YouTube Thumbnail Size and Best Practices for 2021

Promo Team
By Promo Team
November 4, 2021 · 18 min read

You might hope that generating YouTube views will be as easy as hitting “publish” on your new video. But getting noticed on the world’s second-largest search engine requires a little more than just creating great videos. While there are several aspects that influence the amount of attention your content will get, today we will be focusing on your YouTube thumbnail in general, with an emphasis on the ideal YouTube thumbnail size.

YouTube’s platform requires by default that every YouTube video have a thumbnail image. This is what viewers will see when browsing their feed, and it not only represents the content your viewers are about to watch but will determine if they choose to watch it. After all the effort you put into creating a strong video, it would be a shame for people to miss it because of something as simple as not using the right YouTube thumbnail size or an appealing design. While YouTube thumbnails may be an afterthought for many people, as YouTube offers default thumbnails for every video, don’t be tempted. Custom thumbnails are worth spending time and effort on.

But where do you start? We’re here to help.

We’re going to outline the proper YouTube thumbnail size and dimensions, providing practical advice on creating thumbnails to ensure that from this point on, your videos get the exposure and clicks they deserve.

What Is a Thumbnail?

A thumbnail is simply an image that represents a piece of content. Typically, the thumbnail will be where a user can click to access something like a video or a blog post. The context of this article is focused on thumbnails for YouTube, but you can also create thumbnail images for posts on your website, products you sell, and much more. Experienced marketers understand that quality thumbnail images can directly increase click-through rates and drive user engagement, so they are well worth your time and attention.

Best YouTube Thumbnail Size in a Nutshell

If you are in the middle of a YouTube video project and you need to complete your thumbnail right away, you’re in luck, because we’ve put together the key points you’ll need to remember:

  • The ideal size for a YouTube video thumbnail is 1280 x 720 pixels
  • For a YouTube thumbnail file type, go with one of these three: GIF, JPEG, or PNG
  • Keep your file size under 2MB
  • Don’t upload a thumbnail that is less than 640 pixels in width
  • Set your YouTube thumbnail ratio to 16:9 when creating your graphics

We’ll get into each of these five key points in greater detail later in the article. However, this information is plenty to get you up and running while building a thumbnail for a video that is perfectly sized for the YouTube platform.

youtube thumbnails

Why YouTube Thumbnails Are Important

It’s easy enough to think that the quality of your videos is the only thing that matters when trying to make an impact and build an audience on YouTube. And, to a certain extent, that’s true—you won’t get very far without good videos. That being said, there is a lot of great video content on YouTube. You need to do something to stand out from the competition in your niche, and customizing your thumbnails is one of many ways to do just that.

Still not sold on the importance of creating custom thumbnails for your YouTube videos? We’re about to change your mind. 

Increase Engagement

When you upload YouTube content, you want that video to be seen by as many people as possible. Gathering large numbers of views—and the subscriptions that often come along with those views—is the name of the game. One of the best ways to drive engagement with your content is to add a thumbnail that is intriguing and compelling in some way.

Encourage Attention

As a YouTube user scrolls through the list of available videos on a given topic, many of the videos are going to look the same. Rather than hoping for random luck that someone will click on your video instead of one of the many other options, you can help your thumbnail for the video stand out by giving it some unique characteristics. Often, this is achieved by adding text to the thumbnail image to make a statement and pique the viewer’s interest.

Show Your Personality

It’s about standing out from the crowd. If there is a person who is featured in your videos—whether it is you or someone else—make sure that the personality of that person comes through in some way when creating a YouTube video thumbnail. You might pick a picture that shows them doing something funny and create funny YouTube thumbnails, or you may add text near their image to quote something they say in the video.

Give a Professional Look

The production quality on YouTube is amazing. There are plenty of amateur channels, of course, but there are also many channels that live up to a lofty standard. If you want potential viewers to think of your video in the latter category—a channel that delivers excellent quality—taking the time to produce a good thumbnail is a step you can’t afford to skip. You can easily customize your thumbnail using an online thumbnail maker and even add your logo and branding if you want to.

YouTube Thumbnail Size Guidelines for 2021

The technical aspects of creating a thumbnail for YouTube may be a bit intimidating at first, but you’ll quickly find that it’s rather easy to follow these guidelines. Specifically, there are five points you need to remember. Make a small checklist for yourself to review before you finalize any thumbnail design to make sure you’ve covered each of the points properly. With the thumbnail size for YouTube playing such a big role in how much attention your videos will be getting, you are going to want to get it right. 

Recommended Thumbnail Size

This is the most essential place to start. When designing your thumbnail, set up your design software to give you a field that is 1280 x 720 pixels. Those are the ideal YouTube thumbnail dimensions. Once they are set from the start, you can feel free to use your creativity to develop a compelling design that fits within that space.

Minimum YouTube Thumbnail Size

When talking about the minimum size of your thumbnail, it’s the width you need to consider. Specifically, don’t allow your thumbnail to fall below 640 pixels. That is the smallest thumbnail size for YouTube, and the image is going to need to be at least that wide to upload successfully, although it’s a better practice to aim for the 1280-pixel width that is recommended. If you are creating your own thumbnail, there is no reason not to go by the recommended YouTube thumbnail dimensions mentioned above.

Maximum YouTube Thumbnail Size

There is a 2MB limit placed on all YouTube thumbnail files. Considering the relatively modest size of these images—and the fact that they are static images and not videos—this file size limit shouldn’t be much of a problem. If you have extremely high-resolution images that you want to use in your thumbnails, the size of those files might need to be compressed before you’ll be able to load your thumbnail and keep it under the 2MB limit.

YouTube Thumbnail Resolution

You’ll want to have your thumbnail at the highest possible resolution while still staying under the file size limit. This can become a bit of a trade-off where you balance your desire for a beautiful image with the practical matter of file size. Remember, you want your thumbnail to look good in all sizes and on all devices, so strive for high resolution whenever possible.

YouTube Thumbnail Aspect Ratio

The shape that you are familiar with when viewing YouTube thumbnails is a 16:9 aspect ratio. In other words, for every 16 horizontal pixels, you should have 9 vertical pixels. This math is what leads to the recommended thumbnail size of 1280 x 720. Even if you have to go with a design that is smaller than the recommended pixel dimensions for some reason, be sure to keep that 16:9 aspect ratio in order or else your image may look distorted.

Why Are YouTube Thumbnails Big?

YouTube thumbnails are big so they can maintain quality in a variety of display settings. By starting with a large image, YouTube can keep the thumbnails looking great even when they are shrunk down to fit smaller screens. If the opposite approach was taken—that small thumbnails were expanded to fit bigger screens—the quality would degrade quickly as the image was blown up. You want to create thumbnails that match the YouTube recommendations, so you don’t wind up with poor-quality images representing your videos.

How to Create a Custom YouTube Thumbnail

It might take a little bit of time and effort to create your first custom YouTube thumbnails while you get familiar with the process. Don’t let that learning curve scare you off! With some practice and a little experimentation, you can develop a process that will produce quality thumbnails in short order. Here are some important tips to keep in mind:

Use a Thumbmail Maker

A good YouTube thumbmail maker can be your best friend to create YouTube thumbnails. A good platform will let you establish the right dimensions for a thumbnail, and it will have a variety of features that you can use to quickly create a memorable design.  It’s best to pick one platform and stick with it—both so that you don’t have to keep learning new software and so that your resulting images will be consistent across your brand.

Resize Image

If you aren’t able to design your thumbnail to the correct dimensions originally, don’t worry; you can always resize it appropriately later. There are plenty of tools available to perform this task, including the easy-to-use Image Resizer we offer here at Promo.com. If you’d like to know more about how to change your YouTube thumbnail size on Promo, you’ll find that information below.

Use a Thumbnail Template

Using templates makes many design tasks more manageable, including creating YouTube thumbnails. You can explore the many existing thumbnail templates that are available online, or you can create your own custom template for your brand. You might be tempted to use an existing template to get the ball rolling; however, building a custom template at some point will help you strengthen your branding efforts.

Choose a Custom Thumbnail Image on YouTube

Many new YouTubers decide to simply select one of the three default thumbnail options the platform presents when a new video is loaded. We’d recommended resisting that temptation in favor of a custom thumbnail image that you can use as a marketing asset. Pick a specific image from your video to use as the background and then layer on text and other graphics to bring it together into an interesting, branded image that will encourage people to check out your video.


More YouTube Guides:

How to make a YouTube intro
YouTube video size guide
YouTube analytics metrics you should know about


 

Changing a YouTube Thumbnail Size on Promo

Do you have a thumbnail design that you have created, but it isn’t sized correctly for YouTube? No problem. Visit our Image Resizer to take care of that problem right away. The process only takes a matter of moments.

  1. First, upload the image you’d like to adjust. You can import the image from an existing URL or load the file from your computer. We have a resize setting for YouTube thumbnails, so simply select that option (and any others that you may need).
  2. Download the finished product and upload it to YouTube whenever you are ready!

Changing a YouTube Thumbnail Size on Photoshop

If you use Photoshop for your graphics work, you can also adjust the size of an image in that software.

  • In Photoshop, select “Image,” and then “Image Size.”
  • Enter the desired size of the new image file in pixels. As mentioned above, the correct dimensions for YouTube thumbnails are 1280 x 720 pixels.
  • If you don’t want to distort the image in any way, choose “Constrain Proportions” as one of the options.
  • Choose “Ok” to complete the process.

Design Tips for Your YouTube Thumbnail

A big part of designing great thumbnails comes down to trial and error. To get it right for your brand and your videos, you are going to need to go through a few iterations and revisions. Don’t worry—it’s all a part of the process. Also, you’ll need to upload various styles of thumbnails to see which ones resonate with your audience. There is nothing like live testing to tell you what works and what doesn’t.

With that said, there are some general design tips that apply to nearly everyone making thumbnails on YouTube. We recommend keeping these four tips in mind during the design process.

Clutter-Free

For a good start, strive for a basic design that is free from unnecessary clutter. Knowing the importance of thumbnails, you might be tempted to pack as much into your available space as possible—but that’s only going to lead to confusion on the part of the viewer. Remember, these thumbnails will be shrunk down to relatively small spaces on mobile devices, so a cluttered design could be hard to decipher when viewed in that setting.

Contrasting Colors & Negative Space

Remembering to contrast your colors nicely is a key part of thumbnail design. Often, this means picking a color for your text that is a contrast from the background color of the image you’ve picked. For example, if the image has quite a bit of white space, use black text and position it on top of the white area in the image. For an image that has many different shades, use a bold color like bright red for your text or graphics to make sure nothing gets lost in the background.

Brand Yourself

It’s a great idea to have a branding element that you carry from thumbnail to thumbnail across all your videos. This could be a logo for your business if you have one, but there are other options that are less formal and still create a brand. For example, using the same font or fonts for all thumbnails is smart. Try to stick with a limited selection of colors (maybe one or two as your go-to colors and a few supporting shades). This type of branding will make you more memorable in the minds of your audience, and it will also help past viewers recognize your thumbnails when scrolling through a list of videos.

Simple Is Best

This last point comes back to our first note about minimizing clutter. When in doubt, keep your thumbnails as simple as possible. Once common tactic on YouTube is to use an arrow to point to an exciting part of the image you’ve selected, then add some text that makes a surprising or bold claim. This is a simple layout, it takes only moments to create, and it will effectively engage your audience.

How to a Add Thumbnail to a YouTube Video

Once you have your thumbnail image created, you will need to add that image to your video on YouTube to complete the process. Fortunately, it’s quick and easy to do so. When logged in to your account, follow the steps below.

  1. Click or tap on “Content”
  2. Select the correct video from your list
  3. Find the “Thumbnail” label, choose “Upload Thumbnail”, and pick the file you want to use

It’s worth noting that you don’t actually have to create your own thumbnail to publish a video on YouTube. If you decide not to make a custom thumbnail, you can pick from one of three that the platform will pick out of your video at different points. However, in an effort to maximize engagement and grow your audience, it’s strongly advised to take the time to design and upload your own custom images.

YouTube Thumbnail Size & Format FAQs

What is the size of a YouTube thumbnail in pixels?

The ideal dimensions for a YouTube thumbnail are 1280 x 720 pixels. Use your favorite design tool to create thumbnails that are precisely that size—or turn to the Image Resizer tool we offer to adjust your existing image to the correct dimensions. After you know you have the right size established for your images, you can spend your time thinking about what to include in the thumbnail and how to best draw attention to your videos.

What is the best resolution for a YouTube thumbnail?

As long as you are creating a thumbnail that is the right size (1280 x 720 pixels), your other main consideration should be the size of your thumbnail file. You’ll need to keep the image under the limit of 2 MB to upload it to your account. This should be easy in most cases, unless you are trying to use a particularly large image file. In that case, use a compression tool to bring down the image file size before creating the thumbnail graphic.

What are your suggestions for how to make a thumbnail for YouTube that will increase clicks?

Attracting clicks with great thumbnail images is a huge part of success on YouTube. Many of the best thumbnail images walk the line of being “clickbait” without actually crossing that line. In other words, they are provocative or surprising in some way, but they are still truthful and accurately represent what is in the video. If your thumbnails consistently misrepresent your videos, your work will quickly be ignored by your audience. As you learn how to make a YouTube thumbnail that works for your market, you should be able to develop a template that you can deploy again and again.

What are your tips on how to make a custom YouTube thumbnail template for my brand?

The first step toward developing a custom template is to create a design that you love and that performs well on the YouTube platform. Once you have settled on a layout and style for your thumbnail images, save that template in your favorite design tool. With the template built, the process of creating a new thumbnail for each subsequent video will be streamlined. You’ll be able to build on the template with a relevant image for the video and some updated text. The branding will already be in place, and it may take just a few minutes to craft something that you’ll be proud to upload.

What is the size of a YouTube thumbnail?

The correct size for a YouTube thumbnail is measured in pixels, and the dimensions are 1280 x 720. You can get away with using other sizes, but you don’t want to let your width fall below 640 pixels or you may start to have trouble with the quality of your images when they are displayed on different types of devices.

Can you share tips on how to create a thumbnail for any platform?

Whether creating a thumbnail for YouTube or any other platform, there are two keys: use the right tool and create an image that is appealing to your target audience. With your thumbnail created, you can use our Image Resizer to adjust it to the right size for every platform. With the right tool on your side, you can let your creativity run free and think of ideas that will entice users to click. You should already know your audience, so think about their interests and needs, then speak to those points within each thumbnail.

Does the YouTube thumbnail size change on different devices?

The way YouTube thumbnails appear will change from device to device, but you don’t have to worry about those adjustments. Your job is to create a thumbnail that matches with the suggested dimensions provided by YouTube, and they will take it from there. Knowing that your thumbnail size will be adjusted automatically to suit various devices, it’s important to create a high-quality image that will still look good as it is scaled up or down.

Does the YouTube thumbnail size really matter?

In a word, yes. If your YouTube thumbnails are the wrong size, they won’t render properly across various types of devices, and they’ll become a liability for your channel. Fortunately, it’s easy to make your thumbnails the right size simply by remembering the target dimensions of 1280 x 720 pixels. Supply those measurements to your preferred design tool to create a thumbnail that fits perfectly on the YouTube platform.

Conclusion

Creating quality thumbnail images is one of the many tasks you need to manage while growing a successful YouTube channel. Even if your YouTube presence is only one part of your larger digital marketing strategy, it’s still important to create good thumbnails that represent your brand and the information or ideas you are trying to deliver. With a little practice—and the right tools—you can master the art of creating a YouTube thumbnail quickly and easily. Good luck!

About the author

Promo Team

We believe that words shape thoughts and inspire action. Promo's content team is fueled by the motivation to help you to transform your words and ideas into powerful videos that help you communicate better with your audience and grow your reach.

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