If it’s a question of resolution, the ideal YouTube thumbnail size is 1280 pixels wide by 720 pixels tall, with a minimum width of 640 pixels.

When it comes to the file size, YouTube advises that thumbnails be below 2 MB.

And if it’s a question of the aspect ratio, the ideal thumbnail image should have a ratio of 16:9.

But why does a YouTube thumbnail matter so much?

YouTube is a battlefield for video marketers. You have to use every advantage you have to get people to click on your content, and this includes getting the YouTube thumbnail size right.

Why would viewers think twice about such a small image? They should just click on the video and refrain from judging a book by its cover, right?

Well, we get it, but YouTube is a battlefield for video marketing.

There are already so many distractions like ads and double ads: you have to use every advantage you have to get people to click on your content.

Getting the thumbnail size right is just one of many steps to making a good first impression with your viewers.

The Technicalities of YouTube Thumbnails

YouTube thumbnails have three mains functions:

  • To catch the attention of your viewers.
  • To give your audience a small preview of the content in the video.
  • To spike the viewer’s interest in your content and make them curious to watch it.

Beyond these three basic functions, thumbnails can also help you establish your brand identity. Research done by Wistia shows that video thumbnails can boost your email marketing campaigns by increasing the click-through rates by up to 21 percent.

Try to establish a brand identity using YouTube thumbnails. This way, your customers can easily spot your videos.

Brand Identity and YouTube Thumbnails

Consistency is key when it comes to branding.

You need to use a color and design scheme that your viewers can easily recognize. One way to establish brand identity through YouTube thumbnails is to include your company logo.

Just as there is an ideal size for YouTube thumbnails, there is also an ideal size for the text and images you use inside the thumbnail.

Several rules apply when it comes to this:

  • Make the logo too small and no one will notice it.
  • Make it too big and it will be distracting.
  • Steer clear of the bottom right corner of the screen. That’s the space YouTube uses to display the length of the video.
  • You can place your logo on the bottom left corner of the screen, but ensure it’s not taking up too much space.
  • Always keep the location of your logo consistent all through your videos.

Experiment with different fonts and image sizes until you find that sweet spot for your thumbnails.

Just as there is an ideal size for YouTube thumbnails, there is also an ideal size for the text and images you use inside the thumbnail.

It takes a lot to create a stunning video for YouTube, and the cherry on top of the cake is an equally appealing thumbnail that makes the audience want to dig into your content.

The extra effort you put in will help increase your clicks, views, and brand recognition.

Here are more policies that govern the creation of thumbnails for YouTube:

1. Why the large size?

1280×720 pixels is a pretty large image, and if you are wondering why this is so, we have an answer for you.

It is better to work with a larger image that can be scaled down, than a small image that needs to be scaled up.

The very word ‘thumbnail’ alludes to something small, which makes sense because the thumbnail image is often displayed in a smaller size.

However, the same thumbnail image also needs to look good when it is scaled up to the same size as the video player.

It is better to work with a larger image that can be scaled down, than a small image that needs to be scaled up.

2. Acceptable Thumbnail Formats

Thumbnails can only be uploaded in image formats. These include .JPG, .PNG, .BMP and .GIF formats.

3. Community Guidelines

YouTube has the right to disable any custom thumbnails if they are reported by the community.

Always keep the content on your thumbnails appropriate for your audience. YouTube community guidelines may frown upon thumbnails that showcase violence, hate speech, nudity, or other harmful content.

How to Create Better YouTube Thumbnails

Your YouTube thumbnails need to immediately pique the interest of your viewers.

It’s not just about getting the YouTube thumbnail size and resolution right; you also need to have a unique thumbnail design.

Start by answering this question:

Custom Thumbnail or Still Image?

When you upload your video, YouTube automatically takes three random still shots from different points in your video. You can choose any of these images as your thumbnail


You can create a custom YouTube thumbnail from scratch using resources such as Canva.

Let’s examine both options:

Using Still Images

It is much faster to use still shots from your video. Besides, they give an actual preview of what is in the video. When using still shots from your video, try to find one that has some action in it.

You can also take a close-up shot of the subject in the video and use that as the thumbnail.

Creating a Custom YouTube Thumbnail

Taking the time to design a thumbnail image from scratch ensures you have control over the appearance of the thumbnail.

A YouTube thumbnail needs to immediately grab the attention of the viewers. Customizing your thumbnail only works if you take the time to think about how you want the thumbnail to influence your viewers.

What does this mean?

It means you should design your thumbnail with an intention.

Video is a powerful visual medium precisely for its power to trigger emotional responses from viewers. Take advantage of this and design custom YouTube thumbnails that get a reaction from your audience.

Your thumbnail design will vary depending on the content of your YouTube channel.

Always design your YouTube thumbnail with an intention in mind.

You can do so in the following ways:

Think of it as a teaser. You are supposed to give the viewers a clue as to what is going on in the video without revealing too much.

The ideal YouTube thumbnail is much like a call-to-action, except it appears at the beginning instead of the end of the video.

Thumbnail images can compel people to click on your video, and all you have to do is make an eye-catching design.

youtube thumbnail size

Use Text Overlays

After getting the perfect image for your YouTube thumbnail, consider adding some text over it.

Too much text will make the thumbnail look cluttered and unflattering to the eye. A lot of YouTubers like to keep the thumbnail photo to one side of the screen and leave the other side for text overlays.

Catchy and colorful text on the thumbnail piques the interest of the viewers.

You can also use select keywords from the video title and include them in the thumbnail to give viewers a hint.


Optimize for All Devices

Your thumbnails should be optimized for multiple devices. Smartphones, desktop devices, and tablets – test your thumbnails to make sure they will display correctly for viewers on different devices.

Thumbnails originally got their name because they are small images, about the size of a human thumb.

These images get even smaller when viewed on a mobile device.

So the question becomes: how do you capture the attention of the viewers with such a small image?

Avoid Clutter

With YouTube thumbnails, less is more. This is a small image you are designing, so overcrowding it will only distract from your main message.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep everything clear.
  • The secret to a great YouTube thumbnail is simplicity.
  • Use minimal text and make it readable. The ideal YouTube thumbnail should have less than 5 words.
  • If you are going to include a logo in your thumbnail, steer clear of the bottom right corner of the screen. That’s the space YouTube uses to display the length of the video.

Don’t be a Catfish

Have you ever clicked on a YouTube video just to realize halfway through that the content is completely different from what you were expecting?

Nobody wants to be misled, but since the competition in video marketing is so high, brands sometimes feel the need to trick audiences into clicking on their videos.

While this might get you some views, it could hurt the image of your brand in the long term.

And if your bounce rates are too high, YouTube can stop showing your videos in the search results altogether.


It’s okay if you don’t get it right on the first try. Keeping your video quality consistently high is no easy task, but it gets easier over time.

Meanwhile, remember to always get the YouTube thumbnail size right because it counts. Practice with different fonts and colors to see what your viewers respond to the best.

And here is another golden secret; you can swap out your YouTube thumbnails whenever you want without the need to re-upload the video.

If you are not sure of your thumbnail design, keep practicing and swap out the new designs with the old while monitoring the number of clicks for each.

The other option is to outsource to specialized YouTube thumbnail designers. Outsourcing projects can be scary, but here is a guide to outsourcing video production.

Remember, the perfect YouTube thumbnail exists, and it’s not hard to find it.