How to Create YouTube Channel Art

By Janine Warner, David LaFontaine

The specifications for the channel art on your YouTube channel have changed drastically since YouTube first allowed it to create custom designs. YouTube is prone to regular design changes, but currently, the channel art template will help you design a YouTube page that works on small, medium, and large screens so you can take advantage of the dizzying growth in platforms that viewers now use to watch videos.

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The sudden radical changes to the banner size have left many major broadcasters and brands scrambling to create images that work for the following sizes and platforms. These are the latest recommendations:

  • TV, 2560 x 1440 pixels: YouTube generally means Google TV, but this is often also the image that is cross-posted to Google+.

  • Desktop Max(imum), 2560 x 423: The horizontal resolution of this specification exceeds the display resolution of even full-HD computer monitors (which are 1920 x 1080).

    The latest and most expensive Macs and MacBook Pros have Retina displays that display up to 2880 px, so it would appear that YouTube is future-proofing itself so that its designs still look good when all the other laptop manufacturers adopt this as their standard.

  • Tablet, 1855 x 423: Again, most tablets in use won’t display this many horizontal pixels, although the current version of Apple iPad has a maximum resolution of 2048 px.

  • Desktop Minimum and Mobile, 1546 x 423: Despite YouTube saying that this is the “minimum,” smaller images in resolution are simply stretched a bit to fit this space, rather than rejected altogether.

  • Text and Logo Safe Area: The center rectangle is where you should concentrate your attention. YouTube has carefully designed its channel pages to be responsive — meaning that the images and text scale and rearrange themselves to fit the display area of the device that they are being accessed from.

    The banner image here is what photo professionals call a radical horizontal, which makes things tricky for channel owners who have vertical images, such as portraits or snapshots.

If you have one really big image that perfectly fits this design template, feel free to use it. But if you’re like us, you’ll probably need to piece a few images together to create the best design for this long, narrow space that needs to adjust to wide and narrow screen sizes.

  1. Open a YouTube template in an image-editing program.

    You see Janine’s Twitter Template open in Adobe Photoshop. You can download templates from the YouTube website in both layered PSD (Photoshop) and PNG formats.

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The PSD and TIFF formats are best for editing, but before you upload your images, you’ll need to save them as web-friendly JPEGs.

  1. Choose File→Place.

    Navigate to the photo you want to add to the composite image you’re creating for the top of your YouTube page.

    When you upload an image to YouTube, you must use a web-friendly format, such as JPG, GIF, or PNG. YouTube will not accept layered PNG or Photoshop PSD files.

  2. Click a corner handle and resize the image to fit your design.

  3. Click and drag the image on the template to place it where you want it.

  4. Add as many photos as you want to fit, resizing each as necessary.

    The images are being placed into the central stripe section of the template because that’s the only area that will be visible on most devices. Also note that Janine created a simple blue gradient background to fill in the space above and below the narrow center. The full image is displayed only on television sets equipped with Google TV, Apple TV, or a similar system.

    After you import, place, and size all your photos, they should fit nicely into a layered composite image.

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    Turn on and off the layers containing your new images (or reduce their opacity below 100%) to see how well your design is fitting into your template. You must commit all layers before you can use the Save for web dialog in the next step.

  5. Choose File→Save for Web and save your creation.

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    YouTube accepts channel art files with a 2MB maximum only. You may have to tweak the compression settings a bit to get an image that is compatible with these requirements.