How To Create Engaging Thumbnails

Article last updated on:
March 28, 2024

In this guide, I’ll tech you:

Let’s check it out.

How to Make an Engaging Thumbnail?

For an engaging YouTube thumbnail, combine bright colors and high-quality images that express your video’s essence. Add clear, bold text to highlight the main point, making it pop and inviting clicks.

Here’s our take.

1. Grab Attention

  • High contrast colors: Use bright, contrasting colors that pop against the background. Avoid YouTube’s branding colors (white, red, black) so your thumbnail doesn’t blend in.
  • Clear and concise: People browsing YouTube thumbnails see them at a small size, so keep it simple and easy to understand at a glance.

Here’s a great example:

Example of a YouTube Thumbnail with Text - Video By Donut Media

See what this image does? It makes you wonder what’s next and what that car is:

  • Shadowed element — wants you to click on it
  • Many question marks — raises curiosity.

Pro Tip: Check out the 10 Best YouTube Thumbnail Types.

2. Representative Text

  • Accurately represent your video: Don’t mislead viewers! The thumbnail should give a clear idea of what your video is about.
  • Text wisely: Keep text short, easy to read, and use a large, bold font.

Great example for this:

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

It’s short and straight to the point.

3. Spark Interest

  • Emotions: Use facial expressions or imagery that evokes emotions like curiosity, surprise, or excitement.
  • Intrigue: Pose a question in your text or use an image that leaves viewers wanting more.

Mr Beast is always a great example:

MrBeast - Latest Videos, as of February 2024

Every video’s got a different face: shocked, smiling, tired — you name it.

His thumbnails are 100% showing emotion.

4. Adjust for all Screen Sizes

Recommended size for YouTube Thumbnails is 1280x720
  • Size and format: Use the recommended dimensions of 1280×720 pixels with a 16:9 aspect ratio. This ensures it looks good on all devices.
  • Source image: If you’re using a screenshot from your video, make sure it’s high quality and not blurry.

Pro Tip: Read our guide explaining the technical side of thumbnails.

5. A/B Test to find The Best

Illustration of thumbnail testing on YouTube
  • Why A/B Test? You might have a great thumbnail idea, but how do you know it’s the best? A/B testing allows you to compare different thumbnails and see which one gets more clicks and views.
  • Thumbnail Test: This is a tool that lets you upload multiple thumbnails for the same video. It then shows each thumbnail to a different segment of your audience and tracks the results. This way, you can see which thumbnail is performing better and choose the winner.

Shortlist: Your First Engaging Thumbnail

All of the above must’ve been a tough ride, so let us break it all down.

StrategyWhat it means
Use Bright ColorsBright and contrasting colors catch the eye. Avoid blending in with the YouTube background or other thumbnails.
Include FacesHuman faces, especially with strong emotions, attract attention. Close-ups of expressive faces work well.
Add Text OverlaysUse bold, readable fonts to add short, compelling text that complements your video title and entices clicks.
High-Quality ImagesUse sharp, clear images. Blurry or low-resolution thumbnails can seem unprofessional.
SimplicityFocus on one key visual that represents your video. Too much clutter can be overwhelming.
Consistent BrandingStyle, fonts, and colors helps with brand recognition. Consider a recurring element that identifies your videos.
Highlight Key MomentsUse an image that represents an intriguing moment in your video to spark curiosity.
Use Contrast and ScaleHigh contrast and playing with scale can make your thumbnail stand out.
Action ShotsImages depicting action or motion can suggest excitement and dynamic content.
A/B TestA/B Test different thumbnails to see what works best for your audience. Analytics can provide valuable insights.

Each strategy aims to make your thumbnail stand out, convey the essence of your video, and entice viewers to click and watch.

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.