How To Learn: YouTube Thumbnail Design (2024)

Article last updated on:
April 21, 2024

This guide teaches you the art of designing YouTube thumbnails.

No fuzz, just the straight-forward guide you need.

Can I design YouTube thumbnails?

Yes, you can design YouTube thumbnails yourself with editing software like Canva or Adobe Photoshop. Thumbnail templates make it way easier, though.

How to start designing YouTube thumbnails

Step 1: The Basics

YouTube thumbnails are small, clickable images that viewers see before clicking on a video. They need to be eye-catching and relevant to the content to attract viewers.

Specifications: Thumbnails should be 1280 x 720 pixels with a minimum width of 640 pixels, a 16:9 aspect ratio, and under 2MB in size. Formats like JPG and PNG are recommended.

A great read is our guide with the layout of thumbnails.

Step 2: Gather Your Tools

  • Canva: User-friendly with pre-made templates.
  • Adobe Photoshop: More advanced, offering detailed customization.
  • GIMP: A free alternative to Photoshop.

For Backgrounds, sites like Unsplash and Pexels offer free images.

Closely Related: 10 Best Thumbnail Makers (Apps).

Step 3: Design Basics

  • Contrast and Color: Use contrasting colors to make text or important elements stand out.
  • Hierarchy: Size and placement should guide the viewer’s eye to the most important part of the thumbnail.
  • Simplicity: Keep it simple. Too much clutter can distract and confuse the viewer.

Step 4: Practice with Templates

Start by modifying templates in Canva or another program.

Editing a YouTube Thumbnail

Experiment with:

  • Changing backgrounds
  • Editing text and fonts
  • Adding effects or filters

Step 5: A/B Test

A/B Testing your thumbnails is a great way to find out which one’s better!

Thumbnail Test Homepage

Here’s what you can do with Thumbnail Test:

  • A/B Testing: Allows users to perform A/B testing on different YouTube video thumbnails.
  • Thumbnail Comparison: Users can compare multiple thumbnails for the same video.
  • Performance Tracking: Tracks the performance of each thumbnail in terms of views and engagement.
  • Effectiveness Analysis: Helps determine which thumbnail is the most effective at attracting viewers.

Step 6: Build a Portfolio

As you create more thumbnails, compile them into a portfolio.

This can be useful for personal reference or if you decide to offer your thumbnail design skills as a service.

TOP 3: Platforms to Learn Thumbnail Design

Currently, these are the best platforms to learn how to design YouTube thumbnails: Skillshare, Udemy, YouTube Creator Academy.

1. Skillshare


Browsing YouTube thumbnail design classes on Skillshare


  1. Creative Freedom: Skillshare offers a platform where you can explore your creativity without limitations.
  2. Diverse Content: Access a wide range of courses covering various topics, including graphic design, photography, and more.
  3. Skill Development: Learn new skills or enhance existing ones through hands-on projects and expert guidance.


  1. Quality Variability: While many courses are excellent, some may lack depth or thoroughness.
  2. Limited Interaction: Although there’s a community aspect, the level of interaction with instructors can vary.
  3. Subscription Model: While affordable, it requires a recurring payment, which may not suit everyone’s budget.

2. Udemy


Browsing YouTube thumbnail design courses on Udemy


  1. Extensive Course Selection: Udemy offers a vast library of courses on various topics, including thumbnail design, providing ample options for learners.
  2. Quality Instructors: Courses are taught by experienced professionals and experts in their respective fields, ensuring high-quality instruction.
  3. Lifetime Access: Once enrolled, you have lifetime access to the course materials, allowing you to learn at your own pace and revisit the content as needed.


  1. Variable Course Quality: While many courses are high-quality, some may lack depth or fail to meet expectations.
  2. Limited Interaction: Interaction with instructors may be limited compared to other learning platforms, impacting the ability to ask questions or seek clarification.
  3. No Community Engagement: Udemy lacks a cohesive community aspect, which can limit opportunities for peer interaction and collaboration.

3. YouTube Creators Academy


YouTube - Creators Academy


  1. Official Resource: YouTube Creators Academy is an official platform directly supported by YouTube, providing authoritative information and guidance.
  2. Up-to-Date Content: The academy offers current and relevant information on YouTube policies, features, and best practices, keeping creators informed about the latest developments.
  3. Comprehensive Learning: From beginner basics to advanced strategies, the academy covers a wide range of topics essential for successful YouTube channel management.


  1. Limited Interactivity: While the academy offers valuable information, it lacks interactive elements such as live sessions or direct Q&A opportunities with instructors.
  2. Generalized Content: Some creators may find that the content provided is too broad or general, lacking in-depth guidance tailored to specific niche interests or challenges.
  3. Self-Paced Learning: While flexibility is a benefit, some creators may prefer structured courses with set schedules and assignments for a more guided learning experience.

FAQ: Designing Thumbnails

1. How do I become a thumbnail maker?

To become a thumbnail maker, learn graphic design basics and practice creating eye-catching thumbnails. Build a portfolio showcasing your skills and market yourself on social media and freelance platforms to find clients.

  1. Learn Graphic Design Basics: Familiarize yourself with graphic design software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or Canva.
  2. Develop Skills: Practice creating thumbnails, focusing on composition, color theory, typography, and imagery that captures attention.
  3. Study Successful Thumbnails: Analyze popular YouTubers’ thumbnails to understand what works and why.
  4. Build a Portfolio: Create a portfolio showcasing your best work. You can start with personal projects or offer your services for free initially to build your portfolio.
  5. Market Yourself: Use social media platforms, online forums, and freelance websites to promote your services and find clients.
  6. Continuous Improvement: Stay updated with design trends and regularly practice to refine your skills.

2. How much do thumbnail artists make?

Entry-level thumbnail artists might earn around $20-$50 per thumbnail, while experienced professionals can charge hundreds of dollars per thumbnail or command higher rates for ongoing contracts with popular clients.

Check out this report from the UK:

UK Report - How much Art Editors can make (on average)

Thumbnail artists’ earnings vary widely depending on factors like skill level, experience, client demand, and project complexity.

3. How do you come up with thumbnail ideas?

To come up with thumbnail ideas, start by understanding the video’s content and target audience. Then, focus on creating visually compelling images that evoke curiosity or emotions related to the video topic.

Make sure to add these:

  • Bold imagery
  • Clear text
  • Vibrant colors to grab attention and entice viewers to click.

Additionally, analyze successful thumbnails in your niche for inspiration and adapt ideas to suit your own style and content.

Related: 10 Best YouTube Thumbnail ideas.

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.