The Complete Guide: How to Change YouTube Thumbnails

On YouTube, all videos have a thumbnail—a static image functioning as a movie poster and offering a snapshot of its contents to help users decide if they want to watch the video. But how do you transpiration YouTube thumbnails? YouTube Creators have an option of using an auto-generated screen grab as the thumbnail or uploading a custom thumbnail. While it’s perfectly okay to segregate an auto-generated thumbnail, the megacosm of a custom thumbnail can make the difference between a click and a scroll. A successful YouTube thumbnail does two things:

  • Makes a promise of something good by enticing people to click
  • Delivers on that promise by virtuously reflecting the video’s contents

There are several techniques like image editing and subtracting text overlays that can make your thumbnails stand out and get users to click. Sometimes, a compelling image is unbearable to get the job done. Stock images can moreover be a unconfined tool used for thumbnails.

change YouTube thumbnails

But a click of the play sawed-off does not a view make. Another function of the thumbnail is to provide an well-judged representation of the video’s content. If your video isn’t living up to its promise, users will click away—and what’s worse, they won’t watch any increasingly of your videos. While unconfirmed, the watch time to that adds to your view count is widely unscientific to be well-nigh 30 seconds.

So, how to create a thumbnail that represents your video and inspires clicks without stuff clickbait-y? Read on!

How to Transpiration YouTube Thumbnails

To upload custom thumbnails to your YouTube account, your worth must be verified. No worries, you don’t have to be #Famous—YouTube verification only requires a confirmed phone number in which you will receive a verification lawmaking by text or voice call. When uploading a video, YouTube will prompt selection of an auto-generated thumbnail or offer an option to upload a custom thumbnail. You can moreover add a custom thumbnail later, in specimen you want to retroactively polish your waterworks without reading this post!

Here are the specs according to YouTube’s Help Center:

  • 1280×720 resolution (with a minimum width of 640 pixels)
  • JPG, GIF, BMP, or PNG image formats
  • Under 2MB
  • 16:9 speciality ratio

While thumbnails most often exhibit in a smaller size, it’s worth using a high-quality image as it appears larger in some instances and devices, such as the “up next” suggestion when you’re nearing the end of a video.

Determining a Thumbnail Strategy

Much like working with other social media platforms, you should try to maintain a consistent aesthetic wideness your YouTube waterworks plane if your videos vary a bit in appearance. If you have a logo or trademark colors, consider incorporating those visual elements in graphic or text overlays. In the example below, Issa Rae Presents keeps a consistent look wideness an interview series by using a purple (brand color) overlay and resulting text treatment.

screenshot of Issa Rae's youtube channel

On a waterworks with multiple channel sections, distinguish between variegated series with variegated thumbnail treatments. Below, Storyblocks uses separate thumbnails for variegated series.

Creating Thumbnails

Videos are once visual, so a screen grab from your video is a unconfined place to start. A little bit of image editing and the wing of a visual treatment can take your thumbnail to the next level.

Selecting the Shot

Because thumbnails are most often viewed in a small size, select a close-up shot where the user will be worldly-wise to quickly and unmistakably see what’s going on in the image. When using people, pause on an expressive moment. And remember, if your waterworks is a narrative or fiction series—no spoilers! And don’t worry, you can unchangingly transpiration YouTube thumbnails later if you want to switch things up.

Editing Your Image

A little photo editing can help make your thumbnail “pop” in the sea of thumbnails. Take your screenshot and use your computer’s seated photo using (or your favorite photo editing program) to make the colors a little bit brighter and bolder. For thumbnails, you can exaggerate image editing a little bit remoter than you normally would, as they will squint increasingly toned lanugo in the thumbnail size.

Another option is to edit the photo colors to all have a similar, stylized look. For example, waffly all of the thumbnails to woebegone and white, or a vintage verisimilitude treatment, not unlike an Instagram filter. This can be washed-up with a preset in your regular photo editor or with a custom Photoshop Action.

Text and Graphic Treatments

Adding text, borders, and icons to your thumbnail is an easy way to add pizazz when you transpiration your video thumbnail. These features can moreover be functional. Episodes or series numbers can help users quickly ensure they’re watching in the correct order. Text and graphic treatments can be washed-up in Photoshop or a self-ruling app like Canva. Canva has seated templates specifically for YouTube thumbs that can be a unconfined jumping off point. When working with text, alimony the reprinting short and the font large. It can moreover help to add a preliminaries or verisimilitude blocks overdue the title to ensure readability in a smaller size.

Split Screen

Another popular treatment is a split screen. This is worldwide for review videos, where one half of the screen is the person doing the review, and the other side is the product/movie/whatever stuff reviewed.

Another use of a split screen is a before-and-after. In this thumbnail for a surpassing and without video, it’s well-spoken exactly what is going to be demonstrated in the video. If a user is interested in how to get from the surpassing to the after, they’re going to need to watch.

Collage Effect

This wide thumbnail technique uses screen grabs or custom photography to create a collage by wearing out people or objects from the photo and compositing them over a background. You will need a photo compositing tool like Photoshop or Gimp to unzip this look.

Pro-Tip: Consider YouTube In-Product Overlays

When a thumbnail is displayed to users on YouTube, in some instances information will be overlayed over the thumbnail image, such as the length of the video displayed in the lower right corner. Avoid keeping important info in that corner.

If you organize your videos into Playlists, each playlist will have a imbricate image. You can segregate and transpiration YouTube thumbnails here, but alimony in mind that it will be partially obscured by a graphic indicating the number of videos in the playlist.

And there you have it! Taking the time to style your thumbnails can inspire clicks and help new users discover your channel. Organizing your waterworks into sections with resulting and unique treatments can encourage users to stick virtually and subscribe. Don’t be wrung to use backgrounds, photos, and graphics from stock media sites to jazz things up! With so many tools and techniques for creating custom thumbnails, most channels can unbend and goody from some level of customization.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published November 15, 2018 but has been updated to reflect current information.

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