YouTube Differences: Banner vs Thumbnail (Cover)

Article last updated on:
June 03, 2024

Thumbnail = cover for your video.
Banner = cover for your channel (YouTube profile).

Shortly, these are the differences.

They’re 2 distinct but very important elements on YouTube — and we’re here to explain why.

Differences: Thumbnail vs Banner

Showing where the thumbnail and banner are on YouTube

A cover/banner can only be for the channel. The thumbnail is unique for each video.

This table should make it easier to grasp:

YouTube BannerYouTube Thumbnail
PurposeVisual identity for your entire channel.Preview & Hook for individual videos.
LocationTop of your channel page.Shown on video listings, search results, and recommendations.
SizeTypically large (2560 x 1440).Smaller (1280 x 720 pixels).
Frequency of ChangeUsually consistent to maintain brand identity.Often changes to suit individual video.
ImpactHelps in branding and setting the tone of the channel.Crucial for attracting viewers to click on a specific video.
Differences between banners and thumbnails

Let’s explore the core differences between each element.

1. Purpose

  • Thumbnail: A thumbnail is a small image preview for a specific YouTube video.
  • Banner: Your YouTube banner is a large background image displayed at the top of your channel page.

The banner is more about branding and giving viewers a sense of your channel’s overall theme, personality, or content type.

2. Size

  • Thumbnail: Thumbnails are relatively small. The recommended dimensions are 1280×720 pixels with a 16:9 aspect ratio.
  • Banner: Banners are much larger. The recommended dimensions are 2560×1440 pixels, with a safe area of 1546×423 pixels to ensure important information isn’t cut off on different devices.

3. Design

  • Thumbnail: Since thumbnails are small, they need to be clear, concise, and visually interesting to grab attention in a search feed. Using bright colors, bold text, and key elements from the video can be effective.
  • Banner: Banners can be more creative and elaborate. You can use a combination of images, text, and logos to represent your channel’s identity.

Pro Tip: How to make engaging thumbnails.

Thumbnail vs Cover on YouTube

Thumbnails are covers are the same thing.

Two words for the same purpose.

There isn’t actually a distinction between a YouTube “cover” and a thumbnail. The term “cover” isn’t typically used on YouTube.

  • YouTube Thumbnail: This is the correct term. It’s a small image preview for each individual video on YouTube.
  • YouTube Banner (Channel Art): This is the large background image that appears at the top of your channel page.


1. What is a banner on YouTube?

A YouTube banner is the large, horizontal image at the top of your YouTube channel page. It’s a key part of your channel’s brand and helps convey your channel’s identity, theme, or brand to your target audience.

Here’s what it looks like:

Highlighting where is a YouTube Channel's cover image
  • Think of it like a billboard for your YouTube channel.
  • It’s giving viewers a quick idea of what kind of content they can expect from you.

You can customize it with images, text, and graphics to match your style.

2. What is a YouTube thumbnail used for?

A YouTube thumbnail acts like a mini-poster for your video, giving viewers a quick snapshot of what to expect before they click. It’s super important because it’s one of the first things people see when your video pops up in search results.

  • A catchy thumbnail can make a big difference in whether someone decides to check out your video or scroll past it.
  • It’s all about grabbing attention and giving a hint about the video’s content.

Thank you for reading this,
Thumbnail Test

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.