of your video and create your thumbnail with that.

Create your thumbnail as a sneak peek of your video without revealing too much. Show the audience just enough to click through and check out what you have for them. Explore some finest YouTube banner ideas.

3. Use good contrast in your youtube thumbnail design

We’ve mentioned earlier, including texts in your YouTube thumbnail is crucial. But a text without legibility is as good as useless. That’s where contrast comes in.

There are several types of contrast, but the one we’re concerned bout here is color contrast. When you use two colors that belong to different spectrums like yellow and purple or black and white, then you have a high contrast design. Whereas, if you use very similar colors like orange and yellow, then you have a low contrast design.

Check out the following example:

 how to make your own thumbnails for youtube

When comparing the two, it’s much easier to read the word on the left than the one on the right. That’s because white and right have high contrast while red and orange have low contrast.

When designing your thumbnail image, make sure that your text has stark contrast with the background image.

Mistakes to Avoid When Creating You Thumbnail

It’s pretty easy to take your thumbnail with levity since it’s the last thing you attend to. You’re already burnout, so you just capture any snapshot without any creative thought. But that’s absolutely wrong.

As we’ve noted your thumbnail can make or break the performance of your YouTube video. So, here are 5 popular mistakes you should avoid in your thumbnail.

1. Too much text

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One of the most common mistakes creators make in their YouTube thumbnails is to include too much text. Understandably, they’re trying to be explanatory, and capture attention, However, when it comes to YouTube thumbnail design, more is less.

Keep everything small and remove redundancy. If your visitors can’t read the text in on quick glance, then, it’s overwhelming. If you must include a lot of text, use 2-4 words n your headline and include smaller texts as subtitles.

2. Unflattering facial expressions

 how to make custom thumbnails on youtube

While faces are great for your YouTube thumbnail, the expressions on the face matter the most. You don’t want an emotionless face or one with a fake smile. That’s why we advise taking as many shots as possible so you’ll have a wide variety to select from for your thumbnail. Check out the logo ideas for YouTube.

3. Boring Thumbnails

 how to make your own youtube thumbnails

Avoid dull-looking images for your thumbnails. Things like bland texts without images, bland charts or graphs, or straight faces will not connect with your audience and will most likely ruin your chances of getting clicks.

If you’re not using images, make sure you use eye-catching, colorful graphics. And if you use images, add a little character so people can feel something.

4. Covered faces

 how to make custom thumbnails for youtube videos

The idea of having a face in your Youtube thumbnail is to express emotions through facial expressions: make eye contact. How do you do that with a covered face? Exactly, you can’t. So, you want to ensure the person’s face in your thumbnail is clear to see and not covered by the play button.

5. Too much motion

 how to make thumbnails on youtube

Avoid images or snapshots with too much action as they can be blurry or distracting. So, ensure you limit your thumbnails to static images. Check out the difference between YouTube and TikTok.

How to Add or Change a Thumbnail on YouTube

It’s pretty easy to add or change a video’s thumbnail. You can use the YouTube Studio app or sign in from your YouTube account.

  1. Sign in to YouTube Creator Studio.
  2. From the left menu, select Video Manager.
  3. Select a video and click edit
  4. Choose an auto-generated thumbnail or click Custom Thumbnail
  5. Select an image to upload.
  6. Click Open the Save.

Need design inspiration? If you’re looking for something to get your creative juices running, we’ve compiled some of the best YouTube thumbnails for your inspiration.

YouTube Thumbnail Design Trends

YouTube Thumbnails with Faces

It is common to find creators using their faces or the face of the person the video is about as the thumbnail image. This is because faces are powerful tools of attraction. A face in your design will help your thumbnail stand out and help humanize your brand.

Faces perfectly capture any emotion you want to convey. They also work well to build trust and familiarity. People are hardwired to trust familiar people, And a human face can help to generate genuine support for your brand.

Check out some amazing YouTube thumbnails with faces.

Emoji Thumbnails

Emoticons with faces can also be a great starting point for your attraction. Even people who haven’t seen emojis before can easily translate the emotions in your emoji. Explore some TikTok emojis.

 how to make cool thumbnails for youtube
 how to make youtube thumbnails smaller

Playing with perspective

You can add a dramatic effect to images of faces when you play with perspective. Usually, perspective is used to portray three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to capture the right impression regarding the height, depth, width, and position of such objects.

Your thumbnails can be more intriguing when you distort to objects’ normal dimensions, creating exciting setups. This sort of visual illusion can entice viewers enough to make them click on your video.

 how to make good thumbnails youtube
 how to make youtube thumbnails in photoshop

Dramatic Poses

Dramatic poses have an intriguing effect on people. It conveys emotions that capture the essence of the video and make people curious to click and watch what might have caused such emotions.

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Showing Progress or comparison

Showing the results of a process in your thumbnail can trigger interest in viewers. For example, you can showcase how you got an image edited from bad to better. People will want to find out how you arrived at the result.

 how to make youtube video thumbnails

In the second scenario, if you’re targeting people who are trying to make decisions between two products, showcasing the products and highlighting key features can be a great way to draw viewers’ attention,

 how to make your own thumbnails on youtube

Personality focus

As we’ve mentioned earlier, familiarity excites people, and makes us feel comfortable, A video thumbnail with popular personalities like Steve Harvey, let Queen Elizabeth II, and Elon Musk as the focal image can be great for drawing attention. When coupled with compelling text, be sure your clicks will raise through the roof.

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 how to make youtube thumbnails free

Intriguing graphics

If you’re not a brand that can represent yourself with real human faces, then make sure you have compelling designs. Great visuals also have similar effects to faces in terms of attraction. Although they might humanize your brand they still convey emotions.

 how to make custom thumbnails youtube

Do you need an online youtube thumbnail maker?

Design can be a tedious job to undertake, especially if you don’t have the expertise. So, a Youtube thumbnail generator or YouTube thumbnail creator can come in handy.

The best YouTube thumbnail maker you’ll find out there will come with preset YouTube thumbnail templates that make your design easy and fun.

90% of the best-performing videos on
YouTube have stunning thumbnails

You can create thumbnails easily using tools such as.

  • Adobe (Spark or Photoshop)
  • Fotojet
  • Fotor
  • Canva
  • Phonto
  • Picmaker
  • Snappa

These tools have professional design, free high-definition photos, and fonts to make your thumbnail creation easy.

Wrapping Up

The importance of a good thumbnail for your YouTube video cannot be overstated. It impacts your overall success on the platform.

Do you want to know a secret?

Patterns are Key to YouTube Thumbnail Success

As we’ve earlier noted, the human brain is wired to look out for patterns. So, using consistent elements in your YouTube thumbnails can be encouraging.

Interestingly, YouTube Neural Network Algorithm also looks for patterns just like human brains. So, having patterns in your videos can cause them to be suggested more often.

Overall, patterns help you maintain brand consistency, helping your videos become more identifiable across the web and ultimately increasing your streams.

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