The Perfect YouTube Thumbnail Size and Best Practices

YouTube Thumbnail Size

Small things can have great power.

This article will give you an edge over your competition – and that competition is fierce.

In fact, 1.9 billion logged-in users visit YouTube every month. That’s half the internet, not even counting viewers who don’t log in.

So how can you get more people to watch your videos?

Create an eye-catching YouTube thumbnail.

This article will reveal the perfect YouTube thumbnail size, best practices for creating a thumbnail, and other top tips to get more views

YouTube Thumbnail Size

  • The perfect YouTube thumbnail size is 1280 pixels by 720 pixels.
  • These YouTube thumbnail dimensions use an aspect ratio of 16:9.
  • Make sure your YouTube thumbnail size is a minimum of 640 pixels wide.

What is a YouTube Thumbnail?

YouTube thumbnails are the small preview images used to represent videos. Their job is to attract people’s attention and convince them to watch the video.

Here are some examples of custom YouTube thumbnails from Oberlo’s YouTube channel:

Oberlo YouTube ThumbnailThink of YouTube thumbnails like book covers.

They’re miniature representations of the video content designed to stimulate interest and curiosity.

Why are YouTube Thumbnails so Important?

They say “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

However, in reality, most people do – and the same holds true for YouTube thumbnails. In other words, YouTube thumbnails can make or break your videos.

A good thumbnail can help you to rack up thousands of views. A bad one will ensure your video stays unseen.

Thankfully, YouTube allows you to customize your video thumbnails.

When you upload a video, YouTube will automatically pull three still images from your video that you can use as thumbnails.

That said, it’s always best to create custom YouTube thumbnails.

Compare these two images from a recent Oberlo YouTube video – which do you think is most likely to catch people’s attention?

YouTube Thumbnail Autogenerated

Or:

Oberlo YouTube ThumbnailCustom YouTube thumbnails will help your videos stand out from the crowd and can have a massive impact on the growth of your audience.

They’re also a great opportunity to develop your brand aesthetic.

But that’s not all. You can even use custom YouTube thumbnails to increase your email marketing click-through rate. In fact, Wistia found that using video thumbnails instead of images in emails can increase clicks by more than 21 percent.

Plus, YouTube thumbnails don’t take much time to create.

After you spent ages planning, organizing, filming, and editing the perfect YouTube video, what’s another 10-15 minutes?

Don’t fall at the last hurdle.

Make sure to create a compelling custom YouTube thumbnail.

What is the YouTube Thumbnail Size?

Before you begin, it’s helpful to know the ideal YouTube thumbnail size.

Google recommends that your custom YouTube thumbnail size is 1280 pixels wide by 720 pixels tall. Your image should also have a minimum width of 640 pixels.

YouTube Thumbnail Dimensions

In other words, the ideal custom YouTube thumbnail size is big.

Google explains why: “Your custom thumbnail image should be as large as possible, as the image will also be used as the preview image in the embedded player.”

It’s called a “thumbnail” because it’s often displayed small:

Oberlo YouTube Thumbnail

However, the image also needs to be big enough to look good when displayed the same size as the video player:

YouTube Thumbnail Video Player

These YouTube thumbnail dimensions have an aspect ratio of 16:9.

YouTube Thumbnail Aspect Ratio

You can use both the images above as custom YouTube thumbnail size templates.

You must also upload your YouTube thumbnail in one of the following image formats: JPG, GIF, BMP, or PNG.

Lastly, your custom YouTube thumbnail size must be under the 2MB limit.

How to Add a Custom YouTube Thumbnail to Your Video

Let’s run through how to upload your custom YouTube thumbnail.

To start, head to YouTube.com and click the camera-plus icon to upload a new video.

Upload YouTube Video

Alternatively, to add a custom thumbnail to a video that you’ve already uploaded, head to your videos in the YouTube Studio dashboard. Then click on the video to edit its settings.

In the video’s settings, you’ll see three automatically generated thumbnails at the bottom of the screen.

Auto YouTube Thumbnail

On the bottom right-hand side of the screen there’s the option to upload your custom YouTube thumbnail.

Just click the box, select your image from your device, and click “Upload.”

3 Types of Effective Thumbnails

YouTube thumbnails provide an incredible creative opportunity. However, effective YouTube thumbnails tend to fall into one of three categories.

Here are three typical types of YouTube thumbnails you could create.

1. Use a Still Image from Your Video

This is the most basic form of YouTube thumbnail.

If you’re lucky, you might find that YouTube has automatically selected the perfect still image from your video to use as a thumbnail.

Alternatively, you could export a particular still image using video editing software.

What if you’re updating old YouTube video thumbnails and don’t have the original video? In this case, you can always pause the video on a still you like, make the video fullscreen, and then take a screenshot.

Then, you can simply use the image by itself or add a title, like in this video from Shopify, which tells the story of MVMT Watches.

MVMT YouTube Thumbnail

2. Create a Custom Graphic

Many brands create a YouTube thumbnail graphic that effectively represents the video content. Often this will include a short title summing up the video’s key benefit.

These types of YouTube thumbnails will include the brand’s name or logo.

Here’s an example of a YouTube video thumbnail graphic that we made for our video that teaches you how to launch your first Facebook ad campaign.

3. Combine a Video Still with Graphics

Lastly, you can combine a still image from your video with graphic elements to create a truly attention-grabbing and compelling YouTube thumbnail.

This is a popular option for videos that include people, such as a vlog, tutorial, or talk show.

Here’s a YouTube thumbnail video we made for our video teaching you how to find a good dropshipping supplier.

This third type of YouTube thumbnail is our favorite here at Oberlo, as it takes the best parts of both of the previous two types.

Compare the three options outlined above – which do you find most compelling?

3 Free Tools to Create a YouTube Thumbnail

There are tons of amazing tools out there that will help you to create an eye-catching YouTube thumbnail design.

Here is a quick overview of three awesome design tools.

1. Create a YouTube Thumbnail with Canva

Best for: Regular users looking for a wide selection of design elements.

Canva YouTube Thumbnail

Canva is a hugely popular online graphic design tool.

It provides a wide selection of incredible YouTube thumbnail templates to get you started. There are also tons of fonts, stock images, icons, and illustrations to help bring your ideas to life.

The best part?

Canva is completely free to use. Plus, you get 1GB storage for photos and assets and access to more than 8,000 templates and free images.

That said, you can upgrade for $12.95 per month to access additional features, stock images, templates, and graphic elements.

2. Create a YouTube Thumbnail with FotoJet

Best for: Casual users who would prefer to avoid creating another online account.

Fotojet YouTube Thumbnail

FotoJet is another great online design tool.

Like Canva, it provides plenty of YouTube thumbnail templates, clipart images, and fonts that you can use to create the perfect design.

However, unlike Canva, you’re able to use Fotojet for free without registering an account.

If you’d like more options and features, you can always upgrade to FotoJet Plus for $6.99 per month or $39.99 per year.

3. Create a YouTube Thumbnail with Adobe Spark Post

Best for: Adobe Creative Cloud users and those familiar with Adobe’s other design tools.

Adobe Spark Post YouTube Thumbnail

Adobe Spark Post comes from a family of heavyweight professional design tools. As a result, it has all of the professional features you’d expect.

This editor also provides an array of templates, fonts, and composition tools.

The key selling point of Adobe Spark Post is its integration with Adobe Creative Cloud.

So if you already use Photoshop for your photo edits or Premiere Pro CC for video editing, it makes sense to keep everything in one place.

However, this convenience comes at a price.

You can use Adobe Spark Post for free, but it’ll include a watermark on your designs. To remove this and access more features, plans start at $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year.

9 YouTube Thumbnail Best Practices with Examples

Now that you know the technical details, let’s look at how you can create a YouTube thumbnail that captures people’s attention and convinces them to click to watch your video.

Here are nine YouTube thumbnail best practices to bear in mind.

1. Your Thumbnail Must Accurately Represent Your Video

First things first: Don’t mislead your viewers by creating a YouTube thumbnail that doesn’t accurately represent your video.

Everyone hates clickbait.

Not only is this a great way to annoy the people you want to create lasting relationships with, but you’ll also hurt your YouTube channel.

How? Because of something called “Audience Retention.”

Audience Retention is a YouTube metric used to determine the quality of your views on YouTube.

In other words, this metric isn’t concerned with how many views you get, but how long your viewers spend watching your video.

YouTube Thumbnail Audience Retention

This is extremely important.

YouTube’s algorithm rewards channels that retain viewers.

If you create a YouTube thumbnail that misleads users, as soon as the video starts playing they’ll know they’ve been tricked and click off.

This will drastically hurt your video’s Audience Retention score – and as a result, YouTube’s algorithm will punish your channel.

Not good.

Honesty is the best policy. Make sure your YouTube thumbnails are fair representations of your videos.

2. Include a Shortened Version of Your Video Title

It’s likely that many users on YouTube will look at video thumbnails before reading the video’s title or description.

For this reason, it helps to include your video’s title in the thumbnail itself.

However, space is at a premium, so it’s often better to include an abbreviated version of your video title.

In the thumbnail example below for our video collaboration with six-figure dropshipper Scott Hilse, we shorten the title from:

“Oberlo Dropshipping with Scott Hilse – How to Find 6 Figure Products!”

To:

“Products with 6 Figure Potential – 2019”

Oberlo YouTube Thumbnail Title

Notice also that the abbreviated thumbnail title focuses on the key benefit that the video provides to viewers: Information about products with six-figure potential.

3. Make Sure Thumbnail Text is Large Enough to Read

Highlighting a key benefit in the thumbnail can make a huge difference to the number of views you receive – but only if users can read the text…

Frank Body uses great still images from their videos to create their YouTube thumbnails, but the text is extremely small.

Frank Body YouTube Thumbnail

This makes the text difficult to read.

What’s more, the image above was taken on a computer – these thumbnails would be displayed even smaller on smartphones.

It’s clear from Frank Body’s YouTube thumbnails that they deliberately avoid overlaying text on a model’s face. This makes sense when you don’t want to detract from the image itself.

However, in these instances, it might be more effective not to include text.

Just let the image do the talking.

4. Use Contrasting Colors to Capture Attention

Colors are powerful. They draw the eye.

Bright, contrasting colors can help to make your YouTube thumbnails eye-catching and compel viewers to click on your videos.

What’s more, contrasting colors help to make your text stand out so it can be easily read.

Here’s how Gary Vaynerchuk does it.

Gary Vee YouTube Thumbnail

Play around with different contrasting colors to see what works best for your brand.

You can even increase the color saturation or contrast of your YouTube thumbnail design to really make the color pop!

5. Use Whitespace and Negative Space

Many brands create YouTube thumbnails that look busy and cluttered.

However, sometimes less is more.

In art and design, whitespace or negative space is the area around and between the subjects of an image. It’s an important and highly effective design tool.

Skullcandy harnesses the power of whitespace and negative space in this clean and professional YouTube thumbnail.

Skullcandy YouTube Thumbnail

The space creates a professional, sleek, and classy aesthetic.

The French classical composer Claude Debussy famously said, “Music is the silence between the notes.”

So when creating your YouTube thumbnails, pay attention to space.

6. Include Your Brand Logo

Strengthen your online brand presence by including your logo or business name in your YouTube thumbnail.

We include the Oberlo logo in our YouTube thumbnails, like in this video we made revealing some of the best products to sell in 2019.

Oberlo YouTube Thumbnail

To create a consistent brand aesthetic, always make sure to position your logo in the same place on each of your YouTube thumbnails.

Gymshark places their logo in the top-right corner of their YouTube thumbnails.

Gymshark YouTube Thumbnail

Meanwhile, Vogue always places their logo in the bottom-left of thumbnails.

Vogue YouTube Thumbnail

7. Be Consistent to Develop a Strong Brand Aesthetic

As mentioned above, consistency is the key to developing a strong brand.

So regardless of what type of YouTube thumbnail you decide to use, maintain consistency. This will make it easy for viewers to spot your videos when browsing YouTube.

This can help to drive views and engagement.

So strive to develop a distinctive thumbnail design and then stick to it.

Here at Oberlo, we stick to the same YouTube thumbnail template for all of our videos. Then we change the image still, title, and background graphics to keep things fresh.

YouTube Thumbnail Themes

8. Use Colors to Highlight Different Content Streams

The most successful content marketing strategies will have different content streams to keep people engaged.

What’s more, most brands will find that they can separate their video content into a handful of categories.

What recurring content themes do you have?

The majority of our video fall into one of three categories: Q&A videos, product recommendations, and marketing tips.

Then, we color-code our YouTube thumbnails to make things easier for our viewers:

  • Yellow for weekly Q&A videos
  • Green for product recommendations
  • Blue for marketing tips

Oberlo YouTube Thumbnails

So boost your views by making it easier for viewers to find the videos they’re most interested in.

9. Test a Few Thumbnail Designs Before Settling on One

There’s only one way to know whether your YouTube thumbnail design is effective: compare it to others.

That’s why testing is vital.

So before committing to one YouTube thumbnail template, make sure to test out a few different designs and hone in on what works best.

Once you’ve discovered a winning format, it’s time to commit to it so you can strengthen your brand presence.

Summary

Your YouTube thumbnails can make or break your video marketing efforts.

Don’t underestimate the power of a compelling design that can capture people’s attention and compel them to click to watch your videos.

Keep in mind these YouTube thumbnail best practices when creating your design:

  • Make sure to use the ideal YouTube thumbnail size – 1280 pixels by 720 pixels.
  • Ensure your YouTube thumbnail accurately represents your video content.
  • Include an abbreviated version of your title in your YouTube thumbnail.
  • Make sure your thumbnail text is large enough to read even on smartphones.
  • Use contrasting colors to make your YouTube thumbnails standout and capture attention.
  • Use whitespace and negative space to add a touch of class to your YouTube thumbnails.
  • Include your brand logo in the same position of each of your thumbnails.
  • Test a few different YouTube thumbnail designs to find an effective image.
  • Consistently use the same YouTube thumbnail template to develop a strong brand aesthetic.
  • Color-code different content streams to make it easy for viewers to identify their favorite type of videos.

Lastly, make sure to spend a little time to create a great design.

Because as the American baseball player Charles Comiskey once said, “It is the small things in life which count; it is the inconsequential leak which empties the biggest reservoir.”

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