YouTube Video Thumbnails: How to Add Them and Why You Need Them

YouTube Video Thumbnails: How to Add Them and Why You Need Them

Video thumbnails are what make you stop to play a video and what can make you scroll right past it too. If you have a YouTube channel and you’re regularly uploading video content, you have to know all the ins and outs of YouTube video thumbnails.

You know how competitive social media is—to get more subscribers, you must put forth the effort and create eye-catching thumbnails that make people stop in their tracks, click on your video, and give you their full attention.

We’re not talking clickbait either. We’re talking about using a custom video thumbnail that is so alluring, users have to click to get the scoop. In this article, you learn what a thumbnail image is, how you can use the YouTube studio app to upload one, and we give you the info you need to create killer custom thumbnail images that generate more clicks.

What are YouTube Video Thumbnails?

YouTube Video Thumbnails: How to Add Them and Why You Need Them

YouTube video thumbnails serve one primary purpose—to give your audience a sneak peek into what your video is all about. Some people use a screenshot image taken from their video to create their thumbnail. While others go the extra mile, using services like Canva and Adobe Photoshop to create a thumbnail masterpiece.

It really depends on the type of content you post. Sometimes, a screenshot is enough to fully capture what your video is all about. But if you’re uploading a tutorial, for example, you’ll need to add more context, so users know upfront exactly what you’re teaching.

Although you’ve probably been told countless times never to judge a book by its cover—let’s face it. You are always judging video thumbnails—and rightfully so. Why spend your time watching a video that doesn’t grab your attention right away? We don’t!

How to Add Thumbnails to YouTube Videos

adding thumbnails

If you take zero action when uploading a video, YouTube offers a couple of still images taken from your video that you can decide on. This is the easiest (though not the best) way to get a thumbnail added to your video. Sometimes the thumbnail option is blurry, unflattering, confusing, or all the above. You want something captivating—not cringey.

Instead of relying on an automatic process to dictate the vibe of your YouTube account, you can either 1) create unique YouTube video thumbnails when you upload your video or 2) change the thumbnail once your video is already uploaded.

Let’s discuss the first option. When you’re uploading a new video using YouTube studio, you can customize different parts of it, like including a good title, a short (or long!) description, and of course a thumbnail. In the thumbnail section, you’re offered an option to “Upload Thumbnail.” This is where you can import your own image and upload it before you hit that “publish” button.

How to Change a Thumbnail on an Existing YouTube Video

Change thumnsils

If you forget to add customized YouTube video thumbnails images and you’ve already published your video—don’t lose precious views and likes to delete and reupload. Simply log back into your YouTube account and click your profile icon located in the top-right corner. Use the drop-down menu to get back into your creator studio.

Once you’re on the next screen where your dashboard is, look for the “Content” section in the left side panel. Find the video that needs some sprucing, hover your mouse over it, and click on the “Details” icon that looks like a pencil. Now you’ll be back in familiar territory, where video editing is made possible.

You’ll once again be presented with the option to “Upload Thumbnail,” and you can browse your desktop to find the image you prepared. Sometimes, a good screenshot is all you need. For example, if it’s a wedding video, a screenshot that captures a pivotal moment can be enticing enough for clicks.

But most of the time, a text overlay is required to add context and clarity, two elements that help users decide if they’re really invested in learning more. If you already work with Photoshop, this step is a breeze but if you’re not familiar with that program, Canva is an incredibly user-friendly tool with templates you can customize to your liking.

What You Need to Know About Custom Thumbnails

If you can’t find the option to upload a custom thumbnail, you need to first verify your YouTube account. Once that step is complete, you can focus on creating YouTube video thumbnails that draw viewers in.

Text Thumbnails

If you’re using text in the image, keep it short and sweet. You want to pique curiosity, not tell the whole story. And here is where you should be careful too. Only use words that match up with the content of your video. You’ve been fooled by videos before—don’t be that guy. It’s disappointing, destroys your credibility, and keeps users from wanting to engage with your other videos.

Captivating Colors

Creating captivating thumbnails also requires you to be consistent. Keep in line with your brand colors and messaging. So whenever you upload a new video, your subscribers immediately know it’s you that’s posting—without even reading your username!

Sizes That Work Best

Finally, make sure you’re following YouTube’s best practices for the optimal thumbnail size. The ideal size for your final image is 1280x720 with a minimum width of 640 pixels. You can use GIF, JPG, or PNG image formats, so long as they stay below the 2MB limit.

YouTube video thumbnails for Freddie Mercury's Wembley performance
Photographer: Alvaro Felipe | Source: UnsplashPhotographer: Alvaro Felipe | Source: Unsplash

And there you have it! The ins and outs you didn’t know you needed to know to create the perfect YouTube video thumbnails.

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