The Ideal YouTube Thumbnail Size for 2018 (+Free Templates, Instructions & Ideas)

Kristen McCabe
Kristen McCabe  |  July 27, 2018

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Given the visual nature of YouTube, this phrase rings true on the video hosting platform more than anywhere else.

While having a great title and description (that includes keywords, of course!) is essential, you can’t underestimate the power of a perfect YouTube thumbnail.

Images have an emotional appeal, giving them impact. Thumbnails also act as a teaser, enticing viewers to see the context of the thumbnail image. It's not just on YouTube that this thumbnail will be seen; anywhere you embed the video, the thumbnail will represent it. For example, if you want to include the video in a future presentation, here's how to embed a YouTube video in PowerPoint.

As long as you have the correct YouTube thumbnail size, choosing a thumbnail image with impact is an easy process. You can either select one of three thumbnail images suggested by YouTube or create your own custom image.

We’ll go through each of these steps in detail. To begin with, let’s start with the basics: your YouTube thumbnail dimensions.

The perfect YouTube thumbnail size is 1280 x 720, with a minimum width of 640 pixels. It is a 16:9 ratio. Make sure your file doesn't exceed the maximum size of 2MG. (If it does, you'll have created the perfect thumbnail image that YouTube doesn't let you upload!) In addition to the correct thumbnail size, make sure your file is in an image format, such as .JPEG, .GIF, .BMP or .PNG.

Now that we’ve got those basics sorted, get ready for a deep dive covering everything you need to to create a custom YouTube thumbnail with the perfect size!

In this article we’ll look at:

With that, let's get started looking at what those thumbnail dimensions mean for your YouTube channel, and how to use them when creating your image.

Understanding the Perfect YouTube Thumbnail Size

Having an engaging thumbnail image is one of the most critical steps in how to make a YouTube channel. We looked at the basic information on your YouTube thumbnail size. Now let’s get into the details of what those sizes mean, and a few other details regarding the format and size for your image.

These size recommendations come directly from YouTube, so you can be sure they are accurate! Follow these guidelines when creating your image to ensure you won’t run into any technical difficulties.

youtube-thumbnail-size

Let's take a look at what these YouTube thumbnail dimensions mean.

  • Resolution: The resolution is a minimum of 1280 x 720. This has to do with the image quality. If the resolution is too low, the image will look pixelated -- especially if your video comes up on a 72-inch flat screen television!
  • Minimum width: The minimum width for your image is 640 pixels. If you are creating an image in Photoshop or another design platform, this is the smallest canvas width you can use. Ideally, you should make it larger, at 1280 pixels wide.
  • Maximum size: The image you upload must be under 2MB. If not, YouTube will not allow you to upload it onto the platform.
  • Required formats: The format of your thumbnail must be an image file. The image file types that YouTube allows include .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, or .PNG.
  • Recommended ratio: Your image ratio should be 16:9. If you create a pixel perfect canvas for your thumbnail, at 1280 x 720 pixels, you will have the correct ratio. 16:9 is the usual format for most movies and television shows, rather than 4:3. (To imagine a 4:3 ratio, just think of old sitcoms from the 80s!)

Just like your YouTube banner size, uploading your custom thumbnail is a simple process. We’ll walk through how to create your custom YouTube thumbnail step-by-step.

To begin, let’s start with how to view and change your YouTube thumbnail.

How to view your YouTube thumbnail image

If you don’t choose a thumbnail image, YouTube will automatically select one for you. This is why thumbnails are so important when learning how to upload a YouTube video. Even if you aren’t creating a custom image, YouTube will automatically suggest three thumbnails. Picking which one you’d like is as simple as the click of a button!

Step One: Go to your YouTube channel home page

To access your YouTube thumbnail image, click on your icon (also considered your profile picture) in the upper-right corner.

A drop-down menu will appear. Click on “my channel.”

you-tube-my-channel

 

Step Two: Select the correct YouTube video

From there, click on “videos,” located just right of the “home” button.

you-tube-my-videos


You can now see all the videos you have uploaded to your YouTube channel, including the thumbnail for each video. Select the video for which you would like to edit your YouTube thumbnail.

view-all-youtube-thumbnails


Step three: Select the YouTube "Edit video" button

Once you have clicked on the correct video, you'll see an "edit video" button underneath the YouTube player. 

edit-youtube-video-thumbnail

Step four: Choose your YouTube thumbnail image

Once you click the "edit video" button, you will see that YouTube auto-generates three potential thumbnail images.

Simply click on the image you’d like to use as your thumbnail, then click save in the upper-right corner.

save-youtube-thumbnail

This is the easiest way to choose a thumbnail with a few simple clicks. Now let’s look at how to create a YouTube thumbnail with the perfect YouTube thumbnail size.

Five ways to create a custom YouTube thumbnail with the ideal dimensions

There are several ways you can create and upload a custom YouTube thumbnail.

To begin, you’ll need to ensure you are starting with the correct canvas size. Download the free YouTube template at the bottom of the page, created with the correct size, and use it as a starting point.

If you are creating your own thumbnail from scratch, don’t forget to still begin with the correct YouTube thumbnail dimensions. Keep that perfect YouTube thumbnail size in the back of your mind: 1280 x 740 pixels.

Let’s look at a few ways you can create a custom thumbnail image for YouTube. Whichever method you choose, make sure you build and save your image within the thumbnail template provided.

You could take the perfect screenshot or build the ultimate collage, but if it’s not the correct thumbnail size, your design will lose its power.

After looking at how to make a YouTube thumbnail image, we’ll explore how you upload and set the featured image. Then, in case you need any more inspiration, we’ll discuss best practices and guidelines.

Now, let's look at five simple ways to create a custom YouTube thumbnail image.

1. Take a screenshot of your YouTube video

While YouTube does provide you with three automated images to choose from, you can upload a custom screenshot to use instead. Knowing how to screenshot your video can be tricky – it's hard to click at the exact right moment.

However, taking a screenshot of your video is often the quickest way to use a custom image.

If decide to go this route, whether your are taking a Windows screenshot or a Mac screenshot, make sure to make the window as big as your computer allows, and then zoom in to make the YouTube player fill up your computer screen. This will help ensure a better resolution for your image.

It may take a few tries. When I’ve used screenshots for YouTube thumbnails, I need an average of 10-to-20 attempts. It can, however, take many more to get the perfect moment with nothing blurred. (If you go this route, I highly recommend doing it when you are in a patient mood!)

If you have people featured in your YouTube video, especially in a close-up, they will appreciate your tenacity. No one wants to be featured with closed eyes, mouths open mid-conversation, or any other variety of strange facial expressions!

Screenshots do have benefits to offer. This is especially true when:

  • It is obvious the thumbnail is a screenshot from your video,
  • The screenshot accurately displays the video content, and
  • The image entices viewers to see what will happen in the video.

For a great example of enticing screenshots, check out the thumbnails by The Slow Mo Guys. What kind of content do The Slow Mo Guys produce? Videos showing action happening in (what else?) slow motion! They range from simple experiments, such as paint bouncing on a speaker, to extreme ones with fire tornados and giant six-foot balloons.

The channel’s value is primarily visual, rather than verbal. Viewers want to see what happens in slow motion. Given this, it makes sense that screenshots are all that’s needed for the videos’ thumbnail images.

youtube-thumbnail-screenshots

Seriously, how can you look at those images and not want to find out what happens?

In addition, screenshots are easier when your video doesn’t feature people. Take cute and cuddly animals, like sloths, for example. It’s hard to get a bad picture of these adorable creatures!

cute-animal-thumbnail

 

2. Stage a picture for your Youtube thumbnail

Whenever possible, take a photo to use as your thumbnail image instead of a screenshot. In addition to avoiding awkward and unflattering angles, you have more control over the results.

If you are featuring an influencer, staging a picture also gives you the ability to get the speaker’s approval before publishing.

When shooting original material for your video, make a point of having everyone stop for a moment while you take a few still shots. When appropriate, you can even have the participants turn and smile at the camera.

Then, take a momentary break, step back and look at your picture. If given no other context, does it accurately represent the value of the video? Does it make you want to find out more?

Your thumbnail has an immeasurable impact on viewers clicking your video. Don’t be afraid to experiment and take multiple pictures. This way, you'll have multiple options when you are uploading your thumbnail image. Fresh eyes will give you a clean perspective on the image's influence!

3. Design an illustrated image for your YouTube thumbnail

Instead of using a picture or screenshot, you can create an image with no photographic elements.

Illustrated images don’t have to be complicated.

Consider the thumbnail images below. These are randomly generated recommended videos from YouTube.

Where is your eye drawn?

Mine immediately goes to the first and fourth videos from Valuetainment, even though there is no photography of any kind.

Despite there being no icons or photographs, the thumbnails are still engaging and inform the reader. I don’t even need to read the title underneath the thumbnail because the image has all the relevant information.

illustrated-youtube-thumbnail


Note that the image’s text is the exact same as the video’s title. This saves you time. You’ve already thought of a title for your video, now it can serve an additional purpose for your thumbnail.

4. Add text to your YouTube thumbnail image 

This method is a combination of the thumbnail ideas discussed thus far. Simply take your screenshot or staged photo, and add words or other design elements over the picture.

Designing a thumbnail this way can be as easy or in-depth as your design skills allow.

For example, this Shark Week YouTube thumbnail has an image from the show for its background with simple text over the image and a logo in the bottom-left corner.

youtube-thumbnail-example-sharkweek

Viewers can still get the excitement of seeing a person and shark in the water while “The Daily Bite!” reveals that this video is from the show. Those browsing YouTube know exactly what to expect when they click on this video.

Your design with text can be even more simple, as shown in this compilation of funny dog videos.

The words “try not to laugh” pique interest with a healthy dose of reverse psychology. I don’t know about you, but I see this and I want to watch the video and laugh at some cute puppers!good-youtube-thumbnail

Alternatively, you can include more advanced elements in your design. A current trend among popular YouTubers is to include an outline of the people featured in the video. Below, you can see how Smosh, a channel with 22.5 million YouTube subscribers, utilizes this technique in its thumbnail images.

youtube-thumbnail-smosh

While adding an outline can take a little bit more design knowledge, there are plenty of tutorials explaining how to do this technique on YouTube. (Of course! Where else would you go for video tutorials?)

Here is one example from Jess Creatives walking you through the process.

5. Make a YouTube thumbnail collage, sized 1280 x 720 pixels

Collages are great for compilation videos. It shows the wide range of content viewers will have to look forward to within your video.

They are also an excellent tactic to keep people watching your video until its end. For example, if you are showing the “Top 10 funny cat videos,” make sure you include an enticing image of the cute calico kitten from the 10th clip. Then, viewers will keep watching, looking out for the calico kitten they saw in your thumbnail image.

This thumbnail is for a video with 50 summer crafts for kids. Showing six of the video crafts, instead of one, there is a higher likelihood viewers will spot at least one craft they want to learn more about.

youtube-thumbnail-example-collage

Here, you can see another example of a collage displaying summer crafts for kids. This one also utilizes text in one of the squares.

youtube-thumbnail-text-collage

And there you have it -- five ways to create your thumbnail image.

Whether you choose to use a simple screenshot or a detailed design, with minimal effort you can create a thumbnail that gets you maximum views.

At the end of this article, you’ll find YouTube thumbnail templates you can use to create your own design. Simply download the PSD template, open with Photoshop, and start customizing!

With that, it’s time to learn how to upload your custom thumbnail to YouTube.

How to upload a custom featured YouTube thumbnail image

Uploading your custom YouTube thumbnail is an easy process with just four steps.

If you run into any problems while setting your featured image, jump down to the next section, Troubleshooting YouTube technical difficulties.

There, you’ll learn how to authorize your Youtube account. You’ll also find information regarding the Classic YouTube Creator (the old way to edit your YouTube videos) and the YouTube Studio Tool (the new way to edit your YouTube videos).

These screenshots are for the Classic YouTube Creator. Keep reading for instructions on how to switch to this view.

Step One: Click the YouTube "Edit Video" button

Follow the above instructions in “How to change your YouTube thumbnail” to view all videos on your YouTube channel.

Find the video you would like to set your featured thumbnail image for and click “edit video.”

edit-youtube-video

Step Two: Select "Custom thumbnail"

On the screen that appears, click on the “custom thumbnail” option.

how-to-youtube-custom-thumbnailStep Three: Upload your YouTube thumbnail image

Select the file you would like to upload as your featured YouTube thumbnail.

Notice how the image I am uploading fits the ideal YouTube thumbnail size. The file size is under 2 MB, and the thumbnail dimensions are 1280 x 720. This is over the minimum width of 640 pixels and fits the 16:9 view.

youtube-thumbnail-dimensions

Step Four: Save changes

Notice that your newly uploaded image appears under the three automated YouTube thumbnails. Your custom thumbnail should be selected.

Click the “save changes” button; you’ll find it in the upper-right corner.

set-featured-thumbnail-image

Congratulations, you have now uploaded and set your first custom thumbnail image! Once you go back and view your channel, you will see the featured thumbnail is live.

If you had any issues with these steps, check out these two troubleshooting tips. (I may or may not have run into them both myself!)

Troubleshooting YouTube technical difficulties

Having problems uploading your custom YouTube thumbnail? Although YouTube is designed to be user-friendly, it happens. (You are not alone, I promise!)

Despite having set featured thumbnails plenty of times, I found the same thing happening to me.

There are two common technical difficulties you may run into when uploading your thumbnail image. Let’s take a look at them both and how to overcome either situation.

Custom thumbnails and authorized YouTube accounts

To upload a custom YouTube thumbnail, you must have an authorized YouTube account.

If your account is not verified, you will see a notification from YouTube reading: “Your account isn’t eligible for custom thumbnails. Learn more.”

To begin the authorization process, click on the blue words that say “learn more.”

eligible-custom-thumbnail-youtube

On the next page that appears, scroll down to “Create custom video thumbnail.” Click on the words “verified account.”

YouTube-verified-account-thumbnails

Then, follow the steps as instructed. Select your country, choose if you’d like to receive your verification code by phone call or text message, and enter your phone number. Then, hit “submit.”

you-tube-account-verification

The next screen has a space to enter the verification code. Moments after hitting the submit button, you should have received that number by text or phone call. Simply enter your unique code into the space provided.  

Woo-hoo! Your account is now authorized, and you can create custom YouTube thumbnail videos!

As highlighted in the red box above, it is important to recognize the notification from Google. You can only verify two YouTube accounts per year with each phone number.

Platform changes: YouTube Creator Studio Classic vs YouTube Studio Tool

It is essential to note the difference between the YouTube Creator Studio Classic and YouTube’s new tool, the YouTube Studio Tool.

We just walked through each step to upload your custom YouTube thumbnail. If you were following these instructions, and your computer screen didn't match the screenshots on this article, you may be looking at the YouTube Studio Tool.

The Creator Studio is the old way to edit your YouTube videos. If you’ve used YouTube before, this may be what you are familiar with. In June 2017, YouTube began testing it’s new video editor, the YouTube Studio tool. (Note it is lacking the word “creator.”)

The beta version of the new YouTube Studio tool is being rolled out and some users will find this has become their default view. If this is the case for you, but you would like to switch back to the old video editing version, it is (thankfully!) an easy process.

To do so, find the video you would like to edit. Click on the video to open it.

Then, when you are in “edit video” mode, click on the “Creator Studio Classic” icon. This is found in the bottom-left corner.

youtube-creator-studio-classic

Notice how the icon looks like a person running away back to the old version? Don’t worry. Should you choose, you can also run right back from the Creator Studio Classic to the new YouTube Studio Tool.

Once you click on the “Creator Studio Classic” button, YouTube will ask for feedback on why you would like to switch. You can provide your feedback or simply click “skip” and go straight to the classic version.

youtube-classic-to-studio-tool

The good news is that uploading your thumbnail image is an easy process in the new version, too!

To switch from the classic version to the updated Studio Tool, click on your icon in the upper-right corner, then choose “my channel” in the drop-down menu.

From there, click on the blue button for “YouTube Studio (Beta).” The word beta signifies that the new editing tool is still in testing mode and additional changes could be made.

youtube-studio-tool

Best practices to make your YouTube thumbnail

Having a good title and video description with keywords will help increase your video’s views. However, nothing says more than a picture.

Logo placement within your YouTube thumbnail

If you are including your company logo in the thumbnail, consider placing it in the corner of your video, especially if you also have text. This way, the logo will still give you brand awareness without distracting from the thumbnail’s design and purpose.

Be sure to avoid the bottom right corner, though! Take a look at that corner on each of these thumbnail images. Notice anything?

There is a black box displaying the videos’ lengths in each thumbnail.

youtube-video-length-placement

No matter what image you design as your thumbnail or how many subscribers you have, that little black box will always be in that lower right corner.

If you put your logo in this position, not only will it be covered up, it makes your video look less professional. Give your logo prime placement and grow brand awareness by placing it in any of the other corners.

Keep your YouTube thumbnail simple

YouTube thumbnails are small. You can see just how small above in the photo of the recommended videos.

Not to mention, YouTube is often watched on mobile phones. In fact, on an average day in 2018, there are 1 billion mobile views. The screens for those views are significantly smaller than television and computer screens.

Here, you can see how the thumbnails in YouTube search results look on a mobile phone. Notice how the video title text (in the right column) is often larger than the text in the thumbnail.

youtube-thumbnails-mobile-phone-view

If you spend hours making a beautiful thumbnail image, but it’s full of small text and intricate icons, no one will be able to read it. (On any device!)

The time you spent on your design will be wasted, and you will lose viewers clicking on your video.

By keeping your thumbnail simple, you will display a message that is clear and focused. A clean image is also more likely to engage viewers by being more visually appealing to the eye.

When creating a design that is simple but powerful, keep in mind design basics such as contrasting colors and utilizing white space.

Find ways to entice and engage YouTube viewers

Your thumbnail image should get viewers eager to watch your video. Whether your thumbnail invites them to learn something new or see what happens, its entire purpose is to get clicks.

This can be done with a clean design, as just mentioned, as well as with the image and text you use.

For an example of an engaging YouTube thumbnail, consider this image for a smokey eye tutorial. It displays both the before and after pictures. This gives the video credibility and shows exactly what viewers will learn.

youtube-thumbnail-engaging

Images also give you the ability to make an emotional connection. Marketing is all about relationships, so this is an extremely powerful aspect to consider when creating your thumbnails.

For example, how can you not look at the adorable baby animals on this thumbnail and want to see more animals that make you go, "Awwwww!"

youtube-thumbnail-emotions

Follow the YouTube community guidelines

YouTube has community guidelines that must be followed by all users. This applies to all of your videos and channel art, including thumbnail images.

The guidelines are fairly basic. Think family-friendly with no violence or nudity. As long as you keep it PG, you shouldn’t have a problem, but be sure to read the full YouTube community guidelines to ensure you don’t run into any trouble.

If you consistently break YouTube’s guidelines, you will lose the ability to upload custom thumbnails. (And think of all the views you could lose as a result!)

Free YouTube thumbnail templates

Now that you’re ready to create and upload your YouTube template, we’ve got the tools to make your execution easy!

Here, you can download a basic template with the required YouTube thumbnail dimensions. If you're learning how to make a YouTube thumbnail, this is a great place to start. 

Download it as PNG version to view on any computer, even if you don’t have Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.

Download PNG YouTube Thumbnail Template

If you have access to Adobe programs on the creative cloud, you can download the PSD template. This will give you more editing tools as you create your own image.

Download PSD YouTube Thumbnail Template

Use either template as a basis to start your custom thumbnail design. By using these templates, you can ensure that you’ve got the right file size, resolution, and format.

That way, your creative design work won’t go to waste when you upload the image!

How to make YouTube thumbnails: Five bonus thumbnail templates

Ready to make your custom YouTube thumbnail but don't know where to start?

We've got you covered!

Here are five more free PSD templates with the perfect YouTube thumbnail dimensions you can customize in Photoshop.

To make a YouTube thumbnail, begin by downloading one of these templates and opening it in Photoshop.

Next, upload your own background image; it could be an staged picture you've taken, a screenshot, or an image with a simple color. You can change the template colors to match your brand guidelines.

Then, add your own text and logo. 

Lastly, follow the instructions above to upload your thumbnail to YouTube and watch the views come rolling in! 

Here are the five YouTube thumbnail templates for you to customize.  

1. Thumbnail template for image, logo, and text 

PNG-YouTube-thumbnail-template-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upload an image for the background of this image. Consider using a screenshot from your video or a staged picture. Then customize your text, and be sure to put your logo in the upper-right corner.  

Download Thumbnail Template No.1

 

2. Collage YouTube thumbnail template 

PNG-YouTube-thumbnail-template-2

Pick three different images to upload to create your own unique thumbnail. This template has extra impact for compilation videos on YouTube. 

Download Thumbnail Template No.2

 

3. Thumbnail template for simple, custom text

PNG-YouTube-thumbnail-template-3

No need to upload an image when creating this thumbnail, just add some simple text and you're good to go. Feel free to change the colors or use a different icon. Remember to include text that represents the value your video provides viewers.

Download Thumbnail Template No.3

 

4. Partial image YouTube thumbnail template

PNG-YouTube-thumbnail-template-4

Like the first thumbnail template, upload your image and customize the text so suit your YouTube video. Add your logo in the upper-right corner, or simply delete the icon for personal features with no logo required. 

Download Thumbnail Template No.4

 

5. Silhouette and text YouTube thumbnail template

PNG-YouTube-thumbnail-template-5

This thumbnail template features the YouTube logo (perfect for using on your channel!) and Monty the mongoose, our lovable mascot here at G2 Crowd.  Given Monty doesn't work at your company (that we know of!) this is a great template to feature a person's silhouette, the popular YouTuber trend shown above. 

Download Thumbnail Template No.5


 The power of a YouTube thumbnail image

With all of the time and energy put into creating videos and optimizing your YouTube channel, you can’t forget the need for a powerful thumbnail image.

People are drawn primarily to images when scanning through YouTube search results. This means that no matter how great your description, people won’t watch your video if they don’t like the thumbnail.

Just like any other marketing tactic, you need to beat the boring and stand out from the crowd with your thumbnail.

Whenever creating a custom YouTube thumbnail, it is essential to have the correct dimensions. By creating an image that is 1280 x 720 pixels, you can maximize the opportunity a presence on YouTube provides.

Make sure that your thumbnail is engaging with a clean design. How can you utilize that 16:9 image to ensure viewers will want to see what happens?

Utilizing impactful thumbnail images in the correct size, your views are sure to increase, along with subscribers and your brand awareness as a whole!

Kristen McCabe
Author

Kristen McCabe

Kristen is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist who loves writing and sharing stories about top-notch marketing. When she isn’t writing, Kristen is all about performing or anything related to her dog, Bella, who may or may not have a whole bunch of virtual doggy friendships on Instagram.