How to Create the Perfect Thumbnail for Your YouTube Videos: The Ultimate 2022 Guide

Are you looking to take your YouTube channel to the next level and get more eyes on your content? Well, one of the most vital steps is making eye-catching thumbnails. According to YouTube‘s 2021 Creator Insights report, over 90% of the best-performing videos have custom thumbnails.

This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about making awesome thumbnails, from what they are to how to design them perfectly using free tools. You‘ll also get pro tips to create ones proven to get more clicks!

What Exactly is a YouTube Thumbnail?

In essence, a YouTube thumbnail is a static preview image that shows up before the video plays. It represents the content and is vital for grabbing attention when readers scroll through video suggestions.

YouTube actually generates a few basic thumbnails automatically when you upload. But making your own custom thumbnail tailored to each video will make the biggest impact.

By having an eye-catching, relevant image, you can increase your click-through-rate substantially. Some popular YouTuber‘s get up to 12-15% Thumbnail CTR!

Now let‘s get into the step-by-step process for selecting and creating stunning YouTube thumbnails.

How to Add a Thumbnail to New or Existing Videos

You have two options for adding a custom thumbnail – when first uploading a new video, or editing an already published one later. Below are the simple steps for both methods:

Uploading a Brand New Video

  1. Go to YouTube Studio and click "Create" then "Upload Video"
  2. Select your video file to upload
  3. Edit details like title/description, then scroll down to the "Thumbnail" section
  4. Click "Upload thumbnail" and choose your image, or select a suggested one

Editing a Published Video

  1. In YouTube Studio, click "Content" and select your video
  2. Scroll down and click "Edit" next to the current thumbnail
  3. Choose "Upload thumbnail" or pick a suggested one instead
  4. Click "Save" and you‘re done!

Pretty simple right? Now let‘s look at how to create optimized custom thumbnails from scratch.

How to Make Your Own YouTube Thumbnails

Creating your own thumbnail gives you full creative control, allowing you to build an eye-catching brand image. The best part is you can make stellar ones using free online tools!

Choose a Thumbnail Design Program

Here are the top 3 free apps to easily make custom YouTube thumbnails:

ProgramKey FeaturesDownsides
CanvaMassive design element library, intuitive editing, YouTube sizing templatesMust create free account, some features paid only
FotoJetTons of templates, easy drag-and-drop interface, downloads with no watermarksLimited customization compared to Canva
Adobe SparkFun creative options, integration with other Adobe appsFree version includes Adobe watermark

While all are great free options, Canva strikes the best balance of power and ease-of-use.

Step-By-Step Guide to Designing Custom Thumbnails in Canva

Follow these simple steps to quickly design top-notch custom thumbnails optimized for YouTube using Canva:

  1. Go to and login or sign up for a free account
  2. Click the "+" icon to start a new design
  3. Under "Custom Dimensions" enter 1280×720 pixels (YouTube‘s ideal thumbnail size)
  4. Search "YouTube thumbnail" to load the perfect YouTube template
  5. Customize with dozens of backgrounds, elements like logos/text/images
  6. Export as JPG or PNG when done (both work for YouTube thumbnails)
  7. Upload to the "Thumbnail" section when editing your YouTube video!

And voila! In just minutes you can have a gorgeous, hand-crafted thumbnail that will grab attention and clicks.

Check out this quick video walkthrough showing the thumbnail design process in Canva:

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YouTube Thumbnail Design Best Practices

Now that you know how to make custom thumbnails, let‘s cover some pro tips and best practices for designing truly effective ones:

Include Some Text

A little text goes a long way. Have your channel name, video topic, episode number, or a key phrase to inform viewers. Just don‘t block main focal points.

Utilize Contrast

Thumbnails with highly contrasting colors or vivid imagery will draw the eye in more easily amongst suggestions.

Use Facial Expressions

According to multiple studies, including a human face, especially with a distinct expression, makes people more likely to click.

Optimize Mobile Experience

Most YouTube viewing happens on mobile now. Make images crisp and text big enough to read easily on small screens.

Consider Video Category Trends

Notice what thumbnails in your niche/category tend to look like high performing ones and take inspiration.

Remain Consistent With Branding

This helps subscribers always recognize your videos in suggestions. Reuse fonts, logos, design schemes etc.

Ready to Grow Your Channel with Stunning Thumbnails?

You should now have all the skills to start making gorgeous, professional thumbnails for your YouTube videos!

The key is properly sizing them, using eye-catching designs, and keeping them consistent with your channel‘s branding. Using the tips in this guide, you can create thumbnails optimized for higher click-through rates.

Just remember – the better your custom thumbnails look, the more likely viewers will be to watch your content instead of the thousands of other suggestions. So put in the time to craft thumbnail images as amazing as the videos themselves!

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