📸 How To Make A YouTube Thumbnail

Aug 16, 2019


Making Thumbnails for video posts - things to consider to help make them appealing

Making thumbnails for your youtube videos are extremely important and often times overlooked. A lot of people think you have to be a great photographer, a great editor or great graphic designer to make a great one. You don’t!  I'm neither of those things and I think my thumbnails are commanding attention - but it's taken me a while to get there. I want to bypass some of that frustration for you and show you what I've learned in making a great thumbnail.


  • Keep space open on the thumbnail where the “play” button will show. 
    • Keep your image offset to save that space.
  • Consider the background where you take the picture - a single color or simple background will help as you edit the final image later on.
  • Consider using a natural background - inside or outside. 
  • A goofy picture where you smile and possible do something with your hands can be eye catching and encourage someone to click on your video.
  • Google docs or drop box are easy options if someone (a client) is sending a picture to you to use for your thumbnail.
  • Add your video title to the screen, again, keeping in mind that you need to save space for the “play” button that will display from YouTube.
  • Consider what software you use to edit.  You can use PhotoShop, but I find Pixelmater to do what I need without a lot of extra things I don’t need and is more affordable.
  • There are file size constraints in YouTube for thumbnails.  Choose a resolution that will work - usually 16 x 9 is perfect - a standard HD size.
  • Use the crop tool to cut out what is key from the picture - and don’t worry that everything isn’t perfect.
  • Again - consider putting things offset from the middle to account for the “play” button - you don’t want it on top of the main part of the image - i.e. your face. Increase, decrease the image as needed.
  • Crop down so the image is smaller - use “image size” to bring it down from 100% to say 30%, which will still keep most of the resolution.
  • After cropping, you can blow it back up to work with it, add some effects, and still stay under the size limit for YouTube.
  • Use layers to create your image - put pieces of the image on various layers so you can adjust one thing without having to redo the entire project - similar to stacking plates of glass - you see all the pieces as one, and you can add/change/remove a plate without having to redo all the others.
  • Change colors, text, etc. on the various layers.
  • In Pixelmater - I use the polygon selector tool.  You click around and make a shape around your image. Then you can delete the excess and leave only the pieces you want.
  • Hit the curves, edges, and lines you need.  Don’t worry about being exact - there’s a tool that will help clean it up later. Don’t worry to spend a long time on this - it cleans up and looks good for what you’re doing here.
  • Use the Edit to refine the selection - its a smart tool that you click and it finds the edges of where you were working and cleans it up for you.
  • You can zoom in and clean up troublesome spots.  Once you do it a few times - it comes much easier and quicker.
  • Sometimes you have the “halo” effect.  Use the tools to remove negative space in areas to help make the picture look more natural if needed.
  • You can also remove the background if you want after you’ve selected your image by using the “invert” function.  That will select everything EXCEPT for what you want to keep.  Select the invert and then delete or change as desired.
  • Now that we are done with that layer, click Command-D to “deselect” and turn off the selection tool
  • The next thing we want to do is blur the background layer.
  • There are functions for Blur, Tile, Kaleidoscope, etc.  Use and change features to find what you like
  • One of my favorites is the “gaussian blur”, a the “motion” options.  You can also add a “halo” in to highlight a face, for example.
  • Remember, do these in layers so you can add/remove/change more easily.
  • Select paint brush/airbrush options to add color and brightness.
  • Consider the brightness - adjust up and down to see what looks best, smooth out effects, etc.
  • Clean up faces if needed to remove harsh lines (natural or created by the image! Lol) using the bandaid tool.
  • When you add the layer to add text to your screen, remember to keep the space open for the “play” button
  • Next we want to create text on top of background squares, to give the impression that the text is being written on top of some masking tape
  • Start with the text you want, and size and position it accordingly
  • Next place rectangles behind the text to act as “tape” and make the text really stand out.
  • Consider if a black and white or other effect would be good for this purpose.
  • Adjust color balance and brightness as needed for best visual effect
  • Add a graphic if you feel it enhances the message you want your thumbnail to send to a potential viewer.
  • Once ready with the image, you need to export.  You’ve been careful to keep the size down so it’s not too big, has color and draws attention.  Save the file.
  • Go to your channel.  Indicate you want to add a custom thumbnail to your video post and select the one you just created, and save the change.
  • Share the link!

If this video was helpful to you, will you please  consider subscribing to our YouTube page, and sharing this with somebody that you think could benefit from this video. We love passing on solutions that make life a little more stupid-easy.

One more thing. We have a crash course we do very regularly and it's totally free and it's all about how to build an online course. We give a whole crash course on how we do this. If that interests you at all, then you can sign up over in the right column of this blog. We would love to see you there.

All right guys, that's it for this week. We will see you on the next video.

xxx - Zion




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