Want to know the surefire way to start getting your channel to get more viewers, subscribers, and watch time? Understanding YouTube thumbnails is the key.

You must master this skill if you want to start driving traffic to your channel. Of course, you need to combine it with good content that hits viewers’ pain points and keeps them watching.

You don’t need to be a graphic design expert to master this skill.

Don’t worry, there’s no need to be an artist but these tips will put you ahead of the game!

Hell, we wouldn’t consider ourselves “Experts” at creating the cinematic type of designs. Still, we know what it takes to get many viewers to click on your video without hesitation. 

Buckle up because we will provide you with 16 quick ways to design a perfect thumbnail.

1. Make The Thumbnail BIG.

Stop making your thumbnails so fricking small! We can’t see it!

MrBeast is a professional at making eye-catching thumbnails.

Remember, most YouTube users are using their phones to watch YouTube, so you must make sure you are designing thumbnails that are easy to see.

The bigger the thumbnail is, the more apparent it will look because the colors will look more vibrant and, most importantly…

The viewers will be able to see the EMOTION you need to be displaying. Again, this is because the main factor gets the viewer to click in the first place.

Humans are emotional beings. Take advantage of it by creating big fricking thumbnails!

2. Use Simple Colors

The fewer colors you use, the more straightforward it will look. Your goal is NOT to confuse your ideal viewers.

This applies to new viewers watching your channel and your regular viewers.

Keep it simple, no need to overcomplicate it…

Keep the thumbnails to 4 colors if possible. 

There is a reason why sports teams use simple and few colors. Fewer colors will help your thumbnail pop out, just like a sports jersey.

Most importantly, using fewer colors helps establish your branding. We’ll explain further…

3. Decide What Your Branding Colors Are

When a first-time viewer sees your thumbnail and clicks the video to watch, he needs to remember what your thumbnail looked like subconsciously. If they remember what it looked like, they will likely click on more of your videos.

Branding is how your audience will remember you.

Your regular viewers should as well know what your thumbnails look like before they click. 

Don’t make your regular viewers second guess watching your video because they can’t tell if your design thumbnail is yours! Your regular viewers are your most loyal fans; you need to keep them watching your channel.

Decide on what your 1-4 colors are and implement them in EVERY thumbnail. 

The best way to do this is through the shirt you wear, thumbnail border color, background color, text color, text box color, and wherever else you could think of.

4. Add Your Logo & Branding to The Thumbnails 

This is not required, but it’s one more way to get people to recognize your thumbnail INSTANTLY.

2 ways to add branding to your thumbnails:

  • Add a logo to the corner of your thumbnail (DO NOT put the logo on the right-hand corner, the timestamp will cover it.)
  • Wear consistent shirts, button-ups, suits, jackets, shoes, etc. (whatever will help a viewer recognize who the video was created by.)

5. Make Sure The Face & Eyes Are Clearly Visible

Your goal with each thumbnail is to display high amounts of emotion (exaggerate it if you have to.)

Adding a face to the thumbnail is not required depending on the topics you cover. For example, a tech channel will most likely use fewer faces and more phones, computers, cars, cryptocurrencies, etc.

Linus Tech Tips always has some kind of facial expression present.

However, faces are hands down the best way to increase your click-through rate. 

If you plan to add your face to the thumbnail, make sure to make the whites of your eyes visible to the viewer. This helps the face look more emotional and creates more contrast.

It is straightforward to tell how someone is feeling just by looking at their eyes.

If your thumbnail is blurry and you could add some clarity, use the Remini paid tool from the app store. 

It’s a super cheap purchase, but AI technology will make a grainy image look crystal clear. It’s almost a miracle once we turn a shitty grainy photo into GOLD.

6. Use Contrasting Colors

Your colors need to contrast for it to be vibrant. Therefore, DO NOT combine colors that struggle to compliment each other.

If you look at the thumbnail you created and have a gut feeling that something is off, chances are your colors do not contrast each other. 

You will know what colors look good together and the colors that look terrible at a quick glance.

7. Make the Thumbnail Bright and Vibrant

Avoid darkness at all costs.

The image needs to be easy to see at a distance. So crank up the exposure (brightness), but not too much.

If you increase the exposure too much, the colors will lose their vibrance.

Once you get the lighting right it will be far easier to stand out on the YouTube homepage.

Because most viewers watch videos through their phones, you need to make sure every inch of the thumbnail is visible.

Increase the vibrance and saturation a tiny bit to make the colors pop out. Don’t increase them too much, though; otherwise, the image will be too orange or red.

8. Use Text If You Have to, Don’t Use It If It Doesn’t Need text.

We HIGHLY recommend you make your thumbnails titles short and sweet with 0-4 words MAX.

The more text you add to the thumbnail, the higher chance the thumbnail will not get clicked on. However, text can sometimes clutter the thumbnail up too much, which is why we recommend some channels not use it at all. 

If you are going to use text, make it big and easy to read. The titles should be STUPID EASY to read from a distance. If you can barely read the thumbnail from far away, it’s time to start getting rid of some words and simplifying the headline. 

When you don’t use text, make sure the thumbnail clearly communicates what the video is about, then make the video title below the thumbnail stupid easy, and short to read. 

Your goal is to make the titles so easy to read, to the point where a 4th grader can read them. 

9. Combine Faces & Images

If you plan to use your face throughout most of your thumbnails, combine emotion with the topics you plan to cover.

When covering current event topics, pull images from the news, then combine them with your face that displays excessive amounts of emotion.

Markiplier’s thumbnails can’t be ignored with the amount of emotion involved in his thumbnails.

Same thing with evergreen topics. However, we recommend you check out some stock images from a website like Envato or any stock image available on Google images.

Stock images are great because they have already been edited, which helps them look more vibrant. You might need to make slight adjustments, but nothing too much except maybe increasing the brightness of the photo. 

Stock images are especially great for clips channels if you have a podcast/live stream setup.

10. Take Professional Photos

The best way to make your thumbnails crispy is by using a high-quality camera and good lighting. 

Suppose you set everything up correctly to capture the highest quality photo. In that case, you will naturally make the thumbnails more vibrant, which will require minor editing on your part. Videos tend to perform better the crispier they look. 

Be classy, get some proper pictures taken.

Taking professional photos also gives you the time to batch shoot all of your video thumbnails all at once, which will help you save time and frustration down the road. 

The most significant upside to getting it done professionally is that it allows you to display more emotion which will help increase your click-through rates. 

11. Screenshot Your Videos

This is a highly effective and cost-effective alternative to taking professional photos. It’s especially great for clips channels.

To do this, open your video, find a moment where you display high amounts of emotion, pause the video, open the snip & sketch tool (for Windows users), save it to your computer, then put it through Remini.

Screenshots videos don’t look as good when compared to the images shot by the camera. However, Remini will do its magic and make the photos look much better than they were before. 

12. Don’t Trick Your Viewers

Clickbait your viewers WITHOUT misleading them

Suppose your topic is about puppies and you talk about money. In that case, there’s obviously going to be a disconnect once the viewer watches the video. 

You could have the most amazing-looking thumbnail that gets a high click-through rate. Still, when your viewer watches the video, he will be severely disappointed and click away if the video doesn’t deliver what the thumbnail promised. 

Your goal is to increase your watch time, retention, and session watch time numbers. 

The moment you click on one of his videos you can’t click away…

Creating a clickbait thumbnail that does not deliver will cause your video to perform poorly.

13. Thumbnails Should Create An Expectation & Immediately Deliver On It. 

Make sure that your videos are delivering exactly what the thumbnail promised.

If your video does not bring up what was presented within 60 seconds, expect your retention % and watch time to drop off.

14. Stay Consistent!

STOP creating too many designs and stick to ONE. Otherwise, you will be confused by whoever watches you consistently (your fans.)

Most importantly, your life becomes more difficult as you continue to change up the designs. Instead of sticking to one plan, you continue to change the format for every single video instead of committing to one template you could create and systematize.

15. Test New Thumbnail Designs

Stay consistent, but if you see the thumbnails are not performing well, change it every two months and see if anything changes. 

Once you find the right design that gets a click-through rate above 6%, stick to it!

16. **IMPORTANT** Plan Your Thumbnails Out DAYS Before Releasing The Video.

This will make your job MUCH more manageable and increase your click-through rates to unbelievable levels. 

Too many overlook the thumbnail design process because many expect the content to do all the work. However, the viewer won’t know if your content is good if they don’t click on the video. 

Make sure to sit down by yourself (or a team if you have one) and brainstorm thumbnail designs and titles. Then, put everything on a spreadsheet, pull up your editing software, and start creating early!

Get the team together and hit the drawing board.

This is a fun moment, especially if you have a creative and enthusiastic team helping you out. 

Do this once every month, and you will save time and launch your creativity and click-through rates to new levels! 

Tools That Will Transform Your Thumbnail Design Process

1. Remini

2. AI Image Enlarger

3. Snip & Sketch

4. Cloud Vision API

5. Photoshop

6. Canva

Conclusion

The moment you start treating your thumbnails as a core part of your content creation process, the sooner you will begin to see results. Thumbnail creation can be underestimated often and will lead to poor click-through rate results. 

Plan out your thumbnails and take the time to think of this core question:

‘If I had seen my own thumbnail appear on the YouTube homepage, would I click through to watch the video?’

If you can’t answer yes to that question, you should have no expectations as to whether or not some random browsing through their homepage will click through as well.

Using all the tips and tricks above and combining them into your thumbnail creation process will only be a matter of time before you start reeling in larger audiences.

The YouTube algorithm always determines how well videos are performing and how long they will keep viewers on the platform.

Thumbnails are a critical part of your overall funnel on YouTube, they sit at the top of your funnel. The core idea of this article is to help you optimize the net that catches your audiences.

Remember, the first thing that a viewer will see will always be the thumbnail.

If you’re struggling with your content creation on YouTube, we can help you turn your channel into something that can turn into your next business endeavor. It’s challenging to grow in the world of YouTube if you don’t know what you’re doing, so why not get help from those who have seen channels with more than 100,000 subscribers?

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