Are you struggling to attract views and engagement on your YouTube videos? You’re not alone.
With over 2 billion monthly active users, creating content that stands out on the platform can be a challenge.
That’s why it’s essential to grab your viewer’s attention with an effective YouTube thumbnail.
In this DIY guide, we’ll show you how to create thumbnails that not only grab attention but also pique interest, create desire, and ultimately drive action.
Whether you’re an amateur or a pro YouTuber, this all-inclusive guide has everything you need to know to create engaging and click-worthy thumbnails for your videos and take your channel to the next level.
Let’s get started.
Understanding the Basics of YouTube Thumbnail Design
YouTube thumbnails are the first point of contact between your video and potential viewers, which makes them an essential element of your video marketing strategy.
Let’s dive into understanding the basics of the YouTube thumbnail design process.
What Makes a Great YouTube Thumbnail?
A great thumbnail can not only accurately represent your video content but also entice viewers to click and watch your video.
So, what makes a great thumbnail?
The one that has these three elements: relevance, clarity, and creativity:
- Relevance: Your thumbnail should be relevant to the content of your video. It should accurately represent the topic, tone, and message of your video. If your video discusses how to make a DIY face mask, your thumbnail should feature an image of a face mask, not a generic image of a person’s face.
- Clarity: Your thumbnail should be clear and easy to understand. It should convey your video’s message at a glance and not be cluttered with too many elements. Keep in mind that your thumbnail will be viewed in a small size, so it’s important to use bold and contrasting colors, clean typography, and simple graphics to make it stand out.
- Creativity: Your thumbnail should be creative and visually appealing. Experiment with different design elements, such as custom graphics, text overlays, and unique compositions to create a thumbnail that is both informative and attractive.
Here is an example from Matt Diggity, one of my favorite YouTubers that accurately represents the three key elements discussed above:
Source: Matt Diggity YouTube Channel
- The thumbnail is relevant to the content of the video ✔️
- The thumbnail is clear and easy to understand ✔️
- The thumbnail is creative and visually appealing ✔️
YouTube Thumbnail Design Best Practices
YouTube has specific guidelines and requirements for thumbnails, which are designed to ensure that thumbnails accurately represent the content of videos and don’t mislead viewers.
Here are some best practices for designing YouTube thumbnails that are both effective and compliant:
- Size and Resolution: YouTube recommends a minimum resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels for thumbnails, with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The file size should be under 2MB.
- Accuracy:Your thumbnail should accurately represent the content of your video. Avoid using misleading or clickbait images that don’t accurately represent the content of your video. This can lead to viewer dissatisfaction and lower video performance.
- Text and Typography:Use text overlays to add context to your thumbnail and make it more informative. Keep the text short and concise and use a bold and legible font to make it easy to read. Avoid using excessive text or text that is difficult to read.
- Brand Identity: Incorporate your brand elements, such as your logo or brand colors, into your thumbnail design. This can help viewers recognize your videos and feel familiar with your brand.
Source: ARC YouTube Channel
How to Make Your Thumbnails Stand Out from the Crowd?
With millions of videos on YouTube, it’s important to create a thumbnail that grabs the attention of viewers. Here are some tips for designing a thumbnail that is visually appealing and distinctive:
- Contrasting Colors: Use bold and contrasting colors to make your thumbnail stand out from the other videos on the page. Avoid using colors that blend in with the YouTube background, such as white or gray.
- Custom Graphics: Use custom graphics, such as icons, illustrations, or infographics, to make your thumbnail more visually appealing and informative. Custom graphics can help viewers understand the content of your video at a glance.
- Text and Title Complement: Use text that complements the video title and description to make your thumbnail more informative. This can help viewers understand what your video discusses and what they’ll learn from it.
Here is another visual example from Matt Diggity’s YouTube video titled “I Failed at SEO. Here’s What Happened…” that accurately depicts these three qualities:
Source:Matt Diggity YouTube Channel
- The contrast of Red and White ✔️
- A custom graphic in the background ✔️
- Text and Title complement each other ✔️
YouTube Thumbnail Design Tips & Tricks
We’re done with the basics. It’s time we move on to discussing a few advanced tips and tricks that can help you nail your YouTube thumbnail design.
Without further ado…
How to Create a Consistent Thumbnail Style
Creating a consistent thumbnail style can help your videos stand out and make your channel more recognizable.
Consider using a specific template or a style guide to ensure your thumbnails have a consistent look and feel.
Also, don’t forget to incorporate branding elements such as your logo or brand colors. This will help you establish consistency across your thumbnails.
Here is what consistency looks like in real-time:
Source: Neil Patel YouTube Channel
How to Create a Thumbnail That Represents Your Video Content
Your thumbnail should accurately represent the content of your video.
Use images that are relevant to your video and accurately depict the topic or subject matter.
Adding text that complements your video title and description can also help give viewers a better idea of what the video has to offer.
His video is titled “Proven Secrets and Strategies for Effortless Blogging.” The text in his thumbnail says “Blogging Secrets.”
See how the text in the thumbnail complements the video title? Yep. You should steal this trick from Neil Patel.
Source: Neil Patel
How to Create Thumbnails If You’ve Limited Access to Media
Not everyone has access to professional cameras or a large collection of stock photos and videos.
In such cases, it is important to get creative and make the most of the resources you have available. Here are some tips for creating engaging thumbnails with limited access to media:
Replace the Image of a Human With an Image of a Logo
If you don’t have access to high-quality images of people, you can try using your brand logo or an icon that represents your video’s topic.
Make sure the logo or icon is clear and visible in the thumbnail, and use text to communicate the video’s topic or message.
Use Screen Grabs for Background Images
One way to incorporate engaging visuals in your thumbnail is to take a screengrab of a key point in your video and use it as a background image.
This can be a great way to give your audience a sneak peek into what your video is all about and entice them to click on your video to learn more.
By looking at the analytics of your video, you can identify the moments where your viewers engaged with your content the most.
You can then use these moments to create engaging thumbnails that accurately depict the video’s content and entice viewers to click through.
Here is a quick tutorial on how you can find the analytics of a YouTube video:
A/B Testing Your Thumbnails
A/B testing, or split testing, is an effective way to test different thumbnail designs and see which ones perform better.
This can help you optimize your thumbnails and increase click-through rates. To set up an A/B test, create two different thumbnail designs and use YouTube’s built-in testing tool to show each thumbnail to a portion of your audience.
Measure the results to see which thumbnail performs better and use that design for future videos.
Here is how Justin Brown, a prominent YouTuber with over a million followers, did A/B testing of his thumbnails for his YouTube channel:
Analyzing Thumbnail Performance and Making Improvements
Tracking and analyzing your thumbnail performance is key to making data-driven decisions to improve your designs.
Metrics to track include click-through rate (CTR), impressions, and engagement rate.
Use this data to make adjustments to your thumbnail designs and see how those changes impact performance.
Did you see the video from Justin Brown in the previous section? He tracked exactly these metrics to make sound decisions.
DIY YouTube Thumbnail Design Tools
So far, you’ve understood the basics as well as the advanced tips and tricks to create a smashing YouTube thumbnail design.
All that is left is the perfect design tool for you.
I’d suggest you use Canva. It’s a simple yet powerful graphic designing tool that can help you with anything design-related.
But if you’d like to explore more options, please do. I’ve outlined the most popular and effective design tools below (both free and paid.)
Let’s go through them.
Free Tools for Thumbnail Design
Canva is a well-known graphic designing software that provides a large selection of design elements and templates for making social media graphics, including YouTube thumbnails.
You can either choose pre-made templates or design your own from scratch. The drag-and-drop interface of Canva makes it really fun and easy.
Adobe Spark is a free internet-based graphic design tool that provides a variety of design templates, including YouTube thumbnail templates.
You can choose any pre-made templates or make your own from start.
Adobe Spark includes a variety of design components, including icons, typefaces, and graphics, to assist you in creating a visually appealing and informative thumbnail.
Source: Adobe Express
PicMonkey offers a range of features that can help you create impressive YouTube thumbnails. The features include design templates, text overlays, graphics, and image filters to help you create a thumbnail that stands out.
Paid Tools for Thumbnail Design
Adobe Photoshop is a professional-level design application with advanced picture creation and editing capabilities.
While there is a learning curve, it provides a variety of tools and functions that can assist you in creating high-quality YouTube thumbnails.
Photoshop offers advanced features such as layer masks, selection tools, and adjustment layers to help you create a thumbnail that is both effective and visually appealing.
Source: Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based design tool that is ideal for creating custom graphics and illustrations for YouTube thumbnails.
While it also requires a bit of a learning curve, it offers advanced features such as vector graphics, shape tools, and typography that can help you create a thumbnail that is both unique and informative.
Source: Adobe Illustrator
CorelDRAW is a professional-level design tool that offers a range of features for creating graphics and illustrations, including YouTube thumbnails.
CorelDRAW offers advanced features such as node editing, bezier curves, and typography tools to help you create a thumbnail that is both creative and effective.
How to Create a YouTube Thumbnail Through Canva for Free: A Quick Tutorial
Step 1: Open Canva and Search “YouTube Thumbnail Design”
If you aren’t signed up yet, do it first. Then search for the “YouTube thumbnails.”
Step 2: Choose a Template or Select “Create a Blank YouTube Thumbnail”
Don’t worry. You can select the “Blank Template” first and then insert a template later through Canva’s drag-and-drop feature.
Step 3: Use Canva’s Features to Design the Perfect YouTube Thumbnail
You’re seeing all of the design features on the left side of your screen. There are templates (free and paid), design elements, stock photos, and the list goes on.
Step 4: Drag and Drop a Template into the Blank Canvas
Just select the one that you feel will go perfectly with your YouTube video’s title
Step 5: Replace the “Person” and Change the “Text”
I replaced the human image with our company’s logo (you can do this if you don’t want to show your face.) The rest is text that accurately reflects the content of my YouTube video.
The background is one of the most important aspects of YouTube thumbnail design. It has to be perfect. Here are some important points that you should remember while finalizing the background of your thumbnail:
- It shouldn’t be too generic. You can’t use 90% of the stock photos for this purpose as all of them are too generic and don’t properly represent the content of your video. To get the perfect background, go to Google Images, search the main keyword of your video, and download the best image (don’t worry about the copyrights, we’ll edit it in Canva.) We’ll use that image as our background now.
- It shouldn’t be too solid. In Canva, you get an option to set the transparency of any element of your design. For backgrounds, your transparency must lie between 25% to 30%.
- Bonus Point: Make your background more catchy by rotating your background image, zooming in or zooming out, or focusing on a certain part of the image
The background color is another important aspect of designing thumbnails for your YouTube channel. In fact, the colors are solely responsible for building your brand’s image. That’s why you should select them carefully.
For AdvertisingReportCard (ARC), we use shades of blue as our brand’s color. That’s why, in most of the ARC’s thumbnails, you’ll see the blue color as the dominant one.
You can also use gradients to make your thumbnail’s background color more catchy. Here is a perfect example:
The thumbnail above uses the black-blue gradient as its background color.
Also, notice how the gradient is darker behind the text. It’s very important to do so as we want our text to be easily readable.
Text Size and Color
This is how the thumbnails look on Google Search Engine Result Pages:
Notice how small they look?
Now, if your text is even smaller with dull colors, what difference will it make? Will it increase CTR? Absolutely not.
That’s why you should make sure you use big font sizes and bold colors for your thumbnail’s text.
You can even use “Effects” in Canva to add a background to your text or give it a drop-down shadow or do something else to make your text stand out and easy to read even in a smaller size.
What to Write
The text on your thumbnail controls your CTR. If it’s catchy, easy to read, and properly describes your video’s content, your CTR will skyrocket.
Here are a few tricks to decide what to write on your thumbnail:
- Take inspiration from competitors or other YouTube channels. Do a random search on Google, go to the “Videos” section, and analyze all the thumbnails. Note what thumbnail stands out and why?
- Another idea will be to keep it simple. You can put your video’s main keyword/title as your thumbnail text. If you do it properly with the right font size and color, you’ll most definitely get a good CTR.
- Whatever choice you make, try to use Power Words such as “Free,” “Masterclass,” etc., in your thumbnail text. But don’t overdo it as no one appreciates click-batey titles.
Here is an example from the Advertising Report Card YouTube channel:
Final Thoughts: DIY YouTube Thumbnail Design Strategy
Creating effective YouTube thumbnails is an important part of building a successful YouTube channel.
By following the best practices for YouTube thumbnail design, using the right tools, and testing and analyzing your designs, you can create engaging and click-worthy thumbnails that will help drive views and increase engagement on your videos.
Remember to focus on creating thumbnails that accurately represent your video content, use eye-catching imagery and text, and incorporate branding elements to help establish a consistent style across your channel.
With a little bit of creativity and a sound approach, you can create YouTube thumbnails that stand out from the crowd and help your videos get the attention they deserve.