Custom Thumbnails [Template Included]

When posting a video, the thumbnail is arguably the most important part of a preview. Whether the viewer has found your video through YouTube on a computer, a mobile device, a TV, or a regular search engine, the thumbnail plays a very prominent part in the preview. Most viewers will decide what video to watch based on a combination of the thumbnail and the title, but because the thumbnail is universal no matter what language or literacy level the viewer has, it’s what you should really strive to optimize.

Don’t Use the Default Thumbnails

Letting YouTube pick a random thumbnail from your video is never a good idea. The computer simply can’t choose what’s the most appealing. In fact, just choosing a frame from your video at all may not be the best solution, depending on your content.

Many successful YouTubers will decide on a consistent layout for their thumbnails, so that viewers can tell it’s them. For instance, including a logo or watermark, or using a similar color scheme or contrast every time. Here is a breakdown of Do’s and Don’ts for creating a great custom thumbnail!


  • Make the resolution thumbnails 1280×720. The higher resolution translates to an in-focus, more professional looking thumbnail. If you don’t have an image at that resolution, the minimum is 640×360. Make sure it’s not blurry!
  • Use image-enhancing software to make the thumbnail bright and high-contrast so that it’s eye-catching in a list of thumbnails.
  • Include close-ups of faces when appropriate; people are attracted to people!
  • Make sure the thumbnail matches the content of the video.
  • Check to make sure the thumbnail looks good at both small and large sizes. Many people watch YouTube from their cell phone, and also from their TV. Use a zoom-in and –out feature to check this!


  • Use imagery just because you think it will generate clicks. This definitely includes anything sexually provocative.
  • Use too much text. A quick title is okay, but leave the bulk of text for your title and description.
  • Use a blurry image, even if you think it’s compelling. Viewers will assume your entire video is blurry.
  • Use images where the foreground and background are similar shades or colors: this makes the image monochromatic, and not easy to see at small sizes. It’s unattractive!

Design Around the Overlays!

Also remember when creating the thumbnail that there is an overlay in searches but there by YouTube. Avoid putting anything important in the bottom right corner, or it will get covered!

Get Our Templates!

For an easy start to creating custom thumbnails, download the attached template! We have provided it in .psd and .png. Don’t forget to check out how it looks at different sizes! Also remember that when the video is embedded on a website, there will be a play button right in the middle of the thumbnail, but it is not included in the template because unless your videos are embedded a LOT, it’s not worth trying to work around.

YouTube Custom Thumbnail

When you upload a video, or in your Video Manager on your previously uploaded videos, the Custom Thumbnail option is under the three thumbnails that YouTube has taken shots of.

Tools You’ll Need

To select a frame from your video to turn into a custom thumbnail, if your video editor does not allow you to export just a frame as a picture file, you can always take a screenshot than edit it in whatever picture editing software you choose. I’m partial to Adobe Photoshop myself, but it’s overkill if you’re just using it for custom thumbnails. For the size of the thumbnail and what you need to make it pop, just a good screen capture tool (or ability to pull a frame from your video) and a basic photo editor that allows for drawing and text, you should do fine!