What is a Thumbnail & Why is it Important?

Reading Time is About 4 Minutes

What is a thumbnail? 

This is a clickable icon that represents the content of a YouTube video. They are usually on every YouTube video and play a vital role in the video’s click-through-rate and views.

Why use them?

Data from YouTube shows that 90% of top-performing videos use custom thumbnails. That is a good reason enough why it worth using them. 

Basically, most YouTube viewers use thumbnails to decide what videos to watch. This shows how significant thumbnails are. Including them, therefore, gives you a competitive edge. 

Now, although creating a custom thumbnail is not easy, this post has wrapped up a few best practices that will help you create thumbnails that stand out. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.

Thumbnail best practices

With huge text


Add graphics

Using graphics, make your videos stand out. Additionally, graphics help you viewers know what your video is all about even before they start watching. And the good news is that YouTube has no problem with attention-grabbing graphics.

A good example is when you include a Twitter logo in your thumbnail. That way, people can tell your video is about Twitter even without watching it.

Use lots of contrast

Contrast is when visual elements and colors stand out from one another. But why use lots of contrast? The answer is straightforward. High-contrast images are more conspicuous than low-contrast images.

Use consistent layout and colors

It pays off to use a consistent layout and colors. How? This is because using these two (layout and colors) consistently plays a significant role in branding and positioning

Not to mention that a consistent thumbnail helps your video stand out on the suggest video sidebar as well as the YouTube homepage.

Use a color scheme that stands out

Your choice of colors counts a lot. You use the right colors; people will have no problem noticing your thumbnails. You pick them haphazardly; you will have only yourself to blame.

Basically, try as much as possible not to use lots of the three main colors (white, black, and red) used by YouTube. Why? Because, if you do, in most cases, your thumbnails will not stand out. Instead, try using the following colors:

  • Blue
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Green
  • Pink
  • Purple

See how BULL1TRC channel thumbnails stand out for simply using lots of orange and yellow.

Add some text

Text is a great way to add some context to your thumbnail. Adding text makes it simple for people to understand your video topic without needing to read the title. A good example is when you add “before” and “after” to show how something was before and after a specific action.

Tips for adding text to your YouTube channel:


  • Use less text: Too much text not only overpower the visuals in your thumbnails but can also turn to be an eyesore. As a rule of thumb, stick to 20 characters or less.
  • Use huge text: Large text is easy to read. You may want to make your text huge enough to be legible on mobile devices. This is because thumbnails often tend to be small on mobile.
  • Text doesn’t have to be your title: The most common mistake Youtubers make is using their title as thumbnail text. That is not recommended. The best practice is using short and catchy words or phrases that summarize your video content. For example, if the title of your video is “How to make money online in 2019,” you can have a summarize text like, “Make money online.”

Check and track performance

It is hard to make the necessary changes without monitoring the performance of your thumbnails. Luckily, the new YouTube Creator Studio lets you track your thumbnail’s performance seamlessly.

The YouTube Creator Studio generates a report that you can use to track the performance of various thumbnails. This makes it easier for you to make the necessary changes after reviewing those reports.

Tip and advanced strategies

  • Try a logo: You can as well use a logo instead of a picture. Have a look at this Youtuber to learn more about using logos.
  • Try to include a face: While there is no hard rule that says you must include thumbnails with faces, adding them helps you get better CTR.
  • Plan your thumbnail before you shoot: It is very crucial to have an idea of how your thumbnail will look before you shoot your video. Planning help, you take quality pictures for your thumbnails. While you can also grab them from your video, often, it is hard to get a quality image. That is why planning is a big plus.
  • Check your thumbnail on mobile: As said above, YouTube thumbnails are very small on mobile devices. So, consider having a second look to see whether your thumbnails are legible on mobile.

Learn More

Add Video Thumbnails: How to add thumbnails to videos (and some of YouTube’s rules and regulations around thumbnail use)

How to Make a YouTube Custom Thumbnail Tutorial: A helpful tutorial that shows you how to create a thumbnail image.

20 Awesome Thumbnail Examples: A bunch of examples of attractive thumbnails (and why they work).