The Art of the Thumbnail

There is an art form behind every small (but far from insignificant) thumbnail that represents each YouTube video. Learning how to best execute this process for yourself can help garner more views and engagement on your videos. It is important to make sure that the thumbnail is eye-catching and clear in order to attract viewers to click on the video.

Step 1:
Begin in the Video Manager tab and click “Edit” on the desired video. Make sure the video is in the highest quality with annotations off. As you can see below, click on the wheel and select “Off” besides annotations and for “Quality” select the best video quality possible, meaning the highest quantity number listed. This will ensure that your thumbnail does not have distracting annotations in it, and appears in the maximum resolution setting in order to have the best image.

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Step 2:
Pause the video at a moment of action or interest as well as representing what the video will be about. A ReelSEO article on creating attractive thumbnails suggests multiple options that are proven to be attractive choices:

  1. Action: Motion tends to look exciting and eventful, such as Beau and his owner running and playing. Action may attract viewers to wonder what is happening next.

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  1. Explanatory Image: This video is about adopting senior age dogs, so showing a close up image that suggests Beau’s age–such as food for older dogs placed alongside Beau–can help the viewer recognize what this video is about.

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  1. Enticing: It is extremely important to make sure that the thumbnail chosen will make the user want to click on the video to learn or see more. For example, this screen shot of Beau rolling in the grass and smiling is very attractive to a large audience. Who doesn’t love adorable dogs smiling and rolling around?

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  1. Clear Text: Having an image with clear text leaves an impactful note of simplicity with the viewer. This close up of Beau’s face with his name centered in bold text draws the user’s attention: this clearly must be about a dog named Beau, but what’s his story? The image seems to suggests a sense of importance and the viewer will likely want to find out why.Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 4.38.17 PM
  2. Additional Note: After selecting your engaging thumbnail, consider adding a branded banner to further connect the image to the company. This immediately catches the viewer’s eye as an image they are familiar with because it is associated with your official channel. This touch is a personal preference, but can be a successful method of implementing brand consistency on your videos.

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Step 3:
Take a screenshot of the desired image and click the “Custom thumbnail” button to the bottom right of the video when editing. This will prompt you to select an image, at which point you will upload the screenshot that you just took. Check the preview box to make sure that the image does not have black bars on the edges – if it does, the image is not the correct size. Should this happen, simply retake the screenshot with more fitting measurements. Then ensure that your chosen image is selected as the thumbnail and save your page.

In just a few minutes you will be on your way to creating the most captivating, attractive thumbnails! Enticing thumbnails can lead to more engagement and views on your videos as everyone will want to click on your video with one glance at that beautiful teaser image.

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Special thanks to one of our clients, the Petco Animal Supplies channel. The example pictures are from their video “Beau- A Petco Adoption Story.”

by Mackenzie Hummel

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