Layout for YouTube Thumbnails

Article last updated on:
April 17, 2024

In this guide, we’re teaching you what’s the best layout for a YouTube thumbnail. We’ll talk about which elements to add so that your thumbnails will go viral.

The Perfect Layout for YouTube Thumbnails

A great layout for a YouTube thumbnail includes: simple background, clear text, branding, expressive faces, a call-to-action.

Illustration - YouTube Thumbnail Layout
Most commonly-used Layout

Very relevant: TOP 10 Thumbnail Types & Layouts.

1. Background

Choose engaging images that accurately represent your video’s content and theme.

  • Select images relevant to your video’s topic to pique viewers’ interest.
  • Opt for visually striking visuals that grab attention.
  • Ensure the images effectively convey the mood or theme of your video.

2. Text

Add simple text on your thumbnail to send your video’s key message or topic effectively.

YouTube Thumbnail with a Gentle Arrow
  • Keep text short and impactful for easy readability.
  • Use attention-grabbing phrases or keywords to intrigue viewers.
  • Ensure text is large enough to be easily readable on various devices.

Last point is so important — make sure you’re using the right thumbnail fonts!

3. Branding

Add consistent branding elements such as your channel logo, colors, or fonts to enhance brand recognition.

Branding on YouTube Thumbnails
  • Maintain brand consistency across all thumbnails to strengthen your channel’s identity.
  • Place your channel’s logo on the thumbnail without overwhelming the main content.
  • Use consistent elements to establish a cohesive visual identity for your channel.

4. Expressive Faces

Include expressive faces or emotions relevant to your video content to evoke curiosity and connection with viewers.

Example of a YouTube Thumbnail with a Popular Face
  • Choose faces that convey emotions aligned with your video’s theme.
  • Opt for close-up shots to emphasize facial expressions and emotions effectively.
  • Ensure faces are clear and easily recognizable, even at smaller thumbnail sizes.

Also read why YouTubers make weird faces in thumbnails.

5. Composition

Compose your thumbnail in a visually appealing manner, balancing elements such as background, text, and whitespace.

  • Ensure a clean and uncluttered layout for maximum impact.
  • Experiment with different compositions to find what works best for your content.
  • Maintain a cohesive design aesthetic across all thumbnails on your channel.

Tips for Layout Perfection

1. Avoid Bad Clickbait

Ensure your thumbnail accurately represents the content of your video to avoid misleading viewers.

Clickbait video with an exaggerated thumbnail
  • Choose images and text that accurately depict the main topic or theme of your video.
  • Avoid clickbait or misleading thumbnails that may lead to viewer dissatisfaction.
  • Align your thumbnail with your video’s title and description to set clear expectations.

2. Call-to-Action

Include a subtle or non-intrusive call-to-action (CTA) to encourage viewers to click on your video.

  • Use phrases like “Watch Now” or “Learn More” to prompt viewer engagement.
  • Place your CTA strategically within the thumbnail without detracting from the main content.
  • Experiment with different CTAs to see what resonates best with your target audience.

3. A/B Test

Experiment with different thumbnail designs and analyze their performance using Thumbnail Test.

Thumbnail Test Homepage
  • Monitor click-through rates (CTR) and viewer engagement to gauge thumbnail effectiveness.
  • A/B test different thumbnail variations to identify what resonates best with your audience.
  • Continuously refine and iterate your thumbnail strategy based on data-driven insights.

Relevant: Learn how to A/B Test Titles as well.

4. Mobile Optimization:

Optimize your thumbnails for mobile viewing by ensuring key elements are visible and legible on smaller screens.

  • Use larger text and imagery to maintain readability on mobile devices.
  • Test your thumbnails on various mobile devices to ensure compatibility.
  • Consider how your thumbnail will appear in YouTube’s mobile app and mobile browser.

5. Comply with Guidelines

Adhere to YouTube’s Community Guidelines and policies when creating thumbnails to maintain channel integrity.

Screenshot from the YouTube Community Guidelines
  • Familiarize yourself with YouTube’s thumbnail guidelines to ensure compliance.
  • Monitor your thumbnails for any potential violations and make adjustments as necessary.

Another relevant set of rules is the Thumbnails Policy.


1. How do I change the thumbnail layout on YouTube?

To change the thumbnail layout on YouTube:

  1. Go to YouTube Studio and select the video you want to change the thumbnail for.
  2. Click on “Customization” in the left menu, then select “Thumbnails.”
  3. Choose from the available options or upload your own custom thumbnail.
  4. Once selected, click “Save” to apply the changes.

Ensure your thumbnail follows YouTube’s guidelines for optimal display and engagement.

2. What is the best layout for a YouTube thumbnail?

The best layout for a YouTube thumbnail often includes: a clear text overlay, branding, expressive faces, and a strategic call-to-action,.

All while adhering to platform guidelines for maximum impact and viewer engagement.

3. What is the format of a thumbnail?

The format of a YouTube thumbnail is typically 1280×720 pixels (16:9 ratio), ensuring compatibility across devices and platforms. It should be saved in either JPG, GIF, BMP, or PNG format and be under 2MB in size to meet platform requirements.

Related Guide: YouTube Thumbnail Format.

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.