Your thumbnail and title serve as a quick snapshot of your video to a user browsing YouTube. But, it’s not enough to select a still from your video for the thumbnail and call it a day. According to the YouTube team, 90% of the best-performing videos on the platform have custom thumbnails.
A bad or mediocre thumbnail and title will get hardly any clicks, whereas a great thumbnail and title can earn you 10x more traffic on your videos. For monetized YouTube channels, the more engagement that you have on your videos, the more income you will have.
That said, what tools are available to help you create the most effective thumbnails and titles? How’s your thumbnail supposed to look? What should your title include?
We’re here to answer all your questions in our guide to growing your YouTube channel through scroll-stopping thumbnails and titles.
YouTube video thumbnail 101: How to create scroll-stopping videos
Let’s start with thumbnails. YouTube share some general requirements in terms of:
- Dimensions (1280 x 720 px with a minimum width of 640px)
- Aspect ratio (16:9)
- File format (.JPG / .GIH / .PNG)
- Maximum file size (2MB)
However, we chatted with some experts so we could delve deeper.
YouTube thumbnail design
When it comes to YouTube thumbnail design, most creators have a formula that they use to consistently get eyeballs and clicks.
Avoid a clickbait thumbnail
Firstly, although it’s tempting to put anything in the thumbnail of your YouTube video just to get people to watch it, we advise against doing this.
A thumbnail that features imagery which doesn’t relate at all to the video is called “a clickbait thumbnail.” Essentially, a YouTuber user will click on it, start watching the video, realize the topic has nothing to do with the thumbnail, and click off it as fast as possible. Not only this, but they will also lose trust in the YouTuber and avoid watching their other videos for fear of disappointment.
Trust is a vital component in content marketing to keep people engaging in your content. The more they engage, the more they emotionally connect with the individual and want to continue connecting. In other words, they will subscribe to your channel, watch new videos, and earn you more advertising revenue.
Opt for a montage thumbnail
A montage thumbnail is basically a thumbnail that has more than one image.
This Reddit thread author gained 5.9 million views in their first year on YouTube and earned $35K, as a result. They accredit this to the thumbnails of their 20 videos. “All of my thumbnails are good, but the outstanding ones are what made this growth rate possible,” they say.
They recommend to “invite curiosity” with your thumbnails and “combine the familiar with the new” for maximum success. They explain: “One element of the image [should be] something the user will already recognize in order to make them confident about the topic. The other element will be something that is less familiar to create curiosity and thus a click.”
Zach Derhake runs ZapxMedia, a YouTube editing business that specializes in thumbnail and title creation. He says, “A great thumbnail balances mystery with content description. An effective way to do this is by using an everyday object relevant to your video and then adding a confusing twist.”
Show your face
Zach @ZapxMedia also thinks it’s important to show your face and—bonus—add a dramatic expression. He explains: “People like to see a human face because, typically, viewers want to feel a part of regular human interaction. No one likes watching a serious commercial video, so showing your face gives the user a more inviting feeling.”
He specifies: “A furious, tragic, or joyful expression adds curiosity to the video.”
The best fonts for YouTube thumbnails
Now let’s talk about thumbnail fonts. In essence, they must be clear and simple to read so that the text stands out. Stick to non-decorative fonts that catch the eye and are typically used for titles and headlines, such as the serif and sans serif typefaces.
Neil Paul is the Head of Marketing at Airbrush.ai where you can create AI-powered images for YouTube thumbnails. He previously worked as a video editor and publisher at an entertainment-based YouTube channel for five years.
Neil advises: “You can use any font but for readability ensure the font doesn't have any weird symbols or spacing. My go-to’s include Helvetica, Georgia, Arial, Lato, Playfair Display, and PT Sans. These fonts are easy to read, have a lot of variation, and are attractive.”
The best colors for YouTube thumbnails
In addition to text, colors are an important design element for YouTube thumbnails.
Your first thought may be to use black or white, which will show up on backgrounds better, but neutral colors aren’t quite as eye-catching. Neil @ Airbrush advises using “colors that pop.” For instance, colors like red, green and blue are more prominent to a serial scroller.
Neil suggests picking a thumbnail color scheme that’s consistent with your channel's branding. “For example, if you're making videos about animals, you might want to use a more natural green as the background with various animals in a forest setting.”
Either way, it’s difficult to specify a single color that suits all kinds of videos, so you have to consider what’s best for your channel aesthetics.
What do YouTubers use to make thumbnails?
There are several YouTube thumbnail makers you can use to create a design that stands out from the 3.7 million videos uploaded to the platform daily.
- FotoJet: This free YouTube thumbnail maker doesn’t even require you to have an account. There’s a variety of stock images, fonts and clip art for you to use, but you can access more if you upgrade to a paid plan.
- Adobe Express: Ideal for those who already use Adobe Creative Cloud, this editor has professional features such as templates, fonts, and composition tools. You can use it for free on desktop or mobile but all designs will be watermarked. Opt to remove the watermark via a paid plan starting from $9.99 per month.
- Canva: This online graphic design tool is one of the most popular choices for YouTube thumbnails. You can access 8,000 templates and images on the free plan. Upgrade for more assets for $12.95 per month.
How to create YouTube thumbnail with Canva
Using Canva to create a YouTube video thumbnail couldn’t be easier. Here’s how to do it in just 3 simple steps.
Open Canva editor
Sign up to Canva on the free plan if you haven’t already done so. In the Home screen, search “YouTube thumbnails” for existing templates.
Alternatively, craft your own design from scratch by clicking the purple “Create a Design” button in the top right corner and specifying the size for your design.
An existing template will automatically open in the editor according to YouTube’s recommended thumbnail size (1280 x 720 px). When you create a new design, you can enter your desired size before getting to work.
Customize your thumbnail
Find stock images and graphic design elements, upload photos, and add text to your design. Build a color scheme and font combination in line with your personal branding. Add image effects to create a unique aesthetic.
Download your design
Click the “Share” button in the top right corner of the editor screen to save your design to your computer or mobile. Choose your file type, .PNG or .JPG., and click “Download.”
Then you’re ready to upload your thumbnail to YouTube!
What about a YouTube Shorts thumbnail?
You may be wondering about YouTube Shorts thumbnails. “There is no difference in a YouTube Shorts thumbnail except for a change in format size (9:16),” says Zach @ ZapxMedia
“For a while, YouTube Shorts thumbnails only contributed to channel aesthetics. The vast majority of YouTube Short views are people scrolling on the YouTube Shorts platform, so they don't even see the thumbnail,” he explains.
“Recently, there has been a significant increase in YouTube shorts popping up in search queries. I believe that YouTube Shorts will take over YouTube and YouTube Shorts thumbnails will become more vital as time goes on.” Because of this, Zach recommends following our tips for YouTube video thumbnails too.
YouTube thumbnail examples
It’s important to spend time on your thumbnails and titles and A/B test designs like most professional creators to see which ones your audience best respond to.
For instance, MrBeast is a famous YouTube channel owner who is known for his enticing thumbnails and titles. He claims that he changes his thumbnails five times for one video.
Let’s take a look at some of his thumbnails.
You can see that they all have:
- Clear, easy-to-read fonts (if they have text) and popping colors
- Montage imagery that balances mystery with intrigue
- His face (often with dramatic expressions)
Try this formula for your YouTube thumbnails going forward and see what happens.
Best YouTube titles for getting more views
Rachel Stone is a home decor blogger who runs associated YouTube channel @stonecottagehome with 14.8K subscribers. She says that coming up with a title for your YouTube video can be trickier than the thumbnail design.
“YouTube's algorithm uses the video title as one of the main ways to understand what the video is about. While the thumbnail needs to appeal exclusively to the human audience, the video title must appeal to both people and the algorithm.”
Having said that, here are some top tips to create the best YouTube video title possible to drive views, clicks, and subscribers.
Avoid clickbait YouTube titles
We don’t recommend falsely advertising what your video is about via misleading thumbnails or titles.
Jake Thomas is the founder of Creator Hooks, a weekly newsletter that helps YouTubers write better video titles. He advises you to write the title before you make the video. Hear him out.
“Many people make their video and then, as they're waiting on the video to upload, slap together a mediocre title. They'll have much more success if they consider what their audience wants to watch and what will make them click, write a title that meets that criteria, and then make a video that delivers on that promise.”
If it’s not clear what the viewer will take from the video just by looking at the title, a YouTuber user isn’t going to waste their precious time trying to find out.
Jake explains: “People are quickly scrolling through YouTube, they're spending fractions of a second reading your titles, so they need to be crystal clear and to the point.
Long words, titles without a singular focus and sarcasm will make your titles harder to quickly read and therefore less likely to be clicked on.”
Rachel @ Stone Cottage Home says that she has created a title formula that has worked for several videos: “I start by choosing a main keyword and a supporting keyword to help the Youtube algorithm understand what the video is about.”
The next step? “I will use descriptive words around each keyword that will be enticing for the viewers. Superlatives like ‘top,’ ‘easiest’ or ‘best’ are great for increasing the appeal of your title.”
Rachel has also found that titles with numbers outperform those without.
“For example, ‘tips for decluttering a living room’ could be improved to ‘11 Expert Tips to Declutter a Living Room ~ Easy Organization Ideas’. This improved title has the related keywords ‘declutter a living room’ and ‘organization ideas,’ along with the enticing words ‘expert tips’ and ‘easy.’”
Use emotive language
Speaking of enticing words, don’t forget to play up the emotional aspect of your video title. Jake @ Creator Hooks claims: “The best titles use curiosity, fear, and/or desire.”
Some emotional words that are known to work with YouTube videos include:
Ultimately, evoking an emotional response from your target viewer will inspire them to act, whether it’s by clicking your video, extending their watch time, and/or pressing the “Subscribe” button.
Be mindful of length
YouTube allows 100 characters per video title but if yours is over 70, it will be truncated on the viewer’s screen. Rachel @ Stone Cottage Home says: “I usually try to get as close to 70 without going over. A much shorter title is probably missing out on the chance to include helpful keywords or enticing words.”
An additional tip is to use digitals for your numbers instead of writing them out (11 versus eleven). “It takes up less space and they are more easily recognised.”
Model successful videos
Lastly, Jake @ Creator Hooks adds: “The easiest way to write better titles is to model successful videos.”
What does he mean? “I like to scroll through YouTube channels and take note of outlier videos, based on views, and then see how I can model those titles for my channel.”
You can also review your own videos that you’ve published every so often (perhaps every quarter) to assess which titles have performed well. Then see if you can spot any patterns to incorporate into new video titles going forwards.
Coming up with a YouTube thumbnail and title that gets results can be challenging. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, try experimenting with our tips to see which ones work for you.
Above all, participate in A/B testing and avoid changing too many variables at once so you can track your progress successfully. All of this hard work will be worth it when you experience exponential growth for individual videos and your channel.
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