There are billions of videos on Youtube and most of them are playing the “thumbnail game” completely wrong. The Youtube thumbnail is one of the most important pieces to the video optimization process. Why? It is the first part of the video that people look at when they are deciding on a video to watch, whether that’s through search or on their home subscription screen. If the thumbnail looks boring, that basically tells the viewer that the video is too, making them not want to watch. Today we go over 3 tips to creating a Youtube thumbnail.

TIP #1: Use Text in Your Thumbnail

As I mentioned above, our eyes are drawn to the pretty pictures representing our video before they are drawn to the title of your video. Yes the title of the video is important but if the thumbnail screams “boring!” people will not make it to the point of reading your video title. Use text in your image to give casual scrollers an idea of what your video is about. Use this text as your “casual scroller title.” Because as far as they are concerned, it holds just as much weight as the title does.

How to format your text:

  • Use a color that is in sharp contrast with the background for easy reading
  • Use a bold font. Keep in mind these thumbnails are small, they need to be legible at that size.
  • Don’t use too many words. Make it concise. You don’t want your thumbnail to be just a bunch of words. This would hurt your more than help you.

TIP #2: Bright Colors & Simple Design

Our eyes are automatically drawn to bright colors. It’s in our nature. And simple designs are very “in” now a days. It gives a very modern feel to your graphic or design. Not to mention that it is not very widely used when it comes to youtube thumbnails. So it is a point of differentiation when people are scrolling. Your video will stand out in the populated crowd of similar videos and increase the likely hood of people clicking on that video. Make sure the thumbnail looks simple, easy to look at, and simply shows what the video is about with text and graphics.

If I were creating a video on how to shoot the perfect sunset with a DSLR camera, I might create a thumbnail similar to this. This thumbnail would work without the sun at the bottom and the text in the middle of the screen. However it is always a good idea to have a graphic that relates to the video topic. In this case a sun works! Which is great because it’s essentially just a yellow circle. Easy enough!

thumbnail example simple design

TIP #3: Pick a Beautiful Image

This is one of the more simple tips because it is more widely used. However, notice how even in the example below that we use tip number one. 97.4% of the time, I put text in my thumbnails and with pictures, it is no different.

One thing that I personally like to try to do is incorporate every aspect of the video topic in my thumbnails, but doing it in a clean and natural way. What does that mean? Well lets take a look at the example below. The video topic is about capturing the perfect sunset shot with a DSLR camera. What are the main two elements in this image (excluding the text)? A sunset and a DSLR camera. If someone is curious how they can create a perfect shot with their consumer grade DSLR camera, they are going to click you first because they instantly know you will solve their problem. They didn’t even have to look at the title of the video, they already know you’ve got the good stuff.

thumbnail example image background

If I was creating a vlog about my favorite kind of cereal, what would I want to include in the thumbnail. Well lets ask ourselves again, what is this video about? Me, and awesome cereal. So what do you need to include in your image? You need to show you doing what you do best, eating cereal and getting excited about it! Maybe putting the spoon full of Coco Puffs to your mouth and looking really excited. It hits all the elements of the video topic, so people know exactly what they are about to watch.


I know. It really is that simple. You would think by the amount of people that do this wrong that this is rocket science. but it really is just a matter of knowing the tips and tricks. Once you know them it is so simple to actually put into practice! Do you have any tips for thumbnail creation that I did not go over? Or do you have a topic idea that you would like me to talk about? Leave a comment below!

Want to watch a video form of this blog?

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