HOW TO MAKE A THUMBNAIL FOR YOUTUBE Get More Clicks, More Views & Better Rankings... For FREE!
If you are going to be creating videos, you need to know how to make a thumbnail for YouTube. The problem is, the YouTube thumbnail is one of the most IMPORTANT factors in getting clicks and views on your videos.
You could have the most engaging, valuable, amazing video - and if you don’t have a thumbnail that catches the eye of the user, it may never get seen. What a waste.
In this article, we’re going to show you how to create youtube thumbnails quickly, easily - and for free. We’re also going to make sure they make your video stand out and rise above all of the noise out there on youtube now.
Let’s get started.
CHAPTER 1YouTube Thumbnail Size & Best Practices
Before we get in to the tutorial, let’s talk about YouTube thumbnail size and best practices. Your youtube
Youtube Thumbnail Size
YouTube recommends that your thumbnail be 1280 x 720, with a minimum width of 640 pixels (if this makes no sense to you right now, don’t worry, we’ll go over it below)
This is easy to accomplish using any of the free tools we’ll mention below!
Now while this is the recommendation of YouTube, we at MLSP typically shoot our videos in either 4K or 1080p.
- For the non-techy people, that's just the resolution of your recording, and if you are using any kind of modern phone or webcam, you have the ability to AT LEAST shoot in 1080p
So, we like to create our thumbnails to match the size of our videos - so we create our thumbnails at 1920x1080.
Again, this is very easy to do using the free tools we are going to mention below, so don't worry if this sounds technical, we got this.
YouTube Thumbnail Best Practices
Now let’s talk about some best practices before you go in to creating your thumbnail, so that you know WHY we are doing what we are doing when creating our thumbnails. Here are the 5 BEST PRACTICES for youtube thumbnails.
5 Best Practices for Youtube Thumbnails
- Plan for Your YouTube Thumbnail
- Use a Talking Head
- Tease with Text
- Use Colors that Stand Out
- Research Your Niche
1. Plan For Your YouTube Thumbnail
One of the biggest mistakes video creators make is not planning their thumbnail, or worse, just relying on youtube to show a random frame of their video (This is a guaranteed way to NEVER get your video seen)
When you are about to record, or just finished recording, be sure to take a still photo that you can use for your thumbnail. At the very least, let the camera continue to record while you stay still for a couple seconds so you can get a nice screenshot for your video.
The example above shows me making various different poses after recording my video so that I can eventually take a screenshot of the one that works best for me.
NOTE: When planning your thumbnail, think about where your text may go. For example, if you use a photo of yourself right in the middle of the frame, your more than likely going to cover your face with the text. Consider putting yourself for the left or right of the frame so you can place text on either side of you.
2. Use a Talking Head
It's been proven that 'talking head' photos, meaning YOUR FACE is in the photo, get more clicks. Ideally, you making eye-contact with the user or looking at the text on the image.
In fact, even on Instagram, photo's that contain human faces attract more likes and comments. Upwards of 38% more!
Now, as you browse youtube you’ll probably see some pretty creative spin-offs of this idea, but as you can see, the most successful Youtubers almost ALWAYS have a face in their photos.
Whether they are making a weird or exaggerated face, or pointing to the text, there are many ways to make your thumbnail stand out from the crowd, but having a person looking at the user will help get more views for your video.
3. Tease with Text
Adding text to your thumbnail can drastically improve your click through rate and in turn improve your rankings… IF DONE CORRECTLY. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when adding text is using fancy fonts that are super hard to read, or trying to fit their entire title in the thumbnail!
Remember, more often than not, users will be seeing these thumbnails pretty small, so your text NEEDS to be legible at that small size.
What we recommend doing with the limited space you have available, is you want to make sure you convey the hook of the video - so after you come up with an amazing title for your video, figure out the least amount of words it will take to convey that title in your thumbnail, and then make it pop.
Tell them what's in it for THEM if they watch the video!
For example, if the title of our latest video was:
How to Make a Thumbnail for YouTube Videos for More Views, Clicks, Leads & Sales - [Easy and FREE!]
Our thumbnail may just have 'How to Make YouTube Thumbnails That Work'
Here are some examples of popular YouTubers doing a great job with 'teasing with text' on their youtube thumbnails. These channels consistently rank on the first page of youtube and get hundreds of thousands of views.
4. Use Colors that Stand Out
Remember, the goal of this thumbnail is to get people to click on it so you can get more youtube views. You NEED this thumbnail to STAND OUT! So, choose a color scheme that will do just that.
Now, this could be the color of your text, color of your background, sometimes it's as simple as adding a border color.
One quick tip is to search on youtube for the keyword or topic you are hoping to show up for.
See what color schemes people are using - and DO THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE. Using a color that pops out from the rest of whats available on youtube will drastically help you stand out from the crowd.
If you see a lot of people using colors like red or blue, maybe you create a thumbnail with a bright green background like the one below:
This segues very nicely in to best practice number 5...
5. Do Some Research
Start doing some research in your niche - who are the big youtube players? Everyone’s audience will react differently to different thumbnail types.
What are the most popular channels doing in your space? Talking head? Text? Ridiculous facial expressions? See what’s working in your niche and mirror it. Don’t try to recreate the wheel here.
With that said, again, see if there is a way that you can make your thumbnails stand out from others in your niche. Can you use a different background? Specific fonts? Colors? We need your thumbnail to grab the attention of the user rather than fade in to the rest of the noise on youtube.
Ahrefs is an SEO company that does a phenomenal job of creating youtube thumbnails that draw your attention and almost command a click. You can see below the thought and work they put in to them and why their videos get hundreds of thousands of views.
So those are the best practices when creating your youtube thumbnails. Now let’s get in to a quick tutorial where I’ll show you how you can do all of that for free, in no time at all.
CHAPTER 2How To Make Your Own Thumbnails For Youtube Videos
Now that we've discussed youtube thumbnail sizes and best practices, let's get in to the fun stuff. It's time to create your own youtube thumbnail for free!
To create this thumbnail, we’re going to be using a free tool called Canva. We love canva, but there are a TON of tools out there that you can use - from paid tools like Adobe Photoshop, to other free options like Snappa and Crello.
If you’ve never used Canva before, you can simply create a free account through Facebook, Google, or your email.
Once you are in, click on the green ‘Create a Design’ button. One great thing about Canva is that they provide templates for some of the most popular types of images you’d ever need to create.
In this case, from the dropdown, select Youtube Thumbnail.
Once you select ‘Youtube Thumbnail,’ you’ll be take to the image editor. This is where the fun begins.
*NOTE: Canva provides you with what seems like hundreds of templates you can start from to create your thumbnail. If you see one you like, start with a template and customize it to fit your needs! We don’t want you spending hours creating a thumbnail, but for the sake of this tutorial, we’re going to be building one from scratch.
1. Select The Image You Want to Use for Your Thumbnail
The first thing we are going to do is select an image for the thumbnail. We’re going to follow the best practices mentioned above, and we’ll use a ‘talking head’ photo.
In this case, let’s assume that I created a 5 or 10 second clip at the end of creating my video where I posed a bunch of different ways. I’m going to scrub through that video, and simply take a screenshot of the pose that I think will work best for my thumbnail.
Below is the image I'll be working with:
(If you just took photos of yourself with your phone or something, that’s completely fine! Go ahead and look through what you have and pick the best one)
Once you’ve got the image you want to use, we’re going to upload it to Canva.
2. Upload and Adjust Your Photo in Canva
So, back in Canva, click on ‘uploads’ in the left. Then just click on the ‘Upload an Image’ button to get your picture in to Canva.
Once it’s uploaded, you can just click on the picture and it will become the background.
After it's loaded into the background, just resize the picture so that it takes up the whole background, and move it around so that you can fit the text where you want it to. (Ideally NOT covering your face!)
*NOTE: You'll notice that I also flipped my image. The reason being is I wanted the text to be on the left hand side. Youtube adds some icons and video length to the top right and bottom right corners, so I like keeping the text to the left. To flip the image, i just clicked on it and clicked on 'Flip' at the top to flip it horizontally. I'm not worried about the text being backwards because the text I'm adding will cover it!
You can also adjust the image within canva. You can click on the ‘Filter’ link and you’ll see a ton of filters similar to what Instagram offers. Personally, I usually just use the ‘Adjust’ feature. This allows me to manually adjust the photo a bit.
If you got a good photo, you probably won’t have to do much. We just want to focus on a couple of things that will help the image pop off of the page.
- Decrease the blur a little bit - this will actually sharpen your image
- Increase the saturation a bit (if needed)
- Increase the contrast to add a lot of sharpness to the colors
Now that we've got the background ready, it's time to add our text.
3. Adding Text to Your Youtube Thumbnail
Remember, when adding text to your thumbnail, that most people are going to see this thumbnail pretty small, so you don’t want to write a paragraph on here.
Your goal is to, in as few words as possible, convey the HOOK of the video on the thumbnail. WHY are people watching this video? WHAT are they going to get out of it?
Continuing with the example mentioned above, let’s say this video is going to be about ‘How to Create Youtube Thumbnails to Get More Clicks, More Views, and Improve Your Rankings - For FREE!’
We can’t fit all of that on the image, nor do we want to. Instead, we’ll trim it down and use something like ‘How to Make Youtube Thumbnails the Work!’
Let’s get to work.
First, let’s click on ‘Text’ on the left to access the text settings in Canva.
Now you have a lot of pre-made text layouts you can choose from, but I like to work with JUST the headings. So click on ‘Add Heading’ and type in some of your text.
I find it easier to figure out how I’m going to layout the text so I know how many text blocks I’ll need so I can move them around later. (This will make more sense soon.)
I’m going to use 4 headings, so I'll add 4 text blocks. This is how they will be laid out:
- How to make
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I’ll get those text blocks in there, and then choose the font and color I want to use. I like to use a CONDENSED font because it allows you to get more in there, and size them up more than if you used a regular font.
My go-to font for this is Bebas Neue - so just click on your text blocks and choose the font you want to use from the top. I also made my text white so that it stands out on my image. When you are done, it should look something similar to this.
Now what we want to do is make sure that not only the text is legible, but it POPS off the screen as well. To do this, I’m going to create some boxes behind the text to make it stand out.
To do that, you would just click on ‘Elements’ on left, and click on the Rectangle to add one to the image. HOLD OFF FOR A SECOND THOUGH - because if you want to finish this up real quick, you could just use one rectangle (or even a ‘gradient’) and make it the full size of the text area and you could be done.
If you go this route, in the Elements area, instead of choosing just a normal rectangle, you may want to choose something else, like a Gradient, to add some depth. Search 'Gradient' in the Elements search box and choose the square:
You can change the colors of the box to match your branding or to fit with whatever you want your final image to look like. In my case, this would look similar to what I have below:
While you could do just that and call it a day, let's go a little bit further and show you what's possible with Canva here.
Instead of creating just one box, I'm going to create 4 so that I have a different one for the background of EACH TEXT BLOCK I created. I'm going to start off with them being black.
Note that when you create your rectangles, they may be covering the text. We don't want that! To move them backwards, select the rectangle and click on Position, then click on the 'Backward' option until it's behind the text.
This is what we will end up with after I resize and position every rectangle:
Now we've only got some creative stuff to do. We'll change the color of some of the boxes and resize them and rotate them to make it interesting.
To do this, we're going to tap in to a really powerful feature in Canva: Grouping. We're going to group each text block with it's corresponding background box so we can move and resize them as a whole.
To do that:
- Click on the first text block
- Once it is selected, hold 'shift' on your keyboard and click on the background box right behind it.
- Now, both the text block and the background box should be selected.
- Then, just click on the 'Group' button up top.
Once this is done, you can now resize them as a group! This will really come in handy later.
With that done, I am now left with 4 different text blocks that are grouped with background boxes. Now all I need to do is resize them, rearrange them, rotate them and adjust the coloring to whatever I want, and I'm done.
NOTE: Even though these are grouped together, you can still click on the individual elements to edit them. So if you want to change the color of one of the background boxes, just click on it and you can edit the color
After doing that, I end up with something like this:
Once you are happy with the outcome of your thumbnail, all you need to do now is download it and get it up on Youtube!
4. Download Your Thumbnail & Add it to Youtube
To download your thumbnail, just click on the big 'Download' button in the top right. You have the option of downloading it in a few different formats, but use the suggested '.png' one as that will give you the best resolution. (This will also give you a bigger filesize but that's ok with Youtube.)
Now let's add your custom thumbnail to your Youtube video. This is super easy to do. Either as you are uploading your video, or once it has uploaded, simply scroll down to where you see the option to change the Thumbnail for the video and click on the 'custom thumbnail.'
If you've already uploaded your video, you can do this in 'Youtube Studio' by clicking on your account icon in the top right, and clicking on Youtube Studio.
You've Now Created a Custom Thumbnail for Your Youtube Video!
So there you have it! A simple step by step process to make your own thumbnails for Youtube. If you get hung up on any step in the walkthrough above, don't forget to watch the Youtube video at the top of this post for a full video tutorial!
Remember, the YouTube thumbnail is one of the most IMPORTANT factors in getting clicks and views on your videos.
Make sure you put in the time to create these thumbnails, or at the very least, you can always find someone on Fiverr who can create them for you if you don't have time or would prefer to outsource it.
The important thing is to GET IT DONE and not rely on Youtube video frames. You made great content, let it be seen!
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