10 Best: YouTube Thumbnail Ideas

Article last updated on:
May 02, 2024

This guide will show you the best YouTube Thumbnail Ideas. Get inspired in 3 simple sections:

  1. 10 Specific iIeas → Those adopted by famous YouTubers.
  2. General Tips → Our advice on how to do better..
  3. Extra Mile → For those who really want to succeed.

By the end of this guide, you’ll know what makes a great YouTube Thumbnail.

Listed: 10 Best YouTube Thumbnail Ideas

The hottest idea in 2024 is simplicity. All YouTube thumbnails are vey simple, yet still raising curiosity.

1. People centric

YouTube Thumbnail with Lester's mugshot from GTA V

Key Components: (Weird) Faces, Emotions, Personality, Connection.

Channels who do people-centric thumbnails best:

  • MrBeast: Reactions & close-ups = click-worthy curiosity.
  • Mark Rober: Expressive faces & props bring science to life.
  • Kurzgesagt: Animated faces & interactions add personality.

2. High-quality visuals

YouTube Thumbnail idea: High-Quality Visuals
  • Use captivating images, screenshots, or graphics relevant to your video.
  • Showcase the most exciting or visually appealing aspects of your content.
  • Consider using overlays, arrows, or shapes to highlight key points.

Key Components: Clarity, Relevance, Aesthetics.

Channels who do High-Quality Visuals thumbnails best:

  • Peter McKinnon: Stunning landscapes & cinematic composition.
  • MKBHD: Sleek product shots & minimalist design.
  • Sam Kolder: Vibrant travel imagery & joyful experiences.

3. Text overlays

Yes, adding text to your thumbnail is crucial.

YouTube Thumbnail with Text Overaly - "2023, A Look Back" from Vox
  • Keep it short and clear, highlighting the main keywords or benefit.
  • Use large, easy-to-read fonts with good contrast.
  • Include intriguing questions or numbers to spark curiosity.

Key Components: Short, Intriguing, Contrasting colors.

Text Overlay Champs:

  • Vsauce: Intriguing questions & bold statements spark discussion.
  • BuzzFeed Unsolved: Spooky fonts & cryptic messages hint at mysteries.
  • Ali Abdaal: Clear benefits & concise numbers highlight key takeaways.

4. Urgency provokers

YouTube Thumbnail idea - One that provokes FOMO
  • Use phrases like “Limited time offer” or “Only X spots left”.
  • Highlight deadlines or countdown timers.
  • Use arrows or call-to-action buttons.

Key Components: Scarcity, Action verbs, Numbers.

Urgency Masters:

  • Ali Abdaal: Countdown timers & “Limited time offer” texts pressure action.
  • Insider: “Before you buy” & “You WON’T BELIEVE” phrases emphasize scarcity.
  • Smarter Every Day: “Only 1% know this” & “This hack will CHANGE your life” create FOMO.

5. Intrigue with numbers

YouTube Thumbnail With Numbers - 3500 Horsepower Nissan GT-R
  • Use large, bold numbers to highlight key statistics or results from your video.
  • For example, “5 SECRETS to Grow Your Channel 1000%!”
  • Or “I BUILT This Tiny House for ONLY $500!”

Key Components: Questions, Surprise, Relevancy.

Masters to get inspired from:

  • MrBeast: ” I Spent $100,000 in 24 Hours!” – Bold numbers paired with shock factor.
  • Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell: ” The Universe in 4 Numbers?” – Thought-provoking question with intriguing number focus.
  • Numberphile: ” 7 Mind-Blowing Numbers You Never Knew Existed!” – Curiosity-inducing question highlighting unique numbers.

6. Before & After

Before vs After Thumbnail Idea
  • Create a split-screen thumbnail showcasing the “before” and “after” results of your video’s topic.
  • This works well for tutorials, makeovers, or DIY projects.

Key Components: Clarity, Focus, Curiosity.

Heroes of this thumbnail idea:

  • Emmymade: “From Messy Pantry to Dream Kitchen: Amazing Transformation!” – Showcases clear visual contrast with enticing progress.
  • Mark Rober: “Building the WORLD’S STRONGEST Cardboard Boat! – Before & After” – Highlights impressive results through dramatic transformation.
  • Matt D’Avella: “Minimalism Challenge: 30 Days Before & After!” – Emphasizes personal journey and impactful change with visual comparison.

7. The good ol’ Question

Pose a thought-provoking question directly on the thumbnail.

Carwow's Example of the one-question format for YouTube Thumbnails
  • This sparks curiosity and encourages viewers to click for the answer.
  • Example: “Is THIS the BEST Camera for Beginners?”
  • Or “Can You REALLY Make Money Online?”

Key Components: Visually appealing, Clarity, Intriguing.

  • Vsauce: “Can You Actually SEE the Future?” – Bold, intriguing question sparks philosophical curiosity.
  • The Financial Diet: “Should You Quit Your Job in 2024?” – Relatable question taps into current concerns and financial anxieties.
  • Bright Side: “Is This the Most Beautiful Place on Earth?” – Visually stunning image combined with a subjective question provokes debate and engagement.

8. Follow the Trend

If your video relates to a current trend, meme, or challenge, subtly reference it in your thumbnail.

YouTube Thumbnail idea - Current Trends

This leverages existing interest and attracts a wider audience.

Key Components: Timeliness, Authenticity, Relevancy.

People who do this best:

  • Insider: “This Influencer Trend is GOING VIRAL!” – Leverages trending topics and personalities to spark interest.
  • Tech Insider: “The MUST-HAVE Gadgets of 2024!” – Captures attention by showcasing what’s hot and new in the tech world.
  • BuzzFeed Multiplayer: “The Craziest TikTok Challenges You NEED to Try!” – Highlights popular challenges and taps into user-generated content trends.

9. Go controversial

If your video tackles a controversial topic, use powerful imagery or text that hints at differing opinions.

YouTube Thumbnail Idea - Raising Controversy

This generates intrigue and encourages viewers to form their own perspective

Key Components: Honesty, Transparency, Ethicity.

Here are some examples of channels that use controversy responsibly:

  • Philosophy Tube: Their thumbnails often use bold statements and questions, but always engage with complex topics thoughtfully and respectfully.
  • ContraPoints: While tackling divisive subjects, their thumbnails use humor and irony to spark curiosity without resorting to sensationalism.
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Their satirical approach uses humor and wit to highlight societal issues, rather than relying on personal attacks or negativity.

10. Make it personal

YouTube Thumbnail Idea - Make it personal
  • Include text like “My Adventures in [Destination]“.
  • Showcase yourself (or another person) genuinely experiencing the travel destination. This could be a photo of you laughing with locals, trying a new food, or exploring a breathtaking view.
  • Include genuine expressions of joy, surprise, or wonder to convey the emotions your video evokes.
  • Opt for natural, candid shots over posed ones. Authenticity resonates with viewers.

Key Components: Show but don’t tell, Authenticity, Relevance.

Masters of this style:

  • Mark Rober: “I Built THIS in My Backyard!” – Highlights personal achievement and unique project ownership.
  • Sam Kolder: “My Unforgettable Adventure in Bali” – Infuses travel experience with a personal touch and emotional tone.
  • Ali Abdaal: “A Day in My Life as a YouTuber” – Connects with viewers by offering a glimpse into their personal journey.

Checklist: YouTube Thumbnail Ideas

Below are the basics. This is all you should know before starting to design your thumbnail.

YouTube Thumbnail SizeOpt for 1280×720 pixels, ensuring clarity on all devices.
Choosing the Ideal FontSelect bold, readable fonts that stand out even in smaller sizes.
Use Best Thumbnail MakersLeverage tools like Canva for professional-looking thumbnails.
ColorsPick vibrant and appealing colors that align with your video’s mood and content.
Use Contrasting BackgroundEmploy backgrounds that contrast with your text and foreground elements to enhance readability.
ConsistencyMaintain a consistent style across all your thumbnails to build brand recognition.
Contrasting ColorsUse colors that complement yet contrast with each other for maximum impact.
Create a Branded YouTube Thumbnail TemplateDevelop a template that reflects your brand’s identity and style.
Include Humans in the Thumbnail ImageFeaturing faces, especially with strong emotions, can increase click-through rates.
Include Your LogoIncorporate your logo subtly to enhance brand recognition without overwhelming the main image.
Test Different Thumbnail DesignsExperiment with various designs to see what resonates best with your audience.
Thumbnail ComparisonRegularly compare your thumbnails to others in your niche to stay competitive and relevant.

Go The Extra Mile

This section is for the YouTube content creators who want to get the most out of their thumbnails. Over here, we’re showing tips and advice curated from the biggest YouTubers.

1. Start A/B Testing

Definition: A/B testing, also known as split testing, involves comparing two or more variations of a single element to see which one performs better.

ThumbnailTest.com - Website Home Page
  • Applied to YouTube thumbnails: It allows you to test different designs and see which one attracts the most clicks, views, and engagement.
  • With tools like Thumbnail Test, you can easily increase CTR even for all of your older videos!

Essentially: You’ll find out which thumbnail is better for your video — without any hassle.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Create multiple thumbnail variations: Choose 2 or 3 different designs with variations in visuals, text, colors, or styles.
  2. Upload them: YouTube’s feature is currently in beta. Right now, third-party services like Thumbnail Test offer similar functionality.
  3. It shows each variant to different segments of your audience: Your audience won’t see all versions at once. Each viewer will see one randomly chosen thumbnail.
  4. Data collection and analysis: For a set period (usually 2-4 weeks), Thumbnail Test tracks performance metrics like click-through rate (CTR), watch time, and engagement for each thumbnail.
  5. Choose the winner: Based on the data, you can identify the thumbnail with the best overall performance and set it as your permanent thumbnail.

Thumbnail Test will automatically set the best thumbnail for you.

2. Use the right tools

Searching for YouTube Thumbnail Ideas on Pinterest
  • Pinterest boards: Search for “YouTube thumbnail ideas” for visual inspiration.
  • Online tools: Canva offers free thumbnail design templates and tools.
  • YouTube Creator Academy: Learn about best practices for thumbnail creation.

Remember: A/B test different thumbnail designs to see what resonates best with your audience. Good luck creating click-worthy thumbnails!


These are all of our best YouTube thumbnail ideas.

Hope you got inspired!

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.