Making a scroll-stopping YouTube thumbnail is one of the best ways to get people to click on your videos. While there is no magic formula to create a perfect YouTube thumbnail, there are some best practices you should be following. Today we’ll show you how to make a simple yet striking thumbnail that will have your video getting more clicks than ever before.
Don’t Overcomplicate Things
Probably the biggest mistake with most of the poorly performing YouTube thumbnails out there is that they’re way too complicated. Oftentimes, a bad thumbnail can be turned into a great thumbnail just by removing a few elements. For example, if you’re using a photo of your face, erasing the background of say, your bedroom, and using a plain, bright-colored background will typically perform better.
The problem: This video is about streaming for 24 hours straight. The energy drink and low battery graphics are supposed to show the viewer that the streamer had a hard time. However, with the busy background and cramped text, this thumbnail isn’t very appealing.
How we fixed it: Instead of trying to cram all of the information onto the thumbnail itself, we can simply title the video, “I Tried Streaming for 24 Hours.” We removed the background, used an easier to read font, and stuck with the low battery graphic. The single word, “regret,” gives the viewer an indication that the experiment did not go well and will entice them to watch to find out why.
When in Doubt, Go Bigger
While editing your YouTube thumbnail, it’s tempting to add a lot of details. The trouble is, your thumbnail is going to be significantly decreased in size once you upload it to YouTube. If you’re using a program like Canva, try zooming out 10% after you’re finished to make sure that all of the elements of your thumbnail are still visible. More often than not, you’ll need to focus on two to three key elements and make them as big as possible.
The problem: As you can see, the thumbnail on the left isn’t terrible, but the font is hard to read. In general, the thumbnail is just too busy and all of the details will get lost when YouTube shrinks it down.
How we fixed it: Since this video is about the “Konmari Cleaning Method,” we want to have some room decor in the thumbnail but we don’t want to give everything away. Therefore, we blurred the room image and increased the size of both the font and character. “I Tried the Konmari Method” can be used as the video’s title.
Be Careful with Text
Text on a thumbnail is tricky. So tricky, in fact, that it has its own set of best practices.
- Provide new information—don’t just repeat what is being said in the title.
- Choose bold, thick fonts.
- Keep your text between four and five words.
- Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense.
- Be click-worthy, not click-baity.
- Use shadows to help your text pop as needed.
The problem: Not only is the font fancy and hard to read, there are too many words on the thumbnail. Furthermore, what’s written on the thumbnail can easily be used as the title instead.
How we fixed it: You’re likely seeing a pattern of how we simplified things. First, we changed the font to make it easier to read, then we chose a short yet compelling statement. Small changes but they make a big difference!
Show Your Face?
Some studies suggest that a thumbnail with a human face is more likely to receive clicks because viewers want a “human connection.” However, depending on factors such as your audience’s demographics and their preferences, a photo of your face may not always work in your favor.
Human beings are flawed and biased. A woman in her twenties who has a following of people around the same age may get more clicks. However, some women in their forties and fifties have reported that engagement drops when they use thumbnails with photos of their faces. Unconscious bias may be a contributing factor as to why certain thumbnails with faces get less clicks. Ultimately, you’ll want to conduct tests on your channel to see if thumbnails with your face receive more or less views.
The problem: Since this is a knitting tutorial, the YouTuber doesn’t really need their face in the thumbnail. The font isn’t bad but it could be jazzed up and better placed.
How we fixed it: We removed the face, wrote “fast” in a different font and placed everything front and center. We also added a shadow to “Learn to knit” and decreased the opacity of the image so that the letters are easier to read. We also zoomed in on the image a little.
More Quick Tips for Making a Good YouTube Thumbnail:
- Use the “rule of thirds.”
- Consider your audience and their demographics.
- Relevance: make sure the thumbnail relates to the video content.
- Keep important things to the left side as YouTube uses certain icons (like the timestamp) that may cover up parts of your thumbnail.
- Use a color wheel to find complementary colors.
- Experiment with different thumbnails for similar videos to see what performs better.
1. Go on YouTube right now and browse the videos. Look for busy, difficult to understand thumbnails and brainstorm how to make them simpler and more click-worthy.
2. Go to the YouTube channel of one of your favorite creators and analyze their thumbnails. Do certain ones make you want to click more than others? How are they performing? Try to determine what makes these thumbnails stand out.
By now, you should have a pretty good understanding of how to make a clickable thumbnail for YouTube. When in doubt, simplify the thumbnail as much as you can while still giving the viewer an idea of what the video will be about. Don’t forget to conduct tests often to analyze which thumbnails garner more clicks. The more you practice, the better you will get at making successful thumbnails in no time!