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What Makes a Good Thumbnail?

When posting on YouTube and other social media platforms, it's crucial to learn how to create thumbnails for your videos. A thumbnail is the still image that users will see on your video posts before they press play. All video players (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Vimeo, etc.) include the thumbnail feature. Players will autogenerate one for you if you don't manually upload a thumbnail. One important technical note about thumbnails is that they are a feature of the video PLAYER, and are not embedded in the video itself. Clients sometimes ask me to change the thumbnail inside the preview video - and I have to explain that they need to do that when they upload it to their own YouTube channel. So, why are thumbnails important? Your thumbnails need to grab viewers' attention and entice them to click on your video. Keep reading this week's blog for more on how to create thumbnails for YouTube and other social media videos.

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1) Use Canva to Create a JPG

Canva is our go-to when it comes to creating thumbnails. While there is a paid premium version, the free version has an extensive range of features and designs that are perfect to make thumbnails and other basic branding graphics. First, you'll head to and click "Create A Design" in the top right hand corner. Make sure to select "Custom Size." Thumbnails for horizontal videos (YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo) need to be 1920x1080 pixels, while thumbnails for vertical videos (Instagram and TikTok) need to be 1080x1920 pixels. It's important to remember that because thumbnails aren't embedded into the actual video itself, you'll need to reset the thumbnail each time you post it. Canva has a wide variety of great templates to use and also allows you to edit and/or create from scratch.

2) Include both Photos and Text

Layout is the name of the game when it comes to creating effective thumbnails for YouTube and other social media platforms. It's important to keep in mind that just because the video will be viewed full-screen, the thumbnail likely won't be. Think of when you're scrolling through YouTube: The still image for each video only occupies a very small portion of what you see. That's why it has to be both eye-catching and clear. When making a thumbnail for YouTube and other sites, include the title of the video written out in plain, easy-to-read text. It needs to be large enough to be visible, so no more than one sentence. For the visual for your thumbnail, pick a still from your video or another image that accurately represents it. After you draw people in to click on your post, you don't want to leave a bad impression by having a thumbnail and a video that are completely unrelated.

3) Be Consistent and On Brand

As with everything for your business, be sure to use your brand colors and signature style. There is a bit of wiggle room here, depending on your branding and what your business does. Just be sure that the style of the thumbnail would appeal to and is appropriate for your target audience. For example, if you're a tax firm giving fiscal tips to small business owners, you'll want your thumbnail to look nothing but polished and professional. On the other hand, if you're an artist showing some of your process or latest design, a little more personality is expected from potential viewers. Once you find a thumbnail format that works for you, you can create a template in Canva, so all you'll have to do is drag-and-drop the specifics for each new video. Having a consistent format for all of your thumbnails helps audiences recognize your brand and videos better, not to mention making things easier on you.


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