Article last updated on:
February 11, 2024

You’re here because you are:

  • Looking to improve your YouTube thumbnails
  • Trying to create better images
  • But you don’t know what to improve

Don’t worry, we’ve got you.

How to make a YouTube Thumbnail

The best way to make a YouTube Thumbnail is to use an online free software. They all work the same.

Create an account > Select a template > Edit for your video > Download & Add to YouTube.

1. Get an online thumbnail maker

We’re using Canva for this example. Find 4 more examples at the bottom of this guide.

Canva Thumbnail Maker - Online Landing Page
  1. Go to your selected Thumbnail Maker
  2. Sign up / Log in
  3. Open the editor

This shouldn’t take very long, especially if you’re using a free tool.

2. Upload a Photo / Select a Template

Looking up YouTube Thumbnail Templates on Canva

2.1. Your Photo

  1. Locate the image (or background) in your computer
  2. Drag & Drop it in the editor
  3. Customize it if needed.

However, you can also choose the other option, where the process isn’t much different.

2.2. Template

  1. Search for a template on the website
  2. Find & Select one that you like
  3. Adjust it to your needs.

Templates are better because they’re saving you time.

3. Edit for your niche

Editing a YouTube Thumbnail

Don’t leave the thumbnail simple. Make some changes:

  1. Bold Text: Use large, easy-to-read fonts to highlight the main message or title.
  2. Contrasting Colors: Choose colors that stand out against each other to make the text and important elements pop.
  3. Branding: Include your logo or a consistent color scheme to make your content instantly recognizable.
  4. Faces with Emotions: People are drawn to human faces, especially those showing strong emotions.

The goal is to give viewers a clear idea of what they’re about to watch.

4. Download the final version

Downloading an edited YouTube Thumbnail

When you’re done editing the thumbnail:

  1. Save changes
  2. Export the image: PNG and JPG are the best formats

Make sure you’re aware of the location where your file is saved — just so you won’t have to search for it later in the process.

5. Upload on YouTube

Showing how to change the thumbnail of a YouTube Shorts video
  1. Go to YouTube Studio
  2. Click the Upload button (top-right side)
  3. Select your video
  4. In the Thumbnail section, select Upload Thumbnail
  5. Locate the image in your computer → Add it
  6. Finish publishing the video.

There goes your great YouTube thumbnail.

6. A/B Test for Better Results

Illustration of thumbnail testing on YouTube
  1. Create Variations: You design two or more thumbnails for the same video.
  2. Set Up the Test: Using Thumbnail Test, you upload your thumbnail options and set up the test for your YouTube video.
  3. Run the Test: The tool alternates between your thumbnails for a set period or number of views, showing different thumbnails to different viewers.
  4. Analyze Results: The tool collects data on how each thumbnail performs in terms of click-through rates (CTRs), views, and possibly engagement metrics.

Based on the data, you identify which thumbnail has the best performance metrics and make it the permanent choice for your video.

List: 5 YouTube Thumbnail Makers

Here’s a list of 5 popular YouTube thumbnail makers, along with their pros, cons, and pricing.

1. Canva

Canva Thumbnail Maker - Online Landing Page
  • Pros:
    • Vast library of free templates and elements: Choose from thousands of professionally designed templates and millions of free images, icons, and fonts.
    • User-friendly interface: Even design novices can easily create stunning thumbnails with Canva’s drag-and-drop editor.
    • Integration with other platforms: Connect Canva to your Google DriveDropbox, and other accounts to access your existing assets.
  • Cons:
    • Limited free features: Some advanced features and templates require a paid subscription.
    • Watermark on free exports: Free thumbnails have a Canva watermark unless you pay to remove it.
  • Pricing: Free plan with limited features. Paid plans start at $12.99/month.

2. Adobe Express (ex. Spark)

Formerly known as Adobe Spark.

Screenshot of Adobe Express on the Apple App Store (on Desktop)
  • Pros:
    • AI-powered design suggestions: Get smart design recommendations based on your chosen theme and style.
    • High-quality stock photos and icons: Access Adobe’s vast library of free and premium images and icons.
    • Seamless integration with other Adobe products: Easily integrate Spark with Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and other Adobe apps.
  • Cons:
    • Limited customization options compared to Canva: Fewer fonts, templates, and design elements to choose from.
    • Requires an Adobe account: You need a free Adobe account or a paid Creative Cloud subscription to use Spark.
  • Pricing: Free plan with limited features. Paid plans start at $9.99/month.

3. Snappa

Screenshot of Snappa.com - Online Graphic Design Tool
  • Pros:
    • Focus on social media graphics: Designed specifically for creating social media graphics, including YouTube thumbnails.
    • Large selection of niche-specific templates: Find templates tailored to your specific YouTube niche or industry.
    • Free high-resolution exports: No watermarks on free exports, unlike Canva.
  • Cons:
    • Fewer overall features compared to Canva and Adobe Spark.
    • Limited animation options: No built-in animation tools for creating dynamic thumbnails.
  • Pricing: Free plan with limited features. Paid plans start at $10/month.

4. Fotor

Screenshot from Fotor's YouTube Thumbnail Making Tool - Landing Page
  • Pros:
    • Extensive photo editing tools: Go beyond basic thumbnail creation with advanced photo editing features.
    • Batch processing: Edit multiple thumbnails at once to save time.
    • Free collage maker: Create eye-catching collage thumbnails with Fotor’s collage maker.
  • Cons:
    • Can be overwhelming for beginners: The interface might seem complex to users with no design experience.
    • Limited free templates: Fewer free templates compared to other options on this list.
  • Pricing: Free plan with limited features. Paid plans start at $3.33/month.

5. Visme

Visme.co - Online tool for YouTube Thumbnails
  • Pros:
    • All-in-one design platform: Create not just thumbnails, but also presentations, infographics, and other visual content.
    • Interactive elements: Add clickable elements to your thumbnails, like call-to-action buttons.
    • Team collaboration features: Work on thumbnails with your team in real-time.
  • Cons:
    • Free plan has very limited features: The free plan only allows for 5 projects and limited exports.
    • Steeper learning curve compared to simpler tools.
  • Pricing: Free plan with limited features. Paid plans start at $15/month.

What do YouTubers use to make thumbnails?

Popular choices include Adobe Photoshop for its extensive editing capabilities, Canva for its user-friendly design templates, and Adobe Spark for quick and impactful designs.

  • Some also use GIMP, a free alternative to Photoshop.
  • These tools allow creators to add text, apply filters, and manipulate images to create eye-catching thumbnails that stand out and attract viewers.

You don’t have to do 1:1 what MrBeast (or other popular figures) says to have success.

Use and do whatever’s best for you and your targeted YouTube audience.

Conclusion

This guide took you through everything you have to know when designing the best thumbnail.

Hope you found what you were looking for!

Editor’s note: We’ve originally created this guide in early February 2024, but we’re constantly keeping it updated for relevancy — look at the top of the post to see the last time it was updated.

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.