12 Tips to Make a Clickable YouTube Video Thumbnail

12 Tips to Make a Clickable YouTube Video Thumbnail

14min read  

13 Sep 2019

Have you tried everything, and yet your video doesn’t gain and hold attention the way you want it to do? You must be wondering why your video views don’t increase. Have you tried changing your video thumbnail?

Even if people tend to advise things like “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” this is not the case with YouTube videos since all of us always judge a video by its “cover.” So before looking for other reasons for the lack of clicks and views, go ahead and check your video “cover,” the thumbnail. Is it attractive enough?

Do you expect to see growing interest in your videos, but you don’t get enough attention? This article will show you some of the most effective ways to make your video thumbnail tempting to click and view.

According to YouTube, 90% of the best-performing videos have custom thumbnails. So even if YouTube doesn’t require to create a custom thumbnail but chooses one for default, that’s not the best way to go with it. If you want your video to go viral, you have to make sure to include an effective custom thumbnail because thumbnails are as important as video titles.

video thumbnail

Source: Backlinko

Let’s get started!

We don’t often give a long and fixed look at thumbnails before choosing to click or not, do we? Often, we throw just a glance, and if it manages to convince us that it’s all that we are looking for, we click.

Have a look at the following tips to create an effective and click-worthy thumbnail.


  1. Boost Views With High-Quality Thumbnail Image

Have a look at the sample thumbnails below. Will you ever click on any of these videos? A thumbnail which is blurred can never be attractive, right? Take into consideration, that poor quality thumbnails influence the credibility of your video content.


What can you do to control the quality?

The size of your thumbnail differs depending on the platform. To avoid getting blurry thumbnails on big screens, including computers and TV screens, make sure that your thumbnail is of adequate size. Besides, you should test how your thumbnail displays on all types of devices.

Here are the specs of a perfect YouTube video thumbnail:

  • One of these image formats: JPG, GIF, BMP, or PNG
  • Size Max: 1280x720px
  • Size Min: 640x360px
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • File Size Max: 2MB

YouTube video thumbnail

Source: G2Crowd


  1. Use Close-Ups

Close-up shots are more powerful for your video thumbnail image than wide shots.

Do you know why?

Because your thumbnail image displays very small on smartphones and it will be harder to grasp the details if the image is a wide shot of a scene. So this might make the viewers skip without putting the effort to make out the content. Close-up shots, instead, are easier to view.  

YouTube video thumbnail size

Source: Fotor.com 


  1. Display a Face in Your Thumbnail

The human brain naturally focuses on faces. So, be aware that many people want to watch a person delivering the content rather than a robot. When you put a face in the thumbnail, you seem to be telling them “Hey, the message is delivered by a person and not a robot.” People identify with characters and find a connection with the already familiar faces.

Choose an Image that Conveys Emotions

Strong emotions intrigue us and draw impulse decisions which, in our case, is clicking on the video. So, once you hint that there is something shocking about the content they are more likely to click.

Use Actions Shots

Action shots will make people ask “Whoa, what’s happening there?” The face may depict an expression like the person is about to say something. So, the viewer can’t figure out what exactly they want to tell you unless they click to view.

YouTube custom video thumbnail

Source: How-to Geek


  1. Use Complementary Colors

Contrasting colors make your image stand out. These are the colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel. 

Very often thumbnails combine the green background with red foreground, or yellow with purple. It makes it easier to draw the attention of the users.  

You can also use the colors next to each other on the color wheel, otherwise called, analogous colors. Placing analogous colors next to each other makes the thumbnail more pleasing to the eye.

custom thumbnail

Source: Pinterest

Have you ever wondered why are school buses, taxis or caution signs yellow? Well, it’s simple. People just have greater
sensitivity to yellow color.

Statistically, the thumbnails that use yellow do much better than others. So it is highly recommended to use yellow in your thumbnail, whenever possible.


  1. Implement the “Rule of Thirds”

The rule of thirds separates 4 important parts of the image. You should place the center of your image in the intersection lines because it keeps your image well-balanced, and it becomes easier for the viewer to connect with the image.

Now, for a thumbnail, it is recommended to fill up at least two-thirds of the image with the main subject. Check out these examples which implement the “rule of thirds” to a certain extent.

make YouTube thumbnail


  1. Thumbnail Text

It’s hard to communicate everything through one image. Even if you are a good visual storyteller, it will most probably be challenging for you to deal without text.

You should use focus words to communicate the message. Try not to have more than 6 words. Otherwise, the text will use too much space.


YouTube thumbnails

Source: fonts.com


Choose Readable Fonts

It has to be bold and strong text that is easy to read. Script fonts, for example, are quite confusing and hard to read for a thumbnail that might appear in very small sizes on smartphones.

Fonts influence the tone of thumbnails

  1. Sans-serif fonts communicate a modern, clean and business-like attitude
  2. Serif fonts communicate the traditional, simple and formal style of stability and reliability
  3. Script fonts communicate elegance and sophistication


  1. Check Text and Background for Color Contrast

Overlay color should be transparent enough for the viewer to see the image but not so transparent because the viewer cannot read the text that way. See examples of balanced overlays below.

There has to be a contrast between the background color and the text color, so find a contrasting pair of colors. But don’t just put any contrasting color together, such as red and blue because sometimes they might not work that well together.

how to make a thumbnail


  1. Feature Your Branding: Visual Identity

Be consistent with the design of your video thumbnails. This will help people recognize a familiar look. Once they start recognizing your videos, it is more likely that they will click.

To brand your thumbnail you should stick to the same style:

  • Branding elements such as logo;
  • Set of fonts;
  • Color of overlays and schemes;
  • Style of emojis and faces.

Keep in mind that whatever style you choose, you have to stick to it so that people can tell which thumbnails are part of the same project.

custom thumbnail tips


  1. Show End Result

Sometimes, it’s very effective to put the end result of the video if it’s related to the topic. For example, if your video is about cooking, the best thing to do is to show the end result of the cooking process. But once again, don’t forget to take a decent, quality shot.

tips for creating video thumbnail


  1. Add Graphic Elements

Make sure to fill your image with graphic elements if it fits the style of your video. Otherwise, you will need to edit your video and change the style accordingly. This is a good option especially for a tutorial or talk show type of videos that can include people as well as some other auxiliary graphic elements.

video thumbnail best practices


  1. Have a Sticker Effect For the Main Subject

When you border around an image, face, or an object, you automatically separate it from the background. Making white or another vivid color outline around an image makes it more clear.

create a custom video thumbnail for YouTube

  1. Avoid Giving Away Misleading Content

Last but not least, it’s very important not to mislead the audience for short term clicks. This will affect your reputation and work as a real “click-off-bait.”

You should also consider that click baiting can cause a fast increase in the bounce rate for your channel. And as a result, YouTube might stop showing your videos in search results.




Think of your thumbnail as a teaser for your video. Don’t reveal everything, but give just enough information to engage the viewers so that they would want to click and see what you offer. You don’t have to implement all the tips above at once. But make sure to experiment with these tips and you’ll see the success your thumbnail image will bring to your video. Your thumbnail is going to be the next one to rock with clicks.

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