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Eye-Catching YouTube Thumbnails : a step-by-step approach

Do you want to create an attention-grabbing YouTube Thumbnails ? Here's a precise and step-by-step approach to improve your design skills.

Jean-Marc
August 23, 2021

Do you want to create an attention-grabbing YouTube Thumbnails ? Here’s a precise and step-by-step approach to improve your design skills.

On YouTube, it’s hard to do without thumbnails on your video. Quite simply, without a nice and attention-grabbing thumbnail, there are no views!

However, designing thumbnails is a delicate art and not everyone is a professional designer. Fortunately, with a precise and progressive approach, you can already achieve a satisfying result.

Here’s how you can create engaging thumbnails for your YouTube videos, based on our own experiences with our channel.

What makes a good Thumbnail on YouTube?

Eye-Catching YouTube Thumbnails : a step-by-step approach

We all know the importance of first impressions. Well, thumbnails on YouTube are like the first visual contact. They make users decide whether to click on your video or not. But as the competition for their attention gets tougher, it’s more and more about creating visuals that are aesthetically impeccable, but also very differentiating.

Thus, there are 3 important factors that make a thumbnail with good visibility:

  • A readable and esthetically appealing picture
  • An original visual that stands out from competing videos (e.g. a color palette, a body expression or a strong message)
  • A consistent branding that users can relate to. They need to identify the channel or the subject of your video easily (if your brand is already known or if you talk about well-know references).

YouTube thumbnail best practices combine readability, originality and consistency to maximize visual impact. That’s what makes their design so complicated. However, with a little method you can do wonders.

Which tool to use to create Thumbnails ?

1# Canva

Canva is obviously the must-have of online image making solutions. You’ll find a ready-made catalog of templates to make your thumbnails to scale. You can customize your creations with your own branding elements, but also with the many fonts, banners and original objects available on Canva. The interface is easy to use and allows you to create high quality images effortlessly.

2# Adobe Photoshop & Adobe Spark

The king of photo editing, Photoshop also allows you to create visuals in detail. For example, you can cut out elements, add a nice frame, improve the quality of your images and apply various effects. If you like to do it yourself, this is the complete solution to help you do it. Its sister solution, Adobe Spark, offers even more usability and possibilities to go further in your design.

3# Fotor

A newcomer to image creation, Fotor allows you to create visuals with a professional look. Like Canva, you have many possibilities in terms of templates and fonts. The advantage of Fotor is that you have a photo editor and more in-depth collage tools to allow for high quality rendering. Nothing better to give a good first impression!

Making Good YouTube Thumbnail: a step-by-step approach

1# Assembling The Visual Elements

Eye-Catching YouTube Thumbnails : a step-by-step approach

First step, choose the elements that will compose your thumbnail. Among these elements, a uniform and colorful background will make your objects stand out. You can then add the main elements, whether it is a face or a well-chosen image.

You can screen your video to find a striking expression or the most indicative images of your subject. You should also leave room for your video title, which should take up a good ⅓ of your visual.

The thumbnail should at the same time not look too full or empty. The eye should manage to pinpoint the important elements without getting lost among the details. Hence, the importance also of a striking and well-placed headline.

2# Adding an Eye-Catching Headline

Eye-Catching YouTube Thumbnails : a step-by-step approach

Even if some very well done thumbnails can do without text, the title should generally remain the most striking element of your visual composition. Our eyes are naturally drawn to strong, relevant words in their search. The objective of a title is therefore to make a big impression. For this, you can consider :

  • Choosing a large and thick font that is easy to read. You can also vary the size of the font to enhance certain expressions. Like below, by emphasizing the name of the software or a strong adjective.
  • Keeping the wording short, but incisive. The less character your title has, the more space it will take up and the more it will be read. Also, words that evoke emotion
  • Adding effects to make the headline stand out against the background. For example, the add shadow tool is almost essential. But you can also play on the contrast.
  • You can work on colors, but never overdo it. One color is enough for the title.
Eye-Catching YouTube Thumbnails : a step-by-step approach

3# Harmonizing the Visual Composition

Eye-Catching YouTube Thumbnails : a step-by-step approach

Now that you have all the elements of your thumbnail, how do you create an overall visual composition that holds up?

Colors, first, should be limited to three main shades that you can distribute throughout your image. If these colors complement each other, even better.

Symmetry can help you structure your elements, but be aware that asymmetrical elements attract the eye of users more. The idea is to create a slight offset effect. You can turn your elements slightly diagonal to create an interesting impression of imbalance. You can also use highlighting effects, contrast, pixelization… to add an original visual touch.

This also applies to the people you put on your thumbnail. Obviously, expressive faces and body parts have more impact. But you can also use effects to make them stand out.

This step may take a little time to find the right arrangement. But it’s often the little details that make all the difference and make your thumbnail look much better.

4# Creating a Consistent Branding

Eye-Catching YouTube Thumbnails : a step-by-step approach

One of the last goals of the thumbnail is also to recall a consistent brand identity. At first, we know, it’s hard to agree on a common design (as was our case), and it’s better to test several. But as time goes on, you should be able to agree on a palette and a shared visual across all the thumbnails in your channel. Here’s what defines your branding in a thumbnail:

  • The color palette. Obviously, it’s best to match all your thumbnails with the same color scheme. At Checksub, for example, we choose the linear purple-pink color, with yellow lines and a white title. This allows us to differentiate ourselves radically.
  • The logo. This one can appear on the edges of your image, but it should not take much space. The thumbnail should only convey the subject of your video.
  • Characteristic visual elements. Keeping the same title font or visual structure can help your brand be remembered. But also think about adding variation to avoid boring the eye of your viewers.

That’s it, after all these steps, you should gradually arrive at the YouTube thumbnails of your dreams. The advantage of YouTube is that you can always change your thumbnails retroactively. You can also check the performance of your visuals through the click rate on YouTube Analytics. So feel free to experiment with different thumbnail formats all the time. There’s always one that will lead you to success!

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