How to Craft a Custom Thumbnail for Your YouTube Videos - dummies

How to Craft a Custom Thumbnail for Your YouTube Videos

By Janine Warner, David LaFontaine

One of the best tools you can use to customize your YouTube profile and entice casual passersby into clicking and watching your videos is using a high-quality, custom thumbnail image.

This image can make all the difference — and all too often, the freeze-frame that YouTube chooses to represent the content in your video is blurry, poorly lit, or shows a person with his or her face contorted into the least flattering expression ever.

We suggest that you take matters into your own hands by exporting a frame from your video and then taking that still image into a photo editor for further enhancement. Or you can start from scratch and create your own image that you think will best capture the essence of your video and lure viewers into clicking to watch.

You need a verified YouTube account in good standing to be trusted to upload a custom thumbnail image.

YouTube does have some technical guidelines for what kind of image you are allowed to use (besides the obvious ones written in its Community Guidelines, which ban explicit nudity, obscenity, violence, or spam):

  • The image should be less than 2MB.

  • The image should be fairly high resolution. YouTube suggests using an image that@’s 1280 x 720 px (not quite full-HD).

  • Use acceptable web formats, such as PNG, JPG, GIF, or even the venerable BMP.

After you create your custom thumbnail image, replace the thumbnail image that YouTube selected for you. This is a fairly simple process, but you may need to check the final effect a couple of times because as part of the post-upload process, YouTube automatically resizes the thumbnail image to appear in a wide variety of circumstances and resolutions, such as on a smartphone or tablet.

These thumbnails are tiny, so if you create an image with a lot of text or fine details, these are going to be blurry or completely lost when the image is shrunk to fit these spaces.

  1. Log in to your YouTube channel.

  2. Click the down arrow next to your profile photo in the upper right.

    The YouTube account management settings drop-down menu appears.

  3. Click the Video Manager link.

    A page opens, containing all the videos that you have uploaded. You can view them as a grid of thumbnails or in a list, where you can also see when they were uploaded, how many times they have been viewed, and other information.


  4. Click the Customized Thumbnail button.

    The Upload Custom Thumbnail window opens.

    If you haven’t verified your YouTube account, this button won’t appear. Find out how to verify your YouTube account.

  5. Choose the image that you want to use and then click OK.

    Your custom thumbnail image is uploaded.

  6. Click the Save Changes button.

    Your custom thumbnail image replaces the current still frame.