Article last updated on:
February 10, 2024

You know what is a YouTube thumbnail. We’re not here to waste your time.

Here, you’re about to learn how to:

  • Make an appealing YouTube thumbnail;
  • That will drive views and engagement → more sales…

For all of your videos.

How to make the best YouTube Thumbnail

An effective YouTube thumbnail is essentially a mini-billboard that needs to grab attention.

It should raise curiosity, and accurately represent your video’s content in a small space.

1. Follow the size guidelines

Recommended size for YouTube Thumbnails is 1280x720

Thumbnails might look small in search results, but they can show up bigger in other places, like when someone embeds a video on a website.

Sizing tips:

  • Width: At least 640 pixels.
  • Ideal Size: 1280 x 720 pixels (That’s the best size for YouTube).
  • Aspect Ratio: Stick to 16:9; it’s what YouTube likes best, especially for regular videos (not Shorts).

Quality tips:

  • Bigger is Better: Start with a big picture. You can always make it smaller without losing quality.
  • File Types: Use JPG, PNG, GIF, or BMP to keep the quality good.
  • File Size: Keep it under 2MB. That’s YouTube’s max limit.

You want it to always look sharp.

2. Background

For the background, you’ve got 2 main options:

  • Personal: Opt for your own high-quality images (or shots from the video).
  • Stock: Stock photos or design tools for thumbnails.
A screenshot from the Unsplash.com website

You can find free, high-quality stock pictures on Unsplash.

Essentially:

  • Easy Thumbnail Option: Use a still from your video. YouTube may suggest stills, but they might not be the most engaging, so you’ll need to add a custom thumbnail.
  • Enhance for Impact: Consider editing a chosen still with photo editing software to improve its appeal. Highly recommended!

Use images that relate directly to your video’s content, like your reaction.

If using your own image with a face: Make sure your aren’t closed.

3. Text is mandatory

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

In 2024, very few thumbnails make it big without having any text — you generally need to have a big audience to have guaranteed success.

Add text, but don’t overdo it. Leave the detailed description to your video’s title.

Here’s why you should do this:

  • Clarity: Text can immediately tell viewers what your video is about, especially if the image is ambiguous. This can be especially helpful for educational or instructional videos.
  • Click-through rate (CTR): Well-written and designed text can grab attention and entice viewers to click on your thumbnail, potentially increasing your YouTube CTR.
  • Accessibility: Viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing may rely on the text in your thumbnail to understand the video’s content.

4. Personal Brand

When someone scrolls through YouTube, your video thumbnails instantly jump out.

That’s the power of a strong brand identity on YouTube!

Branding on YouTube Thumbnails

Why Your Brand Matters:

  • Attract viewers: A clear brand image tells people what you’re about, drawing in your target audience.
  • Build trust: Consistency across your channel (colors, fonts, visuals) makes you look professional and reliable.
  • Grow your community: Strong branding makes your channel memorable, turning viewers into loyal fans.

Get Going:

  • Think visually: Choose imagery that represents your content and attracts your ideal audience.
  • Pick your colors: A consistent color palette helps viewers recognize your brand instantly.
  • Font matters: Choose fonts that are clear, readable, and match your personality.

Remember: Branding is a journey, not a destination.

Experiment, have fun, and watch your audience connect with your unique YouTube identity!

Speaking of experimenting…

5. A/B Test

Ever wonder if your YouTube thumbnails are actually working? Introducing Thumbnail Test.

ThumbnailTest.com - Website Home Page

Imagine this: Two versions of your video thumbnail, each fighting for clicks. Which one grabs viewers faster? A/B testing reveals the champion, boosting your views and engagement.

Why Test Thumbnails:

  • Stop guessing: See what thumbnails truly drive clicks, not just what looks good to you.
  • Boost your CTR: The right thumbnail can dramatically increase viewers clicking on your video.
  • Know your audience: Discover what visuals resonate best with your target viewers.

Testing Made Easy:

  • Pick your contenders: Create 2-3 variations of your thumbnail with different fonts, colors, or images.
  • Let ThumbnailTest decide: Upload your variations and we’ll show each to different viewers.
  • Track the results: See which thumbnail gets the most clicks, watch time, and engagement.
  • Declare the winner: Use the winning thumbnail for your video and repeat the process for even more growth!

6. Create a template

Tired of forgettable thumbnails? It’s time to unlock the power of consistent branding!

Create reusable thumbnail templates. They’ll speed up your workflow and guarantee brand consistency.

Looking up YouTube Thumbnail Templates on Canva
We’ve used Canva.com in this image

Theme: Pick a style that reflects your channel’s vibe and stick with it. Think vibrant and playful for fun content, or sleek and minimalist for a serious tone.

Color Coordination: Establish a color palette that screams “you” and use it across all your thumbnails. Consistency is key to building recognition.

Font: Choose a font that’s readable, matches your theme, and makes a statement. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

Logo: Showcase your logo subtly on each thumbnail for maximum brand awareness. Think corner placement, not bottom right (video time will hide it).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I optimize my YouTube thumbnail?

To optimize your YouTube thumbnail, focus on high-quality, eye-catching images with bold colors and clear, concise text.

A great thumbnail is like a promise, a glimpse of an unmissable story.

Ensure it accurately represents the video content to attract the right audience.

2. How do YouTubers make their thumbnails?

YouTubers often create their thumbnails using graphic design software like Adobe Photoshop or Canva, incorporating vibrant colors, bold text, and engaging visuals to grab viewers’ attention.

They typically use high-resolution images, featuring close-up faces expressing emotions, and ensuring the design reflects the video’s content.

3. Why do YouTubers have their mouth open in thumbnails?

YouTubers often have their mouths open in thumbnails to convey strong emotions like surprise, excitement, or shock, which naturally draw viewers’ curiosity and interest, making the video more enticing to click on.

This exaggerated expression is a visual cue that suggests the video content will be engaging or contain surprising elements.

The Bottom Line

That’s all you have to know about creating the best YouTube thumbnail.


Thank you for reading this,
ThumbnailTest

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.