How To Make a YouTube Thumbnail; 25 Thumbnail Design Tips 

 September 12, 2023

By  Matt Marsh

Learning how to make a great YouTube thumbnail and mastering thumbnail design can make the difference between a poor video, an average video, and a YouTube video that takes off and paves the way to a successful YouTube channel.

The cold, hard fact is this: the first two things a viewer sees are your video’s title and YouTube video thumbnail.

If they aren’t up to scratch, they won’t click on your video, even if the YouTube video itself is breathtaking.

That’s why you must design a YouTube thumbnail that not only accurately introduces the video topic but also grabs the attention of potential viewers and entices them to click on your video.

So we know that YouTube thumbnails are essential – but what is a good thumbnail, how do you design a YouTube thumbnail, and what are some of the best ideas you can use to boost your YouTube channel and get more views?

In this blog, Intuition Media will reveal 25 of our best YouTube thumbnail design tips that you can use to improve your video’s performance and grow your YouTube channel!

25 Thumbnail Design Tips To Maximise Your Success on YouTube

If you’re in a hurry, we understand! We’ve compiled a quick checklist of 25 excellent YouTube thumbnail design tips that will improve the performance of your next YouTube video and generate the views your YouTube video deserves.

Here are our top 25 video thumbnail design tips that you can use to get more engagement on YouTube:

  1. Use bright, vivid colours that draw the attention of viewers.
  2. Use bold designs and colours that contrast with YouTube’s dark and light modes.
  3. If you include text in your thumbnail, make sure it’s readable on both small devices and large screens.
  4. Research what other successful content creators are doing in your niche; what’s working and not working?
  5. Provide a brief and pay a professional to design your video thumbnail for ideal results.
  6. Either create contrast or create similarities between your video’s title and thumbnail; funny titles and funny thumbnails work well, whereas impactful thumbnails with minimalist titles can also succeed.
  7. Analyse thumbnails from the most popular creators on the video platform; note down similarities, differences, and common themes that work.
  8. Sometimes, simple is better; consider whether your video needs a detailed thumbnail.
  9. Maintain a consistent branding, colour scheme, or art style across your video thumbnails for maximum brand recognition and to attract recurring viewers.
  10. Design several thumbnail variations for your video and conduct A/B tests; test thumbnail A for two weeks, then test thumbnail B for two weeks before comparing the clickthrough rate (CTR) and choosing the most successful thumbnail.
  11. Avoid combining detailed scene-style thumbnails with lots of text; pick a style, stick to it, and make it the focus of your thumbnail.
  12. Using mystery and mystique can entice viewers to click on your video and provide just enough information to make people want to find out more about your video.
  13. If you plan on including your face in your video’s thumbnail, use a high-quality image with vivid emotion; don’t look bored or disengaged.
  14. Thumbnails with before-and-after sections can perform well; use this thumbnail design to create contrast and generate intrigue.
  15. Jump on trends; if a type of thumbnail performs well across an entire video platform, test trending thumbnails to see if engagement increases.
  16. Use dedicated graphic design tools to create your thumbnail; Canva, Adobe Photoshop, and GIMP to design engaging video thumbnails.
  17. Use vignette effects and border shadows to draw attention to specific parts of a thumbnail.
  18. Parodies and funny redesigns can make for incredibly engaging thumbnails – but ensure your audience understands the joke.
  19. Good thumbnails with bad titles can still perform well, although deliberately poor thumbnails with the right title can perform even better.
  20. Your video thumbnail should provide an overview of the entire video, highlight a critical moment, or generate engagement through mystery or excitement; keep it engaging.
  21. If your thumbnail revolves around text, consider using bold fonts that immediately display what your video is all about.
  22. Check how your thumbnail looks at different sizes using a tool like Thumbnail Preview.
  23. YouTube thumbnail files cannot be larger than 2 megabytes (2 MB); make sure to compress any large thumbnails using free tools such as TinyPNG.
  24. Ensure that your thumbnail has an aspect ratio of 16:9 for maximum clarity and quality.
  25. Do not place essential aspects of your thumbnail in the bottom right, as the duration timer of your YouTube video will obscure them.

If you follow all of these tips, your next thumbnail will boost your video’s performance and generate the views you deserve!

We also recommend checking out our detailed guide about how to get more views on YouTube. If you know how to create an excellent YouTube video and how to promote your video with an amazing thumbnail, you’re sure to succeed on YouTube!

Let’s look at some examples of good thumbnail designs and how to master creating unique YouTube thumbnails that impress your audience.

What Makes a YouTube Thumbnail Good?

Making the perfect YouTube thumbnail is all about three key factors. Your YouTube thumbnail needs to:

  • Highlight the critical topic or point of interest in your video
  • Be relevant to your audience
  • Look high-quality and professional on all devices

Of course, there are exceptions. However, follow these three essential tips when creating your next YouTube thumbnail. 

You will find that your video’s clickthrough rate percentage increases dramatically, and your YouTube channel will become more popular!

Let’s take a look at some fantastic thumbnails from popular YouTube content creators and discover what makes their thumbnails so engaging.

How To Make YouTube Thumbnails With No Text

‘LEMMiNO’, one of the platform’s most popular content creators, produced a video titled ‘The Enduring Mystery of Jack the Ripper‘, which turned out to be one of his most popular videos.

Unsurprisingly, his video thumbnail is a masterclass in quality, clarity, relevance, and mystery. 

The thumbnail, shown above, provides the viewer insight into the video while retaining an element of surprise and intrigue. As a result, viewers are compelled to click on the thumbnail and watch the YouTube video to learn more about the topic.

With a clean, high-quality, and recognisable art style, ‘LEMMiNO’ has developed a thumbnail style that works perfectly for his YouTube channel’s niche of mysterious documentaries.

On top of this, the title and video thumbnail work perfectly together, and there is no need to add extra text to the thumbnail. Instead, consider letting the thumbnail design speak for you.

How To Make Graphic-Style YouTube Thumbnails

‘Kurzgesagt’ is one of YouTube’s most breathtaking content creators; every video is spectacular, but their thumbnails are what truly drive people to watch their YouTube videos.

One of their most popular videos is titled ‘What Happens If You Destroy A Black Hole‘, and the thumbnail design perfectly encapsulates everything needed to create an engaging YouTube thumbnail.

From the thumbnail above, we can see that the quality is not only stunning, but the thumbnail contains a catchy tagline that entices the viewer to watch the video.

The thumbnail is colourful and likely to stand out on a viewer’s homepage or among the suggested videos column.

Additionally, the text stands out on the thumbnail and the action, colours, and exciting scene come together to create a YouTube video thumbnail that will look sensational next to videos from smaller creators or competitors.

How To Make Photo-Style YouTube Thumbnails

‘Veritasium’ is another YouTube superstar with millions of subscribers, and his thumbnails are a big contributor to his success.

His most successful video, titled ‘Why Are 96,000,000 Black Balls on This Reservoir‘, has a simple photo as a thumbnail. However, it has generated over 95,000,000 views.


Veritasium’s video thumbnail follows one of the oldest tricks in the book: let the image speak for itself.

Viewers who see the image are immediately drawn to the strange objects floating on the lake, and, as almost all viewers will have no idea what these objects are, they are drawn to the video due to their intrigue and interest in discovering what the objects are.

The thumbnail and title match perfectly; the thumbnail contains a unique and exciting image, and the title asks the viewer a straightforward question they want answered.

As a result, this YouTube thumbnail resulted in one of the most successful videos in YouTube history – and it was just a simple photo.

Remember that if your video has a unique premise or is building to a critical point, highlighting that point in your YouTube video’s thumbnail could be more than enough to generate clicks, views, and engagement.

How To Make YouTube Thumbnails With A Person As The Focus

Our final example of an amazing, high-performing YouTube thumbnail that generates millions of clicks is from ‘Mrwhosetheboss’, a content creator that has racked up billions of views.

The thumbnail for one of his most popular videos titled ‘21 HORRIFIC Tech Fails they want you to forget‘ is a brilliant example of a simple yet effective design with a person, text, and a key topic highlighted.

He uses several design ideas to generate intrigue, interest, and clicks from viewers. For example, using a before-and-after-style thumbnail is an excellent way of generating engagement and showcasing a video which talks about multiple topics or shows progression.

Another brilliant aspect of this thumbnail is that the creator has chosen recognisable objects and capitalised on popular trends (at the time).

One of the most essential parts of a thumbnail containing a person is the person’s expression. In his thumbnail, ‘Mrwhosetheboss’ has a surprised expression that makes viewers want to discover other tech products in the video.

Finally, the text is extremely bold and clear, and the colours are kept basic to highlight the content creator and two of the most popular tech products in the video.

How Should You Make a YouTube Thumbnail?

There are several pieces of software that we recommend using to create a breathtaking YouTube video thumbnail.

For beginners and people new to graphic design, we recommend using Canva to add text, icons, and flair to photo-based thumbnails. Another potential option is Adobe Express, which offers a wide range of templates and designs that are ideal for beginners.

You can also create graphic-style thumbnails from scratch, but it is typically not recommended as the overall style of the thumbnail may need to be corrected. However, this helpful Canva thumbnail creation tutorial by Primal Video shows how even a beginner can create a good-quality YouTube thumbnail.

Another option is to use a complete graphic design tool such as Adobe Photoshop or a free variant called Photopea. These tools provide many more options and, as a result, are more suitable for creating perfect thumbnails.

The final option is to work with a freelancer or professional specialising in creating high-quality, engaging YouTube thumbnails. Provide an overview of your requirements, pay the freelancer, and receive an excellent thumbnail far more likely to generate engagement and clicks than your homemade thumbnail.

Although this can be more expensive, most established YouTube content creators work with freelancers to edit videos and create custom video thumbnails due to the high cost-to-benefit ratio.

Always remember that the thumbnail is the first thing that any person sees. Paying an expert to make a sensational thumbnail will dramatically increase your chances of earning a viewer.


We hope you found this guide about how to make a YouTube thumbnail useful! 

If you’re looking for a social media management service or need high-quality content for social media, check out our affordable and convenient ‘SocialPlus‘ packages.

Alternatively, contact us today to enquire about bespoke YouTube management, graphic design, and social media management solutions.

Finally, make sure to read our other blog post about how to get more views and subscribers on YouTube. It’s the perfect follow-up read after you’ve mastered the YouTube video thumbnail creation process!

Did you find this blog post interesting? If you did, comment and tell us what topic you want us to cover next!

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