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Designing Your Thumbnail How To Guide
August 28th, 2018 by Kim B

Since its founding in 2005, YouTube has grown into one of the world’s most popular and effective social media platforms, with over 1 billion users and counting.


In fact, YouTube is so popular that 300 hours of content is uploaded every minute, flooding the website with billions of videos that are all trying their best to gain the viewer’s attention.


While a clear, concise, and eye-catching title is sure to draw viewers in, it is the value of visual content that drives users to YouTube. One thing is clear: the thumbnail is the most important factor in gaining that sought-after click.


An effective thumbnail is hard to find. Even the most popular YouTubers sometimes use thumbnails that are cluttered, cheesy, or look a little too much like click-bait.


However, if you keep in mind some basic guidelines - and make sure you avoid the most common mistakes - creating the perfect YouTube video thumbnail is simple. Follow along and soon you’ll be driving authentic traffic towards your channel, gaining views, comments, likes, and loyal subscribers.


Designing a YouTube thumbnail


Do’s & Don’ts


Best tips to design YouTube thumbnail


Before we get started with the fun design aspects of a thumbnail, it’s important to be fully aware of the basic do’s and don’ts of designing a YouTube thumbnail. Stick to this list and you’ll be a pro in no time!



  • Be accurate & honest when portraying your video’s content in your thumbnail.


  • Use unrelated imagery, keywords, or photos in your thumbnail. If your viewer clicks and finds out that you were lying in your thumbnail, they’ll leave your channel and never come back. Honesty is the best policy!


  • Draw your audience’s attention to the video.


  • Copy what everyone else is doing. A good idea is to search for a similar video topic and see what other YouTuber’s are using for their thumbnails. Once you have a clear idea about what everyone else is doing, do the opposite! You want your video to stand out in the best way possible, so avoid similar color palettes, fonts, and photography styles.


  • Get your audience excited about watching your content. This means making sure your thumbnail expresses some type of emotion related to your video and not giving away the entire story.


  • Click-bait your viewers. You don’t want people to think that you’re trying to scam them, lie to them, or gain attention without giving something in return. Your content is there for your viewers to enjoy and gain value from in some way, whether that’s entertainment, knowledge, or personal growth.


Designing Your Thumbnail: The Basics


There are three basic elements to every thumbnail: color, font, and photography (or art). It’s important to be consistent with these in order to create an online brand from your channel.


The goal here is to have potential viewers to immediately recognize your content in an ocean of thumbnails simply because of the design.


For the next steps, you can use a free online design site like Canva, or a creative program like Pixlr, or GIMP to create simple, consistent designs. Be sure to save your settings to make it easier to replicate the next time you design a thumbnail.


Choosing a Color Palette


How to design YouTube thumbnail best color palette


Nothing expresses emotion like color does. If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to choose 2-3 colors (including black and white) to set the tone for your online brand. Thinking about the psychology of color is important here. Some basic guidelines to keep in mind are as follows:


  • Warm colors like red, yellow, and orange are bright and eye catching. They usually represent strong emotions link joy, excitement, and passion. If you want your brand to portray a sense of energy, these colors might be something to consider.


  • Cool colors like green, blue, and purple are calming. They usually represent nature and provide a sense of relaxation. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter utilize blue in their brand in order to maintain the user’s attention - staring at a red screen for hours is tiresome, but blue is calming to the eye


  • Black, white, gray, and other neutral colors work well on their own or with brighter colors.


By determining the message you want your brand to have, you can choose the colors that best express this. For example, a company like McDonald’s wants its customers to associate it with happiness and hunger. By utilizing two eye-catching colors, red (which conveys hunger) and yellow (which conveys happiness) McDonald’s has built one of the most recognizable brands in the world.


Similarly, it’s important to determine your demographic. If your viewers are mainly females aged 18-24, you want to create thumbnails that would appeal to that demographic rather than to male viewers aged 35-40.


Fashion and beauty thumbnails might want to include simple fonts and trendy colors such as millennial pink and amethyst, while food-related thumbnails might use bold fonts and restaurant-related colors such as deep reds or gold.


Whatever you choose, make sure you like it and that it represents your brand accurately and enthusiastically.


Finding a Font


Similar to color, font can express an idea or emotion to your viewer. It’s up to you to choose the correct font for the message that you want your brand to portray.


If your overall theme is dark, industrial, and modern, you might want to choose a bold, sans-serif font rather than a lightweight cursive font.


Websites like DaFont provide a variety of public domain font options - take some time to explore the many choices available and pick the one that stands out the most to you!


When integrating font into your thumbnail, make sure that it stands out and is readable from far away. If your viewer has to squint to read what your thumbnail is saying, it’s too small! Increase your font size, and keep your thumbnail text brief. Your title can express more, and your content will speak for itself.


Photo Finish


What type of photo to add to YouTube thumbnail


While many YouTube thumbnails consist simply of a colored background and a bold font, adding photography or other art can make your content really stand out.


This part is simple: choose relevant, simple photography or art that relates to your video content. You can use a still from your video, a photo of yourself, or some vector art. As long as it’s relevant and recognizable, you’re good to go!


Putting It All Together


Now that you have your color palette, font choice, and art, it’s time to put it all together into one amazing thumbnail.


A simple formula is to use a plain colored background in the color of your choice. Then, place an appropriately cropped photo or artwork on top of that, leaving the edges visible so that your color shows through.


Overlay the artwork with a brief 3-word title in your ideal font, and your thumbnail is complete.


Be sure to save your settings, color choices, and fonts for future use. Remember, consistency is key!


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