YouTube Video Thumbnails: Every you need to know

Best Youtube video thumbnail size

YouTube video thumbnail sizes and content are one of those little things worth giving extra attention to get right.

They may be small but they are certainly not insignificant and technically, your YouTube thumbnails can determine how successful your Youtube channel and content can be.

Thumbnails are the first thing that viewers glimpse on YouTube.

A small, clickable taster that will either tempt the viewer or make them mindlessly skim over in search of something more appealing.

There are a few basics to master like sizing and design, which we cover in this article.

Plus we look at best practices and some great examples.

Before we get to YouTube thumbnail specifics let’s quickly go into a bit more detail about YouTube itself.  

‘Youtube’, so what’s that then?

According to HootSuite Youtube has more than 2 billion logged-in users, with more than 70% of viewers checking out Youtube videos on their mobiles.

An average a user spends 11 minutes; 24 seconds each day watching video content on YouTube.
That’s more than half the global Internet population!! 

It’s clear that YouTube is the largest video platform on the internet. It’s also the 2nd most popular search engine, with its parent company taking the top spot… yes… Google.

The whole world is busy watching YouTube, now more than ever. So, it makes sense for businesses of all sizes to have a presence on the platform. If you’re interested in starting a Youtube Channel, for yourself or business please check out our article on that very subject.

Youtube Video Thumbnails

Youtube video thumbnails are like attractive signboards or hoardings for your video content.

You’re probably familiar with them, they look like this:

Note: When you hover a YouTube videos thumbnail, a portion of your video automatically starts playing in a loop (without the user clicking through at all). 

The primary job of the thumbnail is to convey what the video is about and appeal to the target audience.

Best Youtube Video Thumbnail Size

What size should I make my YouTube thumbnails?

Best Youtube video thumbnail size

• The recommended YouTube thumbnail size is 1280 pixels by 720 pixels.

• These dimensions use an aspect ratio of 16:9.

• Always make your thumbnail size a minimum of 640 pixels wide.

• YouTube Thumbnail must be in .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, or .PNG format.

• Your image file size must be under the 2MB limit

YouTube thumbnails should not be…

• Desperate, in a visual sense.. don’t be “clickbait”. 

• A randomly picked frame of your video

• Irrelevant to your potential audience

• Infringe on basic YouTube guidelines, terms and conditions. 

• Offensive or lewd.

The best video thumbnails are designed in a way that…

Gets the users’ attention (without being “clickbaity”) 

Allows users to know (in seconds) as to what the YouTube video is about and what they can expect (have your video title and the thumbnail tell a compelling story)

Make your content (including the title) appealing enough for users to click through and watch (*The longer you can keep people watching on YouTube, the more your content will get recommended by Youtube.

How to Upload Custom YouTube Thumbnails

The process of uploading a custom YouTube video to accompany your YouTube video is fairly simple. 

YouTube will first ask you to upload your video, it then processes your video and generates automatic thumbnails (*you can use one of these but we’d recommend a custom one to increase engagement.).

How to Upload Custom Thumbnails YouTube

Among the automatically generated YouTube thumbnails, look for the card that says “Upload Custom Thumbnail”

Upload custom Thumbnails on YouTube

Click on “Upload thumbnail” and upload your custom thumbnail.

Note: Need help with perfectly rendered high-quality, customised YouTube video thumbnails for your business? We can help. Give us a shout here at Stormy Studio.

Making your YouTube video thumbnails is part science, part art, and part hustle. It might take some time to get it right so let’s tighten up the learning curve together. 

Here are some of the best thumbnail design practices you can benefit from. 

Be strategic and stay on brand. This is crucial to establish an impression and pattern of thought (in the minds of your viewers) People like familiarity so if you build up a good following but suddenly change your appearance YouTubers aren’t going to recognise you.

Ways to stay true to your brand includes giving importance to logos, colour palette, fonts, visual styles, visual hierarchy and the content. Keep your style of communication in the same vein.

Need some inspiration? See how Shopify (their help centre) stays consistent with its simple YouTube thumbnails…

Shopify Help Center YouTube Channel

Vevo always includes their logo on their thumbnails: 

Vevo Youtube Channel

You see… Simple but catchy.

Take a look at one of the playlists called “PPC” on Unbounce (a leading landing page software) YouTube channel…

Unbounce Youtube Channel

Notice how the YouTube thumbnails look on the right-side panel. See how Unbounce uses people’s faces as much as it possibly can? 

There’s a reason why Unbounce does that with its YouTube thumbnails. 

Research shows that photos with faces are 38% more likely to receive likes and 32% more likely to receive comments. 

In a test by VWO, it was found that by using the artist’s photo (instead of showing the painting created by them) they managed to boost conversions by a whopping 95%. 

Colour code your thumbnails

Successful brands really think about their users and design their YouTube thumbnails to be easily noticed.

Take Oberlo’s YouTube channel. They follow all the best practices for YouTube thumbnail design such as using their logo prominently on each video, using descriptive titles, typography (large & clear) and again using faces.

Oberlo Youtube Channel

Then, they go a step further.

They use colour-coded thumbnails, each for certain types of video content. Yellow for Q&A videos, green for product recommendations, and blue for marketing tips. 

Smart and simple!

Go big or stay simple

You shouldn’t create YouTube thumbnails with small, illegible text. You also shouldn’t have way too much content, text, or imaging on a single thumbnail.

A good example is to use negative space and white space to make your designs stand out. 

Take a look at one of the YouTube Video thumbnails for SkullCandy™ 

SkullCandy Youtube Video Thumbnail

This design is simple, yet striking. Not busy, but elegant.

YouTube thumbnail inspiration

See how other Individuals, YouTubers, businesses and brands design their thumbnails. 

Here are some beautiful YouTube thumbnail designs to get inspired by: 


Drift Youtube Videos

Drift is very good with their style and chutzpah. 

By using a mix of typography, colours and people with a conversational style for their YouTube video titles, they have an active community of potential customers, marketers, entrepreneurs, and anyone interested in making their business work.


HubSpot Youtube Videos

HubSpot started the whole Inbound marketing rhetoric (they are the biggest & fastest growing Inbound Marketing Software after all) They strive to communicate clearly and educate with their content. 

Their videos on the official HubSpot Channel are no exception. HubSpot keeps it simple, relevant, and useful. 

National Geographic

National Geographic Youtube Video Thumbnails for their Videos

Who doesn’t like National Geographic

Apart from their impressive coverage of all things territorial (climate, wildlife, people and places) Most of their YouTube video thumbnails on their channel don’t use titles. They rely on their logo, colour and fantastic imagery.

While the titles tell you what the video is about, the YouTube video thumbnails focus mainly on the subject of the video.


Netflix Youtube Video thumbnail examples

Netflix mostly has trailers (movies and shows) on its YouTube channel while the YouTube thumbnails have a straight focus on the movies or the shows they want you to watch. 

The Economist

The economist YouTube Channel

Serious, Intriguing, deep, and intense. 

Their YouTube channel is a visual representation of how The Economist means business. 

To conclude…

Spend time in developing a style that you can use through your entire channel. Ensure that each thumbnail is representing ‘you’ in terms of brand and back it up with a solid series of attractive and enticing videos.

Youtube provides a fantastic, rich and accessible stage from which to show the world your business.

Whilst you’re here, why not check out our UK Animation Studios business animation work. Perhaps we can help you with content for your channel or an ident in the future.

We love to help bring marketing message to life with a big dollop of style. Using bespoke motion graphics, character animation, visual FX and film.

Stormy Studio Youtube Channel and Thumbnails

Plus, since we’re discussing Youtube, why not visit our studios own Youtube channel, and subscribe for unique content around business animation and marketing.

Plus if you’re interested in receiving a variety of free guides and tips from industry professionals on how to make the most of animation and video for your business, please complete the below form.

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