How to Create a Scroll-Stopping YouTube Thumbnail
We’re going to look at why a YouTube thumbnail is so important for boosting views. Find out how to make one that will stop a scroll in its tracks!
If you’re a content creator using YouTube as their main outlet, you’ll be uploading videos with the goal of getting them seen. Regardless of whether it’s just for fun, or if it’s to earn money through YouTube, increasing views and gaining subscribers is a great feeling. There are a number of ways to get videos to rank better and get more people clicking on your videos. One of these ways is to put together a killer thumbnail.
So, how can something as small as a YouTube thumbnail have such a big impact? Besides keywords and YouTube SEO, the attention of an audience can be grabbed visually. Most people scroll at high speeds and, often (we’re all guilty of it), fairly mindlessly. A thumbnail will help someone make that snap decision about whether to click through to watch your video. You’ve only got a window of a couple of seconds to make up their minds, but how?
Thumbnail Top Tips
- Be eye-catching. As previously mentioned, your main goal with a thumbnail is to stop people from scrolling, and click on your video. With millions of other videos on the platform, there’s a lot of competition and other channels clamouring for attention. We’ll go into more detail about just how to catch those eyes, but it’s important to keep that goal at the forefront of your mind.
- Represent your video. If you’ve only got a small window to convince people to watch your video, you’ll need the thumbnail to sum up what they can expect. If your content is focussing on a recent day in the recording studio, make that clear with the imagery you use, e.g. a recording desk or studio gear.
- Raise questions. An effective way to stop people scrolling is to make them think. Cleverly provoking questions with your thumbnail will create intrigue and cause audiences to seek out the answers by clicking on your video.
Dimensions & Size
It’s no good coming up with the perfect YouTube thumbnail if it can’t be uploaded correctly. The job of a content creator involves lots of fun, creative stuff, but also plenty of technical hurdles.
To avoid any upload issues, here are the dimensions and size requirements of a thumbnail for YouTube:
Your custom thumbnail image should be as large as possible. It will be used as the preview image in the embedded player. We recommend your custom thumbnails:
- Have a resolution of 1280×720 (with minimum width of 640 pixels).
- Be uploaded in image formats such as JPG, GIF, or PNG.
- Remain under the 2MB limit.
- Try to use a 16:9 aspect ratio as it’s the most used in YouTube players and previews.
Software for Thumbnails
If you don’t mind spending a bit of time on your thumbnail and want total creative control, software like Photoshop or Lightroom are a great way to go.
Whilst a thumbnail is hugely important, there are lots of other things you need to focus on, as a content creator. Video editing is going to take up a big chunk of your time, so software for quick and easy thumbnail creation is a lifesaver. Check out sites like Canva for simple-to-use thumbnail templates that look great and don’t take forever.
Creating the Perfect YouTube Thumbnail
You may have heard the parable of the wise and foolish builders. The man who built his house on sand versus the man who built his house on the rock. Whilst the moral depth isn’t quite the focus here in this comparison, the importance of a sturdy foundation does translate.
Before worrying about what other gubbins to include in your thumbnail, you need to make sure the background is suitable. Depending on what the video is about and your overall aesthetic style, you should opt for an interesting yet not too busy background. Is your content about stargazing? Then a beautiful, astronomical image would be ideal as your background.
If your video is less cinematic or scenic – for instance, a tutorial or product review – then using block colours is a great idea to keep it simple but attractive.
Check out these two examples:
You’ve probably noticed that both the examples above include text in the thumbnail. This is an easy and super effective method of representing what your video is about and hooking viewers.
Keeping some space in your background for text is a good idea if you’re going to add any. The examples have perfect little pockets where the text fits neatly in, making it readable and eye-catching. Think about the kind of font and size of the text, as it needs to be clear and obvious if it’s going to stand a chance of stopping the scroll.
Of course, this aspect of your thumbnail will vary greatly depending on your preferred aesthetic style. Looking at the first example above, the text suggests themes of nature and the outdoors. So, the use of neutral colours is appropriate and the solid green colour of the text avoids the thumbnail becoming too “wishy-washy”.
The second example utilises bright, bold block colours. Animated thumbnails lend themselves to this kind of colour scheme, as you are given complete freedom in terms of the palette you can use. In order to stand out from the crowd, avoiding bland colours or simple black and white is a wise move.
Not only important in photography or music, the composition of your thumbnail can be a deciding factor in whether someone halts their scrolling.
If a YouTube thumbnail appears messy or cluttered, not only is it visually unappealing, but it also makes it difficult to know what the video is about. Ensuring the image is well-balanced and symmetrical can really add to the impact of a thumbnail.
If your YouTube channel is all about you, then why not show your face? You’ve probably spent a long time building your brand and adding your personality to your channel. Make use of that hard work, and instantly let audiences know they can expect a big dose of you if they click on the video.
Adding that personal touch and human element to a thumbnail is clever, because instinctively we pause to look at faces. It’s a neat way of buying yourself some extra time to convince people to watch your content.
Portraying emotions through facial expressions is also a great way to signpost the general feel of the video. If you’re midway through building a shed and disaster has struck, an image of your face looking shocked or even distraught is going to fascinate viewers.
Nobody likes being lied to or misled. Ever gone into a store because they advertised a “huge sale”? You walk in and find the discounts aren’t huge, but just a huge number of products have had a penny knocked off them. Whilst the term “huge sale” isn’t technically wrong, it is a bit cheeky. You could say it’s clever marketing – it got you into the store. But, it probably didn’t keep you in there for long, and just left you feeling disappointed.
The same goes when you’re creating a YouTube thumbnail. As a content creator, you’re understandably going to be keen to share your work with the world. But sneaky tactics aren’t going to win you many brownie points.
Try to avoid hamming things up too much. For example, I mentioned disaster striking during the building of a shed, and the image of a distraught face. If you click on that video and all that happens is the builder bought the wrong size screws, you’d feel kind of cheated. Aim to sell your video, but don’t get too hyperbolic and over the top.
Small, but mighty. The YouTube thumbnail is not to be overlooked, and with these pointers you can stop a scroll in its tracks. Now, you can gain more views and boost your earnings, if you’ve monetized your channel!
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