Wondering how to make the best YouTube thumbnails?
Thumbnails that grab potential viewers and make them click to watch?
When you’re creating videos for YouTube, the thumbnail might not seem important.
You might be thinking – as long as the content is good, the thumbnail doesn’t really matter.
What is a thumbnail on YouTube?
A video thumbnail is the first thing that viewers see when browsing through YouTube. It’s a small, clickable image that either grabs their attention – or lets them scroll on by.
YouTube will offer you a choice of frames from your uploaded video to serve as this preview image, but rarely will this freeze-frame serve you well.
You need something that grabs the eye and communicates what your video is about at a glance. You want it to grab your target audience and make them think, I need to watch this!
The thumbnail is typically the first impression of your video, and essentially determines whether or not people will click through.
Designing a professional YouTube thumbnail not only helps improve your channel’s brand, but it also attracts visitors and more eyes to your content.
How to make YouTube thumbnails: best practices
So how do you create effective YouTube thumbnails? Here are 8 key tips to get started.
1. Use the right YouTube thumbnail size
If you’re going to spend the time to create a professional looking thumbnail, start with the proper sizing and dimensions.
Per YouTube’s guidelines, your thumbnail image should be 1280 x 720 pixels, with a minimum width of 640 pixels. An aspect ratio of 16:9 is ideal as it’s used most often in YouTube players and previews.
Making a thumbnail image that’s too small is a big mistake. Although thumbnail images show up relatively small in the YouTube search results, don’t forget that YouTube videos can also be embedded.
For this reason, you want a larger image size that can be scaled down, instead of a small size that will be scaled up. This will ensure top quality.
2. Use a great photo as your YouTube thumbnail background
Strong visuals are essential to grab the attention of your viewers.
A high-quality picture that acts as a teaser for the video will not only give context, but it’s also an opportunity for your audience to familiarize themselves with your style.
Matt Komo is a videographer, and his content on YouTube is very well done. He uses high quality images that give users a glimpse of what the next 10 minutes might be like. As a travel cinematographer, adventurous pictures are something that Matt wants to showcase to attract clicks to his video.
In need of some beautiful free stock photos to use for your thumbnails? Most design tools will offer a selection right inside the app.
Be aware that most of the photos in Canva will cost you a buck per each use. On the other hand, Snappa includes over 60,000 royalty-free images you can use at no extra charge, as many times as you like.
3. Include title text in your YouTube thumbnails
Adding text headings on your video thumbnail holds many benefits, but the biggest benefit is that it gives the viewers more context about your video.
A simple image, no matter how beautiful, isn’t going to communicate that your video is a brilliant tutorial that’ll solve one of your viewers’ most pressing problems.
Capture that core idea into a compelling title that will grab those who’ll enjoy your video
If you create a series, the text headings in the thumbnail could be numbered. Much like a TV show with numbered episodes and seasons, numbered YouTube thumbnails will help your viewers keep track of the content they are consuming.
Brands such as Apple include text headings in their thumbnails to provide additional context that is not immediately evident.
For example, one of the thumbnails above includes an image of a horizon, which alone would be pretty generic. However, adding the text “How to shoot a horizon on iPhone 7” provides context to the thumbnail and makes viewers much more willing to click on it.
4. Use the best font for your YouTube thumbnails
Now that you’ve got a title, you need to pick a font.
It’s always important to familiarize your audience with your brand and your content. A good way to do this is to keep your thumbnails consistent with the same style fonts, memorable colors, and a strong design.
If you’ve determined your business visual branding already, that’s awesome. Use your headline font for your title text.
If you haven’t, choose a nice, clean headline font in a design tool like Snappa. You want something that’s clear and easy to read at a glance.
A sans serif or “gothic” font like the one shown below works well. Bold or Heavy weight is a good choice.
Beware of script fonts, outlines, or fonts with lots of thick and thin variation that make them hard to read at a glance. Remember, our goal is to communicate quickly!
5. Create a branded YouTube thumbnail template
Does “branding” sound like designer mumbo jumbo?
No worries. It just means to create a consistent style that reflects you and your business.
A prime example of consistency within a YouTube channel is Brian Dean. Brian does a fantastic job of staying consistent with the use of colors, fonts and graphics that match his brand perfectly.
You can clearly identify his work from others and you can tell that he puts a lot of time into perfecting his thumbnail.
Need design inspiration? If you’re clueless when it comes to branding and/or design, a tool like Snappa can make the whole process easy.
Just head over and pick a professionally-designed YouTube thumbnail template that appeals to you and suits your niche.
Upload your own photo as the background, or choose a free one right in the app.
Add a text heading over the image with a font that represents your style, or just use the font already in the template.
Download your completed image to add to your YouTube video, and save your work in Snappa to be used for your next video with a new title (and a different photo, if you like).
6. Use good contrast in your YouTube thumbnail design
As we’ve mentioned, including a title in your thumbnail is important. But if you can’t even read it, then what’s the point? That’s where contrast comes in.
While there’s many different types of contrast, the most important one to consider is color contrast. If two colors are different from each other (say, black and white) they have high contrast, whereas if they are very similar (red and orange) then they have low contrast.
Let’s take a look at the following example:
When comparing the two, it’s much easier to read the word on the left compared to the word on the right. That’s because purple contrasts with yellow much more than orange does.
When designing your thumbnail image, always make sure that your text contrasts nicely with your background. If necessary, you can use a tool like Adobe Color to make sure that your colors contrast effectively.
7. Be honest & accurate in your thumbnails
If you click bait users to viewing your videos by misleading them with thumbnails and headlines, this will hurt your brand and reputation.
Not only that, but YouTube will stop showing your videos in search results if your bounce rates are too high.
The thumbnail is meant to give context, so providing an image that does not depict what is in the video will harm you rather than benefit you. Find the most important point or part of your video and create your thumbnail around that.
Keep your thumbnail as a teaser for your video without revealing too much. Show just enough so that users will click through and check out what you have to offer or say.
8. Use the best YouTube thumbnail maker
Want to make creating thumbnails easy and fun? Try an online thumbnail maker!
From professional designs to free high-definition photos and fonts, Snappa has everything you need to make image creation easy.
For YouTube thumbnails, and so much more! 30 preset sizes, 5,000 templates.
- YouTube Channel Art
- Facebook Cover Photos
- Instagram Post and Story
- Two dozen more presets!
Free-forever version allows 5 downloads per month, which should suit you fine if you make 1 YouTube video per week.
The Pro version is only $15 billed monthly or $120 for a full year. Pro offers unlimited downloads, and over a million photos and graphics to use in your designs.
Try it out now!
The importance of video thumbnails on YouTube can’t be overstated.
Not only do they make a big impact in terms of click through rates, they also play a key part in branding your channel.
Did this post help you effectively design your YouTube thumbnails? Please share with others!