It is often overlooked, but YouTube video thumbnails can be just as important as SEO, keywords, descriptions, and the video content itself! Why is that? Because they provide a preview of what your video will be about. Although YouTube has an auto-generated thumbnail for your video when you upload it to your YouTube channel, a custom thumbnail is the better option. Keep reading to learn how to change thumbnails on YouTube and how to choose a thumbnail for your video.
How to Create a Custom Video Thumbnail
Let’s talk about creating a custom thumbnail before we dive into how to change the thumbnail on YouTube. Sadly, YouTube doesn’t offer any features to do this. While some people use a screenshot image taken from their video to create their thumbnail, we’d recommend taking it a step further. Now, you don’t need to be a Photoshop expert to create a new thumbnail image. Luckily there are easy-to-use programs out there for YouTube creators, such as Canva.
Canva is free to use, but paid users have access to more graphics and effects. One of the best things about this site is that you don’t have to start from scratch. You can choose from a variety of plug-and-play templates. Start by searching “YouTube Thumbnail” template designs on Canva. If you do not see any thumbnails you like, you can create a blank YouTube thumbnail by clicking on Create a Blank YouTube thumbnail. From here, you can search for niche-specific designs. For example, if you have a cooking channel, type in “cooking” and you will see a wide range of related thumbnails. Whatever your passion is - gaming, cooking, or music - there’s a template for you.
You can choose from Canva’s library of photos, graphics, icons, and illustrations. Or you can upload your own. It is even possible to add your own color scheme and font combination to your business video. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
After you’ve created your thumbnail, it’s time to upload it to your new or existing video. Adding it to your channel is as simple as downloading it and saving it to your desktop or iPhone. You can even share it on social media directly from Canva itself.
What if You Want to Use an Auto-Generated Thumbnail?
It’s okay to stick with simple. Choosing one of YouTube’s three options may be the best choice if your YouTube channel is just a hobby or passion project and you aren't concerned with stats and views. If that’s the case, you can select one of the three thumbnail selections when uploading your video. And if you aren’t really satisfied with the one you picked, you can always change it after it’s published.
How to Change a Thumbnail on YouTube
If you already have an uploaded video that’s been processed or published, you can change the thumbnail from YouTube Studio. To edit videos:
Step 1. To access your YouTube studio from the YouTube homepage, click your profile picture found at the top right of the screen and choose “YouTube Studio”.
Step 2. In the left menu (found under Your channel) click on “Content”.
Step 3. To the right of your video, you’ll see the first icon that looks like a little pen or pencil. That’s the Details icon. Click that.
Step 4. There, you should see three auto-generated thumbnail options. If you want to change yours to one of the three options that are already there, simply choose the one you want to use and then click “Save” in the top-right corner of your screen. But if you want to upload your own, continue on to step number five.
Step 5: In that same Thumbnail section, click up Upload thumbnail. Select or upload your design.
*Note* This should give you an idea of what your video contains. It is important to choose a thumbnail that stands out and attracts the attention of viewers.
Step 6: Click the “Save” button in the upper right-hand corner.
How to Change Thumbnail on YouTube Using an App
For those who use their iPads or iPhones more than their computers, you can definitely change your thumbnail from there as well. Here’s how to change the thumbnail on the YouTube Studio app:
Step 1. You’ll need to open the YouTube Studio app.
Step 2. Go to the Content menu at the bottom of the screen.
Step 3. You can edit any video that you select from here.
Step 4. To edit the thumbnail, tap Edit then Edit Thumbnail
Step 5. Again, you can choose one of the auto-generated thumbnails or choose a custom thumbnail from your device.
Step 6. Select the thumbnail you want and confirm your selection.
Step 7. Save.
What You Should Know About YouTube Thumbnails
After learning how to change thumbnails on YouTube, here are a few things you need to know about your custom thumbnail image. This will be used as the preview image on the embedded player, which is why YouTube recommends making the original image size as big as possible. A small image will make it difficult to see or read any text clearly. YouTube’s suggestions for customized thumbnails are as follows:
- For the thumbnail size, they must have a resolution of 1280x720 pixels and a minimum width of 640 pixels.
- Images must be sent in JPG, GIF, or PNG file types. Make sure to adhere to the 2MB restriction.
- You should use a 16:9 aspect ratio since YouTube players and previews use it the most.
Each custom thumbnail image must comply with YouTube’s Community Guidelines. If your thumbnails contain the following, they may be rejected and result in a strike against your account.
- Discrimination and hate speech
- Content containing nudity or sexually explicit material
- Discrimination and hate speech
- A violent act
- Dangerous or harmful content
Just a word of caution: If you are found to be repeating an offense, your custom thumbnail privileges may be removed for 30 days, or even your account may be terminated. In the event that a strike is issued, what will happen? You’ll get an email and notice in your Channel Settings the next time you log in to YouTube. You can contest the strike if you think your thumbnails don’t go against the YouTube Community Guidelines. If your appeal is accepted and you haven't already, the thumbnail might be restored.
We’d say these are pretty rare and extreme circumstances, but we wanted you to be aware so nothing happens to your YouTube account. Now, we’d love to know: are you using custom thumbnails on your YouTube channel?