While it’s debatable that people’s attention spans have gotten shorter in recent years, the fact still stands that the thumbnail for your YouTube video has a lot of weight to pull. When people are deciding between which video to watch next, often the deciding factor will be if the thumbnail grabs their attention.
This small screenshot of your video also helps YouTube rank your video higher in the search results, depending on its quality and relevance. It’s one of the most important factors that YouTube looks for when recommending content. The thumbnail is on a similar level as the title in terms of importance.
When it comes to producing a thumbnail for your video, there are a few options. The simplest method is to choose one of the pre-existing thumbnails that YouTube automatically generates for you. Another option is to select a static image from some part of your video and use that. If you really want to stand out from the crowd, it’s probably worth creating your own customized thumbnail for each video you upload. With that said, let’s dive into what thumbnails are all about.
What is a Thumbnail?
Put simply, a thumbnail is a small image that represents your video. When people are searching YouTube and looking at recommended videos, the static image they see representing a video is the thumbnail. These can be automatically generated by YouTube or created by you personally. Generally, creating your own thumbnails is the better option, as you can make sure it’s relevant and of high quality. This will help your video to rank and increase your click-through rate (the rate at which people click to watch your video).
How to Add a Thumbnail to a New Video
You can add a thumbnail once a video has been published, but you can also do it before you upload. This will save you some time from having to do it later. Find out how below.
Step 1: Log in to YouTube Studio and click Create
Go to YouTube Studio here and log in. This will bring you to your Studio homepage. From here, click the Create button in the top right corner to begin the process.
Step 2: Upload Your Video
Now, click Upload videos, and then select the file you wish to upload.
Step 3: Select Your Thumbnail
You will now see a video editing page before the publishing stage. Under the video description, there is the thumbnail section. You can upload your own thumbnail by clicking Upload thumbnail, or selecting from one of YouTube’s suggested thumbnails to the right.
How to Add a Thumbnail to an Uploaded Video
Firstly, we’ll look at how to add one of YouTube’s generated thumbnails or your own to your video. The steps are essentially the same and are listed below.
Step 1: Log in to YouTube Studio
To start, log in to YouTube Studio as described previously.
Step 2: Find Your Video in the Content tab
From here, click the Content tab on the left and you’ll see all your uploaded videos.
Step 3: Select Your Video and Choose Your Thumbnail
Now, click on your video to be brought to an editing page. Here, you’ll see a Thumbnail section below Video details. There will be several generated thumbnails here to choose from.
Simply click the one that you want the thumbnail will be updated. If you’d like to add your own, all you have to do is click the Upload thumbnail prompt, locate your desired thumbnail on your device and click Open.
Here is a brief step-by-step video for further reference:
How to Add a Thumbnail on a Mobile
The steps are almost identical when using a mobile device, but this process is managed solely in the YouTube App.
Step 1: Open the YouTube App and Log in
Once you’ve opened the app and logged in, you’ll see the home page.
Step 2: Go to the Profile Menu
If you press your profile icon in the top right corner, you’ll see a menu. Here, the Your channel tab is the one you want.
Step 3: Go to Your Video Manager
After you press Your channel, you’ll be brought to your channel home. There will be a Manage videos button above the Home tab and below your account name. Press this button.
Step 4: Select Your Video for Editing
You’ll see all your uploaded videos here. If you press the three dots to the right of the video, you’ll see the Edit option. Press it to continue.
Step 5: Edit Your Thumbnail
The thumbnail option isn’t too obvious, but it is here. The image symbol in the top left corner of your video is what you’re looking for. Once you press this, you’ll be brought to the familiar thumbnail page from the first method. Here, you can upload your own image or select one of the generated images.
How to Make a Customized Thumbnail for Your Youtube Video
Now we’ve covered how to add a pre-existing thumbnail, it’s time to discover how you go about creating one in the first place. The easiest way to do this is to use a free YouTube thumbnail maker. We’ll give a brief overview of the ones we recommend.
Step 1: Choose Your Photo Editing Sofware
FotoJet is a good choice to make a thumbnail because it’s free and you don’t have to sign up for an account to use it. You can choose different stock images, clip art elements, and styles of font to make your thumbnail your own. Both PNG and JPG files can be exported using FotoJet, and both of these types are compatible with YouTube thumbnails.
Canva is another great free resource. They have a massive library of images, fonts, and colors to choose from. While there is a paid membership option, Canva does offer a lot for free, and you can always upload your own images and then edit using their software.
3. Adobe Spark
The free version of Adobe Spark does come with a watermark, so it’s never going to look as professional as the premium version. But there are a lot of templates included and thousands of images you can use.
We’re going to illustrate how to do this with FotoJet, as it’s a very popular choice that you can use immediately.
Step 2: Open Your Thumbnail Creator
For our first example, go to the FotoJet website here and click Create a Design.
Step 3: Select YouTube Thumbnail Template
Now you can scroll down and find the Social Media Header section of the templates. Here, there’s a YouTube Thumbnail option with customized dimensions to be perfect for a thumbnail. Select this.
Step 4: Make Your Thumbnail
You can select templates from the left taskbar, browse their images or upload your own, add text, Clipart, and change the background too.
Step 5: Save and Download Your Thumbnail
Once you’re happy with your design, click the Download button at the top of the screen. This will bring up a prompt where you can share your thumbnail to a social media platform, copy the code to paste it into a blog, or simply download it for free to your computer. Then, you can upload your thumbnail as described in the previous process.
How to Make Your Thumbnail Using Canva
We illustrated this using FotoJet, but the process for using Canva is very similar. The biggest difference is that Canva’s thumbnail template is a little harder to find. Follow these steps to make your thumbnail.
Step 1: Sign Up or Log in to Canva
First, you’ll need to create a Canva account or sign in to your existing account. Go to the Canva website here and log in or sign up. This will bring you to the home page.
Step 2: Create a Design with Thumbnail Dimensions
After logging in, click the Create a design button in the top right corner, then click Custom size along the bottom. This will bring up a prompt to enter the desired width and height.
The dimensions of a YouTube thumbnail are 1280 x 720 px, so enter these in the width and height boxes, respectively.
Step 3: Create the Design
Now you can either simply click Create new design, or click the YouTube Thumbnail prompt. This will be visible underneath the Suggested section once you enter the dimensions. After this, carry on as normal with designing your thumbnail. The taskbar in Canva is largely the same as the one in FotoJet.
What Makes a Good Thumbnail?
You know now how to make and upload your thumbnail, but what exactly should you be aiming for? Read on to find out.
Use Text Wisely
Some text is a good idea in your thumbnail to let your viewers know easily what the video is about. It’s best to use a font that looks natural and is easily read. If you’re unsure of the best choice, some reliable options are white, red, or black. Be careful not to go overboard, as if you use too much text it’ll be very hard to see what the thumbnail is about. This will affect your video negatively.
If You Have a Brand, Use It
It’s very common for YouTube creators to have a recognizable and personal brand. If you’re building a brand, make sure that your branding is consistent across all your videos. The graphics, colors, and fonts should all be the same or very similar. This will help your viewers recognize your videos and continue watching your content.
Use the Correct Dimensions
This may seem obvious but can get overlooked. Now that you know the ideal dimensions for a YouTube thumbnail, make sure you use them every time. Otherwise, your thumbnail may be distorted, hard to read, and look low quality.
Make the Thumbnail Relevant
A quick way to produce a low-quality thumbnail is to make one that has nothing to do with the video in question. Your video will be viewed favorably by both YouTube users and the YouTube algorithm if it’s relevant to your video. Think about what people would be expecting when seeing your video’s title and watching your video, and center your thumbnail around that.
Include Humans in Your Thumbnail
You don’t have to necessarily use your own face in your thumbnail, but this will depend on your brand and what your viewers have come to expect. Generally, using humans in your thumbnail adds a personal touch to your content and helps users connect with you as a video creator. The key is to position the face correctly within the thumbnail, usually to the left or right, so that it’s not too distracting or covers up the images and text. If you do use your own face in your thumbnail, it’s probably a good idea to not use too many other graphic elements and stickers. This will make the image very busy and a bit of an eye sore.
Here we discussed a few ways to make a new thumbnail for your YouTube video. You can select from YouTube-generated options, upload a pre-existing picture from your device, or make your own. You can even select a static image from the video and use this. The easiest way to design your own is to use free online graphic design software such as FotoJet or Canva. This can be downloaded to your computer and uploaded whenever you wish.
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The image featured at the top of this post is ©photobyphotoboy/Shutterstock.com.