You can upload the most interesting video to YouTube, but it may not get the views it deserves if you rely on a simple still image to tell viewers what it’s about.
Thumbnails, the tiny, clickable snapshots viewers see when they search for videos on YouTube, can be as important as the title of a video. They preview your video and entice viewers to click through.
Creating vibrant YouTube thumbnails can also grab users’ attention instantly. This allows you to differentiate yourself on a platform clogged with standard thumbnails that are all screaming for attention.
Thumbnails can also affect your search ranking on YouTube. Since your video’s click-through rate is one of the most important ranking factors in YouTube’s search algorithm, especially during the first hour on the platform, an eye-catching thumbnail can make a big difference in the number one ranking for a query rather than all.
If your video has a normal or below average thumbnail, it won’t entice anyone to click through it. YouTube may find the video irrelevant and not rank it in search results or post it through the Recommended Videos feed.
Fortunately, getting still images from your YouTube videos isn’t the only way to create thumbnails. There are tools online that are specifically designed for people who may not have a lot of design experience. They can help you create custom thumbnails – all for free.
Below, we’ll walk you through a simple five step process of creating visually engaging YouTube thumbnails that can help you reduce noise, increase your video’s click-through rate, and improve your rankings.
How to make a YouTube thumbnail
- Visit a free online YouTube thumbnail maker.
- Upload a photo or choose one of the thumbnail maker templates.
- Add text, clip art, or a background to your thumbnail.
- Download the finished product to your computer.
1. Visit a free online YouTube thumbnail maker.
There are seven free online YouTube thumbnail makers listed below. However, we featured FotoJet in this guide because it’s one of the few YouTube thumbnail manufacturers that you don’t sign up for a free account with before you can create a thumbnail. The robust thumbnail maker allows you to customize and download your thumbnails for free – no email address required.
The free version of this online app lets you download small and medium image files, but large and extra large are premium features. This means that you can be creative with your designs to make sure they appear as clear as possible on YouTube.
2. Upload a photo or choose one of the templates in the thumbnail maker.
YouTube allows you to upload any image from your computer as a thumbnail of your video. However, if you don’t have a vivid image on your computer or you need inspiration, Fotojet is the place for you. It has 23+ free templates that can be used as the basis for your thumbnail.
If you want to make a thumbnail in Fotojet, consider adding a talking head. Humans are naturally drawn to human faces as it is a deeply ingrained survival mechanism that we can use to quickly measure a person’s emotions and determine whether they are a threat or a friend. Research Gate also found that Instagram photos with faces were 38% more likely to get likes and 32% more likely to get comments.
3. Add text, clip art, or a background to your thumbnail.
Once you’ve chosen your image or template, you can make your thumbnail look even better by adding text, clip art, or a background.
To further clarify the subject of your video, consider adding the title of your video to the thumbnail. If your photo, graphic, or text is light, consider placing it on a dark background. The color contrast makes your thumbnail pop. The same logic applies to dark objects and light backgrounds.
4. Download the finished product to your computer.
When you’ve finished polishing the thumbnail in Fotojet, click the Save button at the top of the page to export the thumbnail.
Lastly, title your thumbnail and save it as a JPG or PNG. The resolution already corresponds to the resolution recommended by YouTube – 1280 x 720 pixels – so that you don’t have to worry about resizing it later.
8 YouTube Thumbnail Maker
In addition to Fotojet’s free online YouTube thumbnail maker, there are seven other thumbnail makers that you can use to customize your own YouTube thumbnails. However, before you can create a thumbnail using these tools, you need to sign up for a free account on their websites.
FotoJet is a leading manufacturer of YouTube thumbnails that includes templates to help you combine your video into one click-worthy image. You can get started with FotoJet as soon as you land on the homepage – no email or account setup required. Choose from a variety of stock images, font styles, and clip art elements to customize your design, then export to either JPG or PNG format.
With over 2 million images in the library, hundreds of fonts, and customizable backgrounds and colors, Canva has more than enough resources to help you unleash your creativity.
You can sign up for the free or paid version of the online design tool. Be prepared to take your own pictures, however, as Canva’s picture gallery can cost up to $ 1 per photo. Don’t let that stop you, this sturdy tool is packed with free design elements that you can use to create clickable YouTube thumbnails.
3. Adobe Spark
Adobe Spark lets you choose from thousands of photos on the web and a variety of built-in themes with their own layout, colors, and fonts to create eye-catching YouTube thumbnails. Although the free version includes a watermark on any content you download from the system, you can always upgrade to the paid version for unique thumbnails that are truly your own.
Crello lets you create beautiful thumbnails by combining a variety of designs, photos, backgrounds, text, and objects. Compared to other popular design tools, Crello turns out to be a cheaper option. Be aware, however, that resizing your thumbnails can be problematic due to some improvements that need to be made in the app.
Choose from a large selection of templates, photos, graphics, colors and fonts to create a miniature view in Visme. This app was created with video thumbnails in mind, so you don’t have to worry about size and finding the perfect layouts. Visme gives developers several templates to choose from so you can spend more time adding your finishing touches.
Fotor offers templates on specific topics that you can use to create fascinating thumbnails. It has all of the trending YouTube thumbnail features like photo frames, lomo effect, and background remover. With Fotor as the canvas for your YouTube thumbnail, the options are virtually limitless.
If your workflow can’t be completed in one session, Fotor’s premium version lets you save the version history of your thumbnails so you can pick up right where you left off.
With over 100,000 graphics, 1,000 photos, stickers, frames, backgrounds, texts, symbols and filters as well as an automatic background remover, you can create a gripping thumbnail on Picmaker. Once you’ve set branded colors, the free options aren’t that easy to work with because you can’t save any colors, logos, or fonts. However, upgrading to the starting tier comes with a number of benefits, including a branded kit, premium photos, and designs in multiple sizes.
Snappa has 500,000+ stock photos, a selection of professionally designed templates, and customizable graphics, shapes, and text that you can use to create a YouTube thumbnail. If you create more than three thumbnails per month, Snappa can affect your workflow as the free version only allows three downloads per month. If three is enough for you, you’ll be happy to know that there is a drag and drop feature that you can use to create your own custom thumbnail.
Create YouTube thumbnails with scrolling
Just like a peephole, email subject line, and even caller ID, a YouTube thumbnail gives viewers a peek behind the curtain to see what’s on the other side. It’s an important component in a search result that determines whether someone clicks on your video and watches it. Using the tips and examples in this article, you need to know how to make YouTube scrolling thumbnails that will attract new subscribers.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2018 and has been updated for completeness.