Home » SEO, Copywriting, and Photoshop Blogs » Design » A Comprehensive Guide (2021) to make Custom YouTube Thumbnail


Are you thinking what’s wrong with my video? Why views are less?

You run through your checklist: Awesome content, optimized tags… then what’s missing?

Now, go back… and imagine you’re a reader. Scrolling the feed and suddenly, clicked the video. But Why you clicked? You didn’t know the content beforehand!!

YouTube is filled with content. In fact, 500 hours of video content uploaded every minute.

Yeah.. and You (or we all) thought, every person would be having enough time to run through every video… Not happening!

You gotta standout from your crowd to catch eyeballs and get clicks.

Precisely, you need a custom YouTube thumbnail and I’m going to show you, how it’s done!

You will learn:

1. Best Thumbnail to get ideas,
2. Best Practices in Making a thumbnail,
3. Don’t while designing (#3 can make you ban).

Custom YouTube thumbnail is the swizz knife of all the dominant influencers. YouTube Creators Academy suggest, videos that got over 1M views, 90% of them have custom thumbnail.

A little brief about my make professional youtube thumbnail making experience:

I’ve past worked with 2 BIG YouTubers – MechZone and CravingsandCalories vlogs. They both are having over 85k subscribers.

recommendation given by Tushar to Arpit Agarwal
recommendation on LinkedIn

(Connect with me on LinkedIn)

Also, I’ve worked with budding YouTubers as well. Even I was once a  YouTuber. 😉


What is a YouTube Thumbnail?

Technically, the first image which people look at before clicking the video. YouTube Thumbnail makes the first impression with your visitor. And by many aspects by looking at, people rapidly judge the quality of the content inside.

Here’s the example:

Nick Nimmin YouTube video snippet
YouTube video snippet

The first thing you read, “Easy YouTube Growth Hacks”

No Brainer!

How – It’s there in the thumbnail!

People engage with graphics much better than they do with verbose content, says Adespresso.

Also, it is a human tendency to read from left to right. And you see, custom YouTube thumbnail takes the left-most spot.

Find Your Low-Performing YouTube Thumbnails

To know how your thumbnail of youtube video is effective,

  • go down to the analytics panel.
Analytics panel in the creator studio of YouTube
creator studio, analytics panel
  • Head to the overview tab and click “see more”
dashboard in the creators studio of YouTube
  • Now collect the data by 90 days
sort the data from YouTube video in creators studio by 90 days
  • Now sort the list by CTR (on decreasing order) by clicking on it.
Now observe impression and CTR in the creator studio of YouTube

And before you check another tab and Google the terms:

Impression – Whenever a person views your thumbnail on the YouTube platform. Doesn’t matter he clicked it or not, you earned a point.

CTR – Click-through-rate – it is the ratio of people clicked the thumbnail to the number of impressions.

The high performing thumbnails are those CTC > 3%

And if your CTC <2.5% then you should start fixing your thumbnail. People are just not liking it!

This is no magic, no expertise. Just simple Mathematics! That’s sufficient to get you to know how your thumbnail is performing.

PS – I’ve not hided any my stats nor manipulated it. Whatever I’m saying is from the experience of my making custom YouTube thumbnails for my past clients.


Why the heck this YouTube thumbnail important?

Can’t say Love at first sight exist, but Design at first sight is your YouTube thumbnail.

In one line, Why thumbnail in your YouTube marketing strategy:

“More eyes stopping by, more the clicks, more the views, and FASTER the channel will grow. That would make your Bank Account happy.”

What makes influencers on YouTube to pay designers so much to get the custom YouTube thumbnail?

I’ve NOT 2 or 3, but 9 insane reasons to answer this question!


Draws the attention of the reader

YouTube has a simple analogy. If anyone clicks to your video and watched for 30 seconds, Booooom! You got a view here! 


Hike views by 70% on Mobile devices

Stats reported by Federator. No brainer, people are consuming more content from the YouTube mobile app.

With screens are getting shorter, Your viewers can’t read the complete titles. Hence, they need your catchy thumbnail, to know what’s inside the video.


Generates More views from Google searches

a Google search on YouTube SEO
a Google search on YouTube SEO

You must have hovered for video search on Google.

Did you notice any video description there?

Obviously, NOT.

Only the Heading and Thumbnail. To catch the eyeballs, your custom YouTube thumbnail gets immensely important to drive views from Google search.

Trust me the best search traffic, especially having lesser subscribers, You can get from Google and YouTube search!

Bigger channels have a huge subscriber base, and it sky rockets their views. No matter how good or bad they optimize the video.

For small creators, you gotta earn that subscriber base. You need to regularly optimize your channel, comment back to your audience, and for attracting them, custom YouTube thumbnail can be a game changer.


One more chance to show Yourself

YouTube creators like Brian Dean, Nick Nimmin, and Neil Patel takes the maximum advantage of this.

Every time Neil face showed up on my feed. I always spend 2 seconds more on observing the content. If I like it, I click it.

Neil Patel YouTube thumbnail
Neil Patel

Ya, I know they are famous. But who is stopping you?

The HUMAN FACE is the most unique feature and hence easily identifiable. Be the face of your YouTube Channel. Make your content easily identifiable to your audience.

Pro Tip – Keep reading, more on the face trick later.


Look Professional in-front of the audience

Noticeably, having a poor YT Thumbnail can significantly decrease the brand value in the industry, and brand value is everything.


Show your idea once again to grab the click

Nick has nailed this art! His thumbnails will tell you exactly what the video is about.


Nick Nimmin Custom YouTube thumbnail indicating How to get views with Tube Buddy
Nick Nimmin

Image from Nick Nimmin YouTube Channel

“How to GET Views with Tube Buddy”

And you see… No heading, No description, and moreover you don’t know for which keyword it shows up?

That’s how YOUR thumbnail should look like.

Hang in there. I promise you can also make the best thumbnail for YouTube channel after reading this guide.


Better engagement during share

Have you shared a YouTube video which you absolutely loved it?

Obviously, most of us did.

And…. What’s the first thing people would see??

It’s the Thumbnail that gets linked to it by default. (also, known as featured image)

Custom YouTube Thumbnail shared on Facebook Page Mr. AA - MNNIT Allahabad

(img source – Copywriterarpit)

And better the thumbnail, better the chances your friends will click to view it.  

So, much you can earn from a single change!


Better video retentivity

According to the SEPeople, 80% of the people remember graphics better.

Your custom thumbnail would stick around to them for a longer period…. hence, your better remembering your brand.

Side Note – And I’m telling you, once you’ve developed a loyal fan base, your viewers fans would see any stuff you throw on them!


Build your unique style with thumbnail

Get YT thumbnail your personal touch. Make it your identity to your YouTube channel.

This further improves the brand retentivity among the viewership.

Eg – Neil Patel, owner of Ubersuggest, is been doing this from 3 years or so.

Neil Patel YouTube videos list, showing the custom YouTube thumbnail made by Neil

I’m a big fan of Neil. He is my guru. Learned alot from him!

He always has an orange color background. This is the color scheme he uses for the website pages as well. This is what brand building is about.

“Personalizing a style that people would recall you, whenever they see something like that”   Not only Neil, but Brian Dean also do this.

Brian Dean YouTube videos list, showing the custom YouTube thumbnail made by Brian

His light green color scheme is the same tactic what Neil used.

So, I’d strongly suggest you have proper consistency in choosing colors for your YouTube thumbnail.

MY Advice – always follow a consistent color hex code in your background. This way you won’t get wrong with the color! (personal experience :P)

Pro Tip – See the blog till end, I’ll teach you how to select color for your thumbnail. That simple technique would help you in building your brand. 


Best Dimensions, Resolution, & Formats of YouTube Thumbnail

Dimension The best dimensions for YouTube thumbnail are 1280*720 (width*height) in pixels. In inches then 4.267*2.4. In aspect ratio is 16:9.

Note – Minimum width size = 640 px for YouTube Thumbnail.

Resolution – 72dpi

Image Size It should be less than 2.0 mb. This is mandatory else error message would pop-up and your custom YouTube thumbnail won’t be updated. 

Formats – You can upload a thumbnail in JPG/JPEG or PNG or GIF.

But the favorites are PNG and JPG.

Just in case if you don’t know the difference between JPG and PNG

JPG – they are formats acquiring lesser spaces. Most probably selfie from your phone would be saved in the JPG format.

PNG – it is a heavier format and brings out crisper details of the artwork/design. Most likely the logos are saved on PNGs

Now, choosing which one to go!

Here’s the tip – Always make your design downloaded on both PNG and JPG. Always Prefer PNG, especially if you’ve lot’s of Image text. But PNG being heavier, so upload JPG of the same if crossed 2mb mark. Or you can optimize the image using TinyPNG.


Best YouTube thumbnail design Ideas | Step-by-Step process

A 10-step process making the best thumbnail for your next YouTube video. Without any further adieu, let’s see the process.


Step 1 – Preparing the Background

For ANY custom YouTube thumbnail, one thing is permanent – BACKGROUND

This Background would work like your template. Yes, make it once, and use it lifelong.

Few things to remember when designing a Background!

Rule 1 Prefer Gradients over Plain Boring Color because:

  • Gradients look more pleasant to the eye than plain colors. 
  • Gradients also add contrast in the whole design. On the other hand, plain color would bring no contrast as everywhere it is same. Plain, No new, Boring. Hence Gradients are the best choice.

I’ve made a whole blog post on dealing with how to make Get YT thumbnail latest gradients for FREE.

Rule 2 Have a bright background color scheme.

People are attracted and emotional towards brighter colors.

My advice Red in the thumbnail is used way too many times. And People Hate White in the background. Hence, refrain from using Red or White.

My Tip Make the colors as contrasting as you can.

But I SUCK in choosing the colors! HELP ME


My advice – Choose complementary colors in the color wheel i.e., two colors “opposite” to each other and play around with the shades. You’ll definitely match up one color.😀

Color wheel. It is used in deciding colors for custom youtube thumbnail background

(Image source – Pinterest)

Pro advice – Still sucks! Go with the lighter shade combination. E.g., Blue + Yellow, Grey + Blue or Purple + Blue! (I LOVE blue)


Step 2 – Adding your face image

I’ve discussed earlier why adding face important.

Now what faces do YouTubers make on the thumbnail… examples:

Smiling Face

Matching the vide. E.g., In vlogs, you must produce the energetic and happening vibe from your thumbnail; Traveling itself sets the vibe, so the same should be expected from the thumbnail.

custom youtube thumbnail of technical guruji, showing a smile

(In the image: Gaurav Chaudhary, vlogger and tech freak)

Energetic face

It surprises up your audience. Signifying they can expect real value from the video.  

Neil custom thumbnail for youtube video,  showing energy

Shocking reaction

To show totally unexpected thing happened. Also, shows disgust. Best when you’re making a roast video.

shocking face reaction by Alex in his custom youtube thumbnail

(In the image: Alex Costa, fashion blogger)

Angry reaction

Bhuvan Bam, a millionaire YouTuber. His thumbnails are live examples that without doing much color toning or adding text. Still, you can rock with having an expressive face.

He always puts up vivid emotional faces which easily grabs the attention.

angry reaction by  bhuvan bam in his custom youtube thumbnail

Making eye contact

  • Looking straight into the viewer’s eye. This draws attention. Suppose you are on a metro and someone stares you, You’ll drag your attention towards him. Similar theory works here.
  • More attention your custom YouTube thumbnail draws, more the clicks it gets. Better the growth your channel will get.
  • When you straight up, your eyes build an emotional connection with your viewer. It gets more coercion on the viewer to click on the thumbnail. This ultimately drives larger traffic.


Step 3 – Do your competitor research

Yes.. I’m serious here!

I know you do tag research to get maximum benefits, then why leaving the hell the thumbnail?

You can generate tons of good YouTube thumbnail ideas from doing a competitor thumbnail research.

Note these two points! No tool needed.

  • First, go to the incognito window. I don’t want your past searches to interfere with the algorithm
  • Now, go to the Search tab and type in your targeted keyword.

Like I’ve typed “IIT lectures for Mathematics”

  • Now, go to Filter – and set by Video (so that no playlists appear in the search)
YouTube video filter option. Tick mark to video
  • Now, I simply scroll down and observe what they have done!
youtube videos search when you type IIT JEE mathermatics
youtube videos in seach when you type IIT JEE mathermatics
  • Alright, my observation – many YouTubers have used green and white color
  • So, If I HAVE TO STAND OUT, I won’t gonna use these colors! At all
  • What I would go with, BLUE & Yellow. And I love gradients.


Step 4 – Adding text to the thumbnail

Rule of thumb

  • Remember less is more. Lesser the text you add… makes the design looks cleaner. Also, it gets easier for readers to skim through.
  • Keep your text within 2 lines. Not too crowdy.  
  • Analyze your competitors. If your niche (like mine) demands a lot of text. Then don’t hesitate. Do what’s working!
  • It should be LARGE ENOUGH. Your text should be large that a reader can read out from the playlist.
Nick custom youtube thumbnails in youtube playlist

You can easily read the text even when it is shown in the playlist!

Note – When adding text: title and in-text. Title recommended in Uppercase while in-text in Lowercase.

Best fonts for YouTube thumbnail and Font Pairing

  • Montserrat, Times Now Roman, Felix, Gothic, Gotham, Futura, Helvetica, Myriad Pro, and Cambria.
  • SAY NO to Calibri, Arial, and Comic Sans font. Pathetic and looks boring.
cheat sheet of fonts that can be used for making custom youtube thumbnail
  •  For Font selection and Pairing, use this trick: your text should perfectly tell the video message. Self analyze. Look at your heading, and ask yourself “Is the my video message friendly or bold” And if the text reciprocates the same sense, answer is yes! BANG ON! You did it. 

Add your channel name

Said earlier, when video is shared on social media… it gives a thumb impression with the link you share.

So, adding the thumbnail will act increase the brand retentivity.
Also, protects your thumbnail from getting plagiarized.

Hence, Make sure that you are consistent with adding the channel name. After all, consistency will build your brand.

Note – Neil and Brian add their channel name in every YouTube thumbnail.


Step 5 – Adding outlines or Highlighter in the Text

  • Outlines makes your thumbnail pop! In designing it’s known as contrast.
  • Highlight your keyword in the title. In designing, it’s hierarchy. It eases the human eye to read the text.

Fair suggestion – Prefer either outline or Highlighter for one thumbnail… else, it would look overdone. I prefer Highlighter.

Neil always highlights its text in custom youtube thumbnails

Highlighter or Outline can be done even by using Canva. 


Step 6 – Adding outlines on your image

  • It’s a new design trend, making the image as well to pop.
  • Using this technique depends on the niche of your channel. As your thumbnail is representing your brand; hence, it should fit to the personal style and industry.
  • If you have a business or fashion related niche like SEO brand or man’s grooming channel then NEVER add a border on the image.
  • Fun-loving and animated niche can add borders on that. E.g., Shane Dawson or Markiplier.
  • I personally won’t suggest adding, make the things look non-serious. 


Step 7 – Adding a branded LOGO

If You haven’t

Then don’t worry, NOT needed.

Should I invest

Having Less than 10k subscribers, then NOT needed.

Heck, Big YouTube channels like Markiplier they also don’t have any Logo.

Better invest money on buying an audio mic. It won’t cost you more than $50.

 If I have; like No degree Learn… then:

  • Make sure your logo is clearly visible. Your logo would be the identity of your brand.
  • Your logo should be clearly visible. Don’t add colors on the template which are similar to your logo.
  • Keep your Logo in the exact one spot as it was in the previous thumbnail! I’m telling you these things, as viewers do notice it!

Gymshark, always places his logo in the top-right side of the thumbnail

Gymshark having logo in upper-right corner in custom thumbnail for youtube video


Step 8 – Adding More Images

Only add those images on the thumbnail that supports idea used in the video inside. It can be your image used during the video or the image you’ve talked about.

technical guruji youtube videos thumbnails

You noticed, Technical Guruji displays everything in the image. You can also look,

  • His face is always expressive.
  • Look at his hand position, always pointing towards the viewer. These do gab eyeballs.

I definitely recommend you checking his YouTube channel out. You’ll get more thumbnail ideas to get the creative juices flowing.


Step 9 – Grid System – Locating your text and image

I won’t go technical here. Keeping stuff easy for you 🙂

Aligning your face

  • Make your image
  • Your face should be pointing to the readers
  • Paste your image such it touches right/left corner of the thumbnail (right corner preferred).
Arpit Agarwal custom thumbnail explaining grid location

Aligning your text

  • Divide your text with standard 9 grids
  • Observe how your text looks at this
  • If looks clean, then I approve.


Step 10 – Thumbnail Mobile-Optimization

YES.. YES! Shocked? Then You must read this!

As I’ve mentioned, nearly 70% clicks come from the mobile device. You gotta optimize your design to mobile-friendly.

We’ve to make the design more pop. Sharp colors would help in gabbing the viewer’s attention.

And How!?

Adding hue and saturation

  • It improves colors in your image.
  • To add Hue, you can do this on your phone for FREE.
  • Toggle the bar up on Saturation, till it improves the contrast!
  • Fair Warning – don’t overdo it!

Adding Sharpness to the image

  • It improves further visual appearance.
  • Again Snapseed… toggle the bar up, till it improves the contrast.
  • Again, be wary when you do. Overdoing can ruin your hair and appearing scar on your face.

Now you know the best practices, it is equally important to know what NOT to do.


DON’Ts in the YouTube Thumbnail

If You dare to attempt them, you are risking yourself from even getting banned on YouTube. No kidding.

  • Avoid using any image which you’ve not used in the video

You shouldn’t be adding any image that has no correlation with the thumbnail.

  • Never add text on the right bottom corner. As that text would be hidden because video time length is displayed on it.

V.IMP – the thumbnail layout you should keep in mind.

YouTube thumbnail layout, marking areas in grey and white

White areas are those you can play around. While grey area is forbidden to use!

  • Thumbnail must respect the community guidelines.
Custom YouTube Thumbnail guidelines by YouTube Help

(img source – YouTube Help)

Tubics says if your content is shown explicit (not respecting the community guidelines) then your thumbnail won’t rank on the Google search. So, consider respecting the guidelines.

  1. NOT adding images expressing Pornography or Sexual content.
  2. You can’t add spoof such it demeans/bully the other person. This is a very genuine point. You should keep things clean, Right!
  3. You can’t add an image that creates religious hatred. Discriminate towards race/color/religion/sex.

Some more Not’s in thumbnail making

  • Don’t add childish or boring fonts. Trust me they just look pathetic! I’ve discussed this in adding a font to the text. So, moving further
  • Having Width lesser than 640 pixels. YouTube won’t allow you to use less than 640 pixels. For such, on Snapseed… transform the image to larger dimension (ideally 1280 px)
  • You cannot have image size above 2mb


Create (Free) YouTube Thumbnail Online

Well, there are tons of different options on the internet to choose from.

But most popular ones


Canva offers a variety of templates to design.

You are free to play around with the colors, fonts and shapes they offer.

Here is video from online marketing newbie.


This YouTube thumbnail maker has gained popularity these days.

The Benefit is you can convert your face image into a face sticker for YouTube thumbnail. And this thing is popular among comedy niches.

Here is the video from the creators of Picmaker, you can follow this up to know how to use the tool.



A lot we learn in this custom YouTube thumbnail guide.

We’ve seen why it is important for you to get YT thumbnail. Then I mentioned the best dimensions, resolutions, sizes for your YouTube thumbnail. We hover around the 10 steps to get the best thumbnail for YouTube. We jumped to Don’ts. It is dam important to know. Then I showed you 2 best thumbnail makers to make YouTube thumbnail online.

By having a solid thumbnail will SKYROCKET your views and helps you establishing a brand on YouTube.



What is the dimension of YouTube thumbnail in inches?

YouTube thumbnail size in inches is 4.267*2.4

Why it is important to have custom YouTube thumbnail?

Better your thumbnail looks, more eyes it would catch. More clicks it would get and views would increase. Hence would help your channel to grow. Lot more than this, I’ve made 9 answers to why You should have custom YouTube thumbnail.

What are the best thumbnail makers online?

There are tons in the market. But many are just lame or not compatible to make YouTube thumbnail. Still, to create YouTube thumbnail online, you can use Canva or Picmaker.

Where I can get my professional YouTube thumbnail?

You can drop me a mail or you can check out here. I’ve just started on Fiverr, so it gets easier for my clients to do the international payment.  

EYE Catching Custom YouTube Thumbnail in 10 STEPS
Article Name
EYE Catching Custom YouTube Thumbnail in 10 STEPS
A comprehensive guide where I shared Why YOU NEED Custom YouTube Thumbnail. Give 10 Steps to make professional YouTube Thumbnail.
Publisher Name
No degree Learn
Publisher Logo
Categories: Design

Arpit Agarwal

Arpit Agarwal is an Engineer turned SEO Copywriter. Aspires to make accurate content accessible to the readers in a digestible format. Apart from creating marketing content at No Degree Learn, Arpit helps SMBs with magnetic long-form copy, Persuasive Fb Ads, and Actionable SEO Audit. Drop your message at arpit.agarwal1897@gmail.com OR connect with him on LinkedIn.


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