No-BS Guide: How To Make Viral YouTube Thumbnails

Article last updated on:
March 31, 2024
  • You want to learn how to make viral thumbnails
  • But everybody says the same things
  • So you don’t know what to do now

We’ll teach you new and 100% genuine tips.

How to Make Viral Thumbnails on YouTube

The best answer for everybody to make viral thumbnails is this: Look at what popular YouTubers in your industry or niche do, and do what they do.

1. Follow your Niche’s Leaders

Searching for iPhone 15 Pro Reviews on YouTube

See what the most popular channels in your industry/niche do and emulate their style.

  • Identify Top Channels: Who are the most popular YouTubers in your niche? Look for channels with a large subscriber base and high view counts.
  • Thumbnail Deep Dive: Spend some time analyzing their thumbnails. What visual elements do they use? What kind of fonts and colors? How do they communicate the video’s content?
  • Find Inspiration: Don’t just copy, get inspired. See what elements resonate with you and how you can adapt them to your own unique style and brand.

Great Idea: If the industry’s too big and you speak multiple languages, emulate what people do in English and do the same in another language.

2. All it takes to Grab Attention

Clickbait, but do it smartly — don’t lie to your views.

Clickbait video with an exaggerated thumbnail
  • Bold Colors & High Contrast: Use bright, contrasting colors to make your thumbnail pop against the feed.
  • Expressive Faces: Faces are great in thumbnails. Use clear close-ups with emotions that reflect your video’s content (surprise, joy, curiosity).

In the example above: Sure, the thumbnail has a “weird face”, but it doesn’t lie — you see that the car is a Maserati, so you now you just have to click the video to see the full context.

Smart, genuine clickbaiting — without any lies.

3. Make it Simple & Clear

  • Keep it Simple: Avoid crowding your thumbnail with too many elements or text.
  • High-Quality Images: Blurry or pixelated images are a turn-off. Use crisp, clear visuals.
  • Legible Text: Keep text concise and use fonts that are easy to read on small screens.

Here’s a great example:

YouTube Thumbnail idea: High-Quality Visuals

It’s so simple! A before-and-after comparison with the Adobe Lightroom logo.

  • Title: Tells you that it’s about editing.
  • Left: Stock picture, before any modifications.
  • Right: Results after Peter’s edits, so you instantly know if you like his editing style.
  • Logo: Tells you the app he’s gonna use in the video.

You already know everything about the video before clicking → Simply click it to see how all of the editing is done.

That’s a perfect thumbnail.

4. Raise Curiosity

  • Spark Curiosity: Leave viewers wanting more with a question or surprising element in your thumbnail.
  • Benefit-Driven Text: Briefly highlight the key takeaway or benefit viewers will get from watching your video.

Check this one out:

Example of a YouTube Thumbnail with a quote

Numbers and bulleted lists can quickly convey value and grab attention.

Pro Tip: Check out the most winning thumbnail ideas.

5. Use the Right Tools

Cover image - AB Test Tool For YouTube Gaming
  • Canva or Photoshop: Free design tools like Canva= can help you create professional-looking thumbnails.
  • Consistent Branding: Incorporate your channel’s colors, fonts, or logo to build recognition over time.
  • A/B Test: Experiment with different thumbnail styles and see what resonates with your audience.


1. How do I make my thumbnails more appealing?

Making your thumbnails more appealing starts with using vibrant colors that catch the eye, as they often stand out in a sea of images.

Incorporating a clear, engaging image that tells a story at a glance can significantly boost its appeal.

2. What makes a catchy thumbnail?

A catchy thumbnail often combines a few key elements:

  1. First up, it grabs attention with bright, contrasting colors.
  2. Then, it teases the content with an intriguing image or snapshot that makes you want to know more.
  3. Finally, a touch of creativity or humor can set your thumbnail apart, making it not just catchy, but memorable.

Adding minimal text in a bold, easy-to-read font can hint at the video’s topic without overwhelming the image. Consistency in style or theme helps viewers recognize your brand at a glance.

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.