Video Thumbnails - Creator Academy YouTube
Learn about attracting more YouTube viewers by creating visually interesting, click-compelling and properly sized thumbnails across all devices.
Thumbnails and titles act like billboards to help viewers decide to watch your videos. Well designed thumbnails and titles can attract more fans to your channel, encourage viewers to watch through your videos because they know what to expect, and make your content appealing for a broad range of advertisers.
Boost discovery with your thumbnail and title
Thumbnails and titles are usually the first thing viewers see when browsing on YouTube and an important piece of your video’s metadata. They work together as a team to build anticipation while accurately representing what’s in your video.
When viewers click into your video and stay to watch through, this lets YouTube know that the viewer is enjoying your content. However, if your thumbnails and titles don’t deliver on their promise of what’s in the video, viewers tend to leave almost immediately, which can limit your discoverability on YouTube. The longer you can keep people watching on YouTube because of your content, the more your content may get surfaced.
Changing the thumbnail and title combination can completely transform the viewer’s expectation of what a video is about. Think about how this yellow thumbnail with each title changes the perception:
- “My room color” - perhaps a DIY or how-to video
- “This is NOT yellow” - perhaps a science video
- “Mustard factory explosion” - perhaps a comedy video
- Give viewers a sneak peek of what's in your video without being “clickbaity.”
- Have your title and thumbnail work together to tell a compelling story.
- Ask your community for feedback on different examples of your potential thumbnail/title combinations.
See it in action
This Is Not YellowThis clever combination of a solid yellow thumbnail and a (seemingly contradictory) title raises viewer interest to watch a science video about color.
100 Years of Beauty: AgingThis thumbnail strategically hides faces, but its title teases an intriguing story about aging — the result is an urge to see the final reveal.
How to Vlog and a Few Reasons It’s So PopularThe title of this video works together with the thumbnail of the vlogger’s face and camera phone to communicate to viewers that this video is about vlogging.
“3 Things To Do With: POTATOES”This thumbnail gives a sneak peek of the three potato recipes introduced in the title. It works well because, even without text on the thumbnail, viewers have an idea of the content.
Design thumbnails that stand out and accurately represent your content
Thumbnails are usually the first thing viewers see when they find one of your videos, and 90% of the best-performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails. When you customize your thumbnails, be sure you’ve got a strong, vibrant image that looks great large and small, and conveys key information about your video.
You can apply the “rule of thirds” to compose interesting and dynamic images, then overlay with your branding and/or descriptive text. If you add text, make sure to use a font that's easy to read onscreen. Also, think about how you can be eye-catching and age-appropriate for your audience.
It’s a good idea to think about your thumbnail even before you shoot your video so that you’ve got several options when you upload. Remember, thumbnails show up in different sizes across YouTube and external sites that embed YouTube videos, so check that your thumbnail looks good on mobile and desktop.
- Think about your thumbnail BEFORE you shoot so you can capture several options.
- Make as high resolution of a thumbnail as possible but keep under the 2MB limit.
- Specs: 1280 x 720 pixels (16:9 ratio) as a .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, or .PNG.
- Zoom in and out of your thumbnail to see if it looks good small and large.
- See if your thumbnail would stand out among other thumbnails.
See it in action
How We Make Our Title and Thumbnails Pop!Three successful creators share their experiences for attracting viewers with compelling thumbnails and titles showcasing their content.
Matthew Santoro Reveals His Top YouTube TipsIn this episode of The Creator Show, Matthew discusses how “top 10” list titles helped generate curiosity for what’s in his videos.
Mastering the rule of thirdsStephen from ReelSEO explains how to use the “rule of thirds” to frame images that draw in a viewer’s eye. Try to apply his advice in your next thumbnail.
Shooting and editing the perfect imageCaseyNeistat created a thumbnail that jumps off the page by combining the rule of thirds, bold color saturation, and close-up cropping.
Write the right catchy titles
Well-written titles can be the difference between someone watching and sharing your video, or scrolling right past it — and it’s best to create titles that accurately represent what’s in the content. You can do this by sparking curiosity with a creative title or teasing what’s in the content.
It’s important to accurately describe your video so viewers stay to watch. If viewers don’t stick around because the video didn’t match their expectations, you’ll see a drop in your audience retention, which can result in your video being less likely to be recommended on YouTube. (As a reminder, any content that violates our Community Guidelines is removed.)
- Keep titles concise (60 characters) with the most important information up front.
- Save episode numbers and branding towards the end.
- Check that your titles don’t get cut-off in suggested videos, search results, and mobile.
See it in action
“How Girls Get Ready…”This super-clickable title resonates with IISuperwomanII’s community. The viewers who are most drawn to this title will probably be girls who enjoy getting ready to go out — or the people who wait for them to get ready.
Unboxing my Silver Play ButtonThis playful thumbnail captures the excitement of a creator who is recognized for getting to 100,000 subscribers as she receives a shimmering Silver Creator Award.
17-Year-Old Killed In Venezuela ProtestsEven though this video has footage of a violent protest, the thumbnail avoids imagery that may turn off viewers. The title provides proper context that this is a news report of a fatal incident.
Place episode-subject information at the beginningThis is a good example of titles for a series. It puts the most important information first and includes the show name and episode number toward the end.
Avoid using misleading, clickbaity, or sensational thumbnails and titles
Misleading or clickbaity refers to thumbnails and titles that misrepresent the content of your video. Sensationalized refers to outrageous, offensive, or gross thumbnails and titles. This sort of stuff can turn away viewers and hurt your chances of being recommended to new viewers.
If you want to grow a loyal, sustained audience on YouTube, your goal is to get viewers interested in your video, while avoiding misleading, clickbaity, or sensational thumbnails and titles.
If your video has these things and doesn’t cross the line (see Community Guidelines), it still can live on YouTube. However, the video may be less likely to be recommended to new audiences, and it may rank lower in recommendations and other areas of YouTube.
Here are some attributes that can impact video recommendations to new viewers:
- Deceiving or misleading: Misrepresents the content of the video.
- Shocking: Includes offensive or outrageous language or imagery.
- Disgusting: Contains gross or repulsive imagery.
- Gratuitous violence: Unnecessarily promotes violence or abuse.
- Indecent: Implies sexually suggestive or lewd conduct.
- Loud: Uses ALL CAPS or !!!!! to overemphasize titles.
To maximize your potential reach, create thumbnails and titles that are appropriate for a wide audience. One simple rule is to always deliver what you promise, and avoid inserting words, symbols, or graphics that could deceive or turn away potential viewers.
Examples Explanation THESE FOODS WILL KILL YOU! YOU WON’T BELIEVE!!!!
This is clickbaity because it tries to lure viewers with extreme exaggeration. The dead body in the thumbnail creates shock value, and the title seems to make deceptive claims.
A better approach would be to use a thumbnail and title that illustrate the video content in a more positive and audience-friendly way.
WATCH ME BREAK MY OWN ARM!! #OUCH
This is violent and repulsive. The thumbnail may catch some viewers’ attention, but it’s also likely to turn away others. The title plays up the violence for dramatic effect.
If a video happens to contain violent imagery, such as an accidental injury, consider how the thumbnail and title can represent the content without being distasteful.
Super Hero POOP PRANK on Princess w/ Super Friends
This is gross and offensive. By referencing a superhero, the thumbnail and title target a young audience, but the content seems intended for mature viewers.
Even for prank videos, carefully consider how the combination of thumbnail and title will look to potential viewers and whether it may be inappropriate.
Things to avoid
- Excessive violence (even if a parody)
- Images unsafe for all audiences
- Overly racy or titillating content
- EXCESSIVE CAPS AND SYMBOLS!!!
- Deception or wild exaggeration
- Inappropriate or vulgar language
Craft advertiser-friendly thumbnails and titles to help your monetization
Advertisers can choose to target videos that contain particular terms and keywords in their titles, descriptions, or tags, in order to reach the audiences they value. This may influence which of your content you can monetize. Learn more about advertiser-friendly content.
Advertisers can also opt-out of terms and keywords that don’t align to their brand. For example, videos that contain profane, controversial, or sexually suggestive terms (even if they are being used in a comedic, ironic, or otherwise non-offensive context) can result in some advertisers excluding your video from their campaigns. So consider the text you use in your titles.
While thumbnails should accurately represent the content and be enticing to potential viewers, you may also want to think about whether brands would be comfortable showing up alongside more mature thumbnails. Thumbnails that are shocking, overly graphic, or sexually suggestive can also cause some advertisers to exclude that content from a particular campaign.
Tips to ensure advertisers are comfortable with your metadata:
- Make accurate titles, tags, and descriptions - Most importantly, metadata should accurately describe the content of your video.
- Every word matters - Videos that contain profane, controversial, or sexually suggestive terms can result in some advertisers excluding your video from their campaigns.
- Words can be taken out of context - Advertisers will often opt out of certain words or phrases — consider how your titles, tags, and descriptions can be interpreted.
Check if your thumbnails and titles deliver on the promise
YouTube Analytics can help you determine whether your thumbnails and titles match expectations by looking at what your viewers do once they start watching the video they selected.
The Audience retention report can show you if your viewer watches through your video or immediately leaves. If you see a sudden drop in the first few seconds, this could mean that the video content wasn’t what viewers expected when they clicked into your video. Consider updating the thumbnails and/or titles when you see this pattern.
You can also look at the Traffic Sources > YouTube search report to check which keywords viewers are using to find your video. If an important keyword is missing, consider adding it to your title or description.
High audience retention means you nailed itThe relatively flat slope indicates that viewers are sticking around to watch your video. Awesome! This also suggests that your thumbnail and title were both compelling and the video content met your viewer’s expectation.
Time to revisit your thumbnail and title if you see this steep dropHmm! If you see a graph that looks similar to this, it means that viewers are dropping off at the beginning of your video, which could mean that the video content wasn’t what they expected from the promise of its thumbnail or title.
Determine which keywords viewers search forThe YouTube search report (under Traffic sources) shows you what words people use to find your videos. Are any important keywords missing from your video’s title?