How to Create Good YouTube Thumbnails

How to Create Good YouTube Thumbnails

Do you want your YouTube videos to stand out from the crowd? YouTube thumbnails catch viewers’ attention by enticing them with a look at what’s in your video.

YouTube recommends three stills from your uploaded video that you can use as your thumbnail. However, it’s better to create a custom thumbnail. It makes your viewers familiar with your brand and improves the chances of catching your audience’s attention. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through how to create a top-performing YouTube thumbnail that will boost your views.

What makes a good YouTube thumbnail?

The secret to creating an eye-catching YouTube thumbnail is to use winning elements that make viewers curious about your content. For example, 72% of the most popular YouTube thumbnails include the creator’s face, and 88% use colorful custom graphics. In addition, one study found that the best thumbnails feature:

  • A shocked facial expression of people being disgusted or furious with the content’s topic
  • The fat red arrow is frequently used in popular videos that give prominence to a particular graphic in the thumbnail
  • A side by side comparison to show the before and after changes that happen in the video to make viewers curious about what happens during the process

If you want to create a custom thumbnail with top graphics, you need a verified YouTube account. Also, ensure your elements are high quality to draw in your audience.

What’s the best size for a YouTube thumbnail?

Size matters on YouTube. Your thumbnail may be a small image on the search page, but it’s shown in full when your video is suggested as a next-watch or when it’s embedded on your site.

If you’ve uploaded a small, poor-quality image as your thumbnail, it will be blurry or pixelated when YouTube expands it to full video size. And no one will want to click on your content.

So, for the best YouTube thumbnail that will make your videos click-worthy, they need to be:

  • 1280 x 720 pixels or at least 640 pixels wide
  • In JPEG, GIF, or PNG format
  • An aspect ratio of 16:9
  • Up to 2MB max thumbnail file size

Before creating your images, you should first know your branding colors and fonts. That way, you can easily create templates with a uniform look that will also speed up your designs.

Once you have your branding, research other videos like yours to see what your target audience is clicking on. Look for popular visuals, text, and colors that show up consistently in the top-ranking videos. Some of the best thumbnails include:

Text overlay with an image

Use a still image as the thumbnail background with text overlay. You could even take this a step further by adding a colorful background to the text to make it stand out.

Logo with an image

Instead of adding text to your thumbnail, you could add your logo with an eye-catching image from the video.

Graphics with text

Replace an image with some design elements. To make your videos more prominent, you could include a brand mascot, assets, or colorful patterns with text.

Whatever design you use for your thumbnails, don’t stick with the same strategy for all your videos. For example, building curiosity is great for a before and after video. However, you’ll need a clear message for how-to content.

And remember, less is more. Avoid writing the title in your thumbnail. Instead, add a 3-4 word summary and focus on clear imagery.

The best tools to create YouTube thumbnails


Canva is a free and easy platform with professionally designed thumbnail templates. You can also use its drag and drop feature to create your own custom designs. It offers a range of elements to use for free or for a small fee.

Adobe Creative Cloud Express

If you’re familiar with the Adobe family, you can easily create thumbnails with Adobe using a blank canvas or templates. It offers limited royalty-free photos and basic editing features for free.

PlaceIt by Envato

Create refined designs with PlaceIt. The subscription service offers amazing professional templates that are in line with YouTube’s best practices. They are all ready to customize and download to easily improve your thumbnails.

How to upload a YouTube thumbnail

To upload a thumbnail from your desktop, follow these steps:

  1. Sign in to your YouTube Studio account
  2. Choose Videos from the menu on the left
  3. Click the video for the thumbnail from your gallery
  4. Select Upload Thumbnail under the thumbnail and upload your image
  5. Click Save in the top right corner

If you’re uploading a thumbnail from your mobile, follow these steps:

  1. Open the YouTube Studio app and click Videos from the menu
  2. Select the video you want to customize and click the Edit pen icon
  3. Choose Edit Thumbnail and click Custom Thumbnail to upload the image
  4. Tap Select and Save to confirm your choice