Sometimes, your YouTube thumbnail just doesn’t cut it. You could’ve uploaded the most interesting video on YouTube, but it might not get the views it deserves if you're relying on a simple freeze-frame to tell viewers what it's about.
Thumbnails, the small, clickable snapshots that viewers see when they search for videos on YouTube, can be just as important as a video’s title. They preview your video and entice viewers to click through:
Thumbnails can affect your search ranking on YouTube, too. Since your video’s click-through rate is one of the most important ranking factors in YouTube’s search algorithm, especially during its first hour on the platform, an eye-catching thumbnail can make a huge difference in ranking number one for a query and not ranking at all.
If your video has an ordinary or sub-par thumbnail, it won’t persuade anyone to click through. YouTube could deem the video irrelevant and won’t rank it in their search results or distribute it through the “Recommended Videos” feed.
Fortunately, pulling freeze frames from your YouTube videos isn’t the only way you can create thumbnails. There are online tools, made specifically for people who might not have a ton of design experience, that can help you craft custom thumbnails -- all for free.
Below, we’ll guide you through an easy five-step process for creating visually appealing YouTube thumbnails that will cut through the noise, boost your video’s click-through rate, and lift your rankings.
How to Make a YouTube Thumbnail
Visit one of the free online YouTube thumbnail makers featured below.
Upload a photo or choose one of the thumbnail makers’ templates.
Add text, clipart, 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, but we featured FotoJet in this guide because it’s one of the only YouTube thumbnail makers that doesn’t make you sign up for a free account before you can create a thumbnail. Their robust thumbnail maker lets you customize and download your thumbnails completely for free -- no email address necessary.
2. Upload a photo or choose one of the thumbnail makers’ templates.
YouTube will let you upload any picture from your computer as your video’s thumbnail. But if you don’t have a vivid visual on your computer or you need some inspiration, Fotojet’s got you covered. They have over 23 free templates that can serve as your thumbnail’s foundation.
3. Add text, clipart, or a background to your thumbnail.
Once you’ve picked your picture or template, you can make your thumbnail stand out even more by adding text, clipart, or a background to it.
To further clarify your video’s subject matter, consider adding your video’s title to the thumbnail. Additionally, if your photo, graphic, or text is bright, consider placing it on top of a dark background. The color contrast will make your thumbnail pop. The same logic applies to dark objects and bright backdrops.
4. Download the finished product to your computer.
After you finish polishing your thumbnail, press the “Save” button at the top of the page.
Next, title your thumbnail and save it as a JPG or PNG. Its resolution will already match YouTube’s recommended resolution -- 1280 x 720 pixels -- so you don’t have to worry about resizing it.
7 YouTube Thumbnail Makers
Along with Fotojet’s free online YouTube thumbnail maker, there are seven other thumbnail makers that can help you customize your own YouTube thumbnails. Before you create a thumbnail with these tools, though, you need to sign up for a free account on their websites.
With over 100,000 graphics, 1,000 stock photos, stickers, borders, backgrounds, text, icons, and filters, and an automatic background remover, you can create a gripping thumbnail on Picmaker in plenty of ways.
Snappa has over 500,000 stock photos, an assortment of professionally designed templates, and customizable graphics, shapes, and text to help you create a YouTube thumbnail. They also have a drag and drop functionality to help you create your own custom thumbnail template.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in November 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Oct 19, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated October 26 2020