With millions of videos vying for attention, your YouTube thumbnails serve as the first point of engagement for potential viewers. These seemingly small images carry significant weight in attracting clicks and views.
YouTube thumbnails provide a snapshot of your video content, setting expectations for what viewers can expect. A well-crafted thumbnail not only piques interest but also conveys the essence of the video.
In this article, I’ll share everything you need to know about YouTube thumbnails, including tools to create them, tips to keep in mind, and other lessons I’ve learned from running my own YouTube channel.
A YouTube thumbnail serves as a visual snapshot of what a video contains. It appears as a small image next to the title of the video on YouTube’s search results page, related videos section, or the recommended videos section.
This image plays a crucial role in attracting potential viewers and encouraging them to click on the video. The design and content of this thumbnail often influence the decision of a viewer to watch the video or not. Therefore, it holds significant importance in the world of YouTube content creation.
The best YouTube thumbnail size is 1280×720 pixels. This is an aspect ratio of 16:9. The minimum width you should shoot for is 640 pixels.
You should also shoot for a relatively small file size—under 2MB. YouTube thumbnails can be saved as JPGs, GIFs, or PNGs.
Your YouTube journey begins with a single image—the thumbnail. This seemingly small, but critically important element is the initial gateway for your viewers.
“If people don’t click, they don’t watch. So, you want to give them something to click,” said YouTube star MrBeast.
Here are some tips to create effective YouTube thumbnails.
Think of your thumbnails as digital hooks to capture your audience’s attention. Make them visually striking, vibrant, and engaging.
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Building a recognizable brand on YouTube starts with consistency in your thumbnail design. A uniform style helps viewers easily identify your content. In addition to consistency in your thumbnail design, keeping a close eye on others in your field who share your audience is a smart strategy.
Checking out what your competitors are up to can give you helpful clues about how many people click on their stuff. This helps you see how your channel’s look, content, titles, and colors stack up, so you can ensure you’re putting your best foot forward.
As you can see below, MrBeast’s thumbnails are visually striking and attention-grabbing, featuring bold colors, expressive facial expressions, and compelling imagery. He maintains a consistent style in his thumbnails, making them instantly recognizable to his viewers and helping build a strong brand presence on YouTube.
Your thumbnail should provide an honest representation of your video. Misleading thumbnails can lead to viewer frustration and backlash.
It’s well known that emotions are contagious. This means that watching someone else have an emotional reaction to something can cause you to have the same reaction.
Humans react to other human faces, and it’s an easy trick to get more people to click on your YouTube videos. Humans will naturally assess the emotional state of the face. When their mouth is open, it’s usually to show that they are surprised. When someone sees this surprised reaction, they are enticed to see what is so surprising.
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The thumbnail below was my first to go well (in relation to my other videos). The simple title in the thumbnail, the upward arrow, society’s current fascination with ChatGPT, the length of the video, me in it—smiling and wearing something that matched the color scheme of the thumbnail. These are things I took note of as potential drivers of success for future videos and thumbnails.
Here are a few YouTube thumbnail creation tools to try, including the one I use for all my thumbnails.
I use an app called Fotor to create my thumbnails. Fotor is a fantastic all-in-one platform that makes thumbnail creation a breeze. It’s an easy-to-use photo editing and graphic design tool, available in web, desktop, and mobile versions. It provides a full suite of tools that cover most image editing needs, including face retouching and image-generative AI.
Fotor also includes advanced AI-powered tools such as background remover, image enlarger, and object remover, which make complex edits simple.
I created a super simple video walkthrough where I use it to create a YouTube thumbnail. Check it out here.
Canva is a design tool (with a free option) that can help you create impactful YouTube thumbnails. Simply navigate to the site, choose YouTube thumbnail as your design option, and find an already-created template to customize or create your own design.
Within Canva, you can adjust colors, add your own images, and brand your YouTube thumbnail with your business logo.
Visme is another online design tool that makes it easy to create YouTube thumbnails. Like Canva, Visme has already created templates that you can choose and customize according to your branding.
Simply choose your template, customize it, download it, and you’re all set!
Creating a great YouTube thumbnail is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to effective video marketing on the site. But the right YouTube thumbnail strategy can help you build consistency, attract people to click on your videos, and increase engagement with your content.
Alessandro is an accomplished digital marketing professional with over a decade of experience in various tech fields. He currently works as a Customer Success Manager at Google and teaches Digital Marketing at Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada. He also co-authored the book Becoming Artificial and writes articles for Philosophy Now Magazine and various digital marketing websites. You can learn more about Alessandro at alessandrocolarossi.com.
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