(2024) Arrow in YouTube Thumbnail: Good or Bad?

Article last updated on:
March 29, 2024

In this guide, our experts answer some of the most common questions:

  • Why do YouTubers put arrows in thumbnails?
  • Should you put an arrow in a thumbnail?
  • Is it okay for the algorithm — does it damage your channel’s health?

Let’s explore this.

Why do YouTubers put Arrows in Thumbnails?

YouTubers put arrows in thumbnails because they tend to grab your attention. Especially when there’s blurred content — it makes you wonder what’s there.

  • When you’re scrolling through a bunch of videos, something pointing right at you or at something interesting in the thumbnail can make you stop and look.
  • They’re like visual hints that say: “Hey, check this out!”

Pro Tip: Read how to make engaging thumbnails.

Example: Perfect use of Arrows

We’ll use one of Mrwhosetheboss‘s videos for this.

Before and After Thumbnail - Example from Mrwhosetheboss
  • Before and after: Arrow shows you what the guy used to look like → What he looks like now
  • Raises curiosity: These images make you wonder how he transformed his body like that
  • Color: That intense color is just eye-candy and it makes you look at it…

So then, you fall for it… That’s the trick!

How to Use Arrows in YouTube Thumbnails

1. Consider the purpose

Use an arrow to point to the most interesting or important element in your thumbnail.

Thumbnail with a small arrow on it

That could be a person’s surprised face in a reaction video, a new product in a tech review, or a specific detail you want viewers to focus on.

2. Where to add it

  • Clarity matters: Make sure the arrow clearly points to what you want viewers to see.
  • Avoid placing it over text or other important elements that might get obscured.

3. Use an appropiate-styled arrow

  • Match your branding: Don’t just use a generic red arrow. If you have a specific color scheme for your channel, consider using an arrow that complements those colors.
  • You can also find creative arrow shapes or designs to fit your video’s theme.

This example has a “gentle and subtle” arrow:

YouTube Thumbnail with a Gentle Arrow

4. Do it smart

  • Avoid clutter: Too many arrows can overwhelm viewers and make your thumbnail look messy.
  • One or two well-placed arrows are usually enough.

5. Consider alternatives

Arrows aren’t the only way to draw attention. Experiment with contrasting colors, bold text, or interesting compositions to make your thumbnail stand out.

Check this out — bold for “2023” instead of a big arrow:

YouTube Thumbnail with Text Overaly - "2023, A Look Back" from Vox

Simple and cool replacement, right?

Pros & Cons: Arrows in Thumbnails

As point no. 5 in the previous section said, arrows are not always best. So, let’s figure out when we should use them.

Increased CTROverused/Cliché
Highlight Key ContentDistracting
Create CuriosityClarity Issues
Directional CuesNot Always Necessary

Consider if they add value to your thumbnail and won’t overwhelm viewers.

  • Use arrows if: Your thumbnail has a key element that needs highlighting, or you want to create a sense of curiosity.
  • Skip arrows if: Your thumbnail is already clear and visually interesting, or you’re worried about appearing generic.


1. Should you add arrows in thumbnails?

You should add arrows to your thumbnails only if they’re natural and don’t make the image hard to look at. If the arrow points to something crucial or highlights a key part of your video content, then it makes sense.

2. When to use arrows in YouTube thumbnails?

Use arrows in YouTube thumbnails when they can clearly point out something important or spark curiosity, ensuring they’re directly related to your video’s content.

It’s ben when: The visual cue guides viewers’ attention to a key element without feeling clickbaity or out of place.

3. Are arrows considered clickbait?

They can be perceived clickbaity way if used to mislead or exaggerate what’s in the video. It all comes down to whether the arrow genuinely highlights relevant content or just aims to increase clicks without delivering on the promise.

Thank you for reading this,

About the author

David is the head of the editing team at ThumbnailTest. With his help, the editorial team is able to provide you with the best free guides related to YouTube thumbnails and A/B testing.