The Ultimate Guide to Creating Eye-Catching Thumbnails

Creating unique graphic assets for your Earneo or YouTube videos is a great way to draw viewers in and give them an idea of what your content is about. But how do you create a great YouTube thumbnail? 

In this Ultimate Guide to Creating Eye-Catching Thumbnails, we’ll take a look at:

  • What makes a good Earneo or YouTube thumbnail
  • The importance of thumbnails for engagement on the platform
  • The software to use for creating or editing Earneo or YouTube thumbnails
  • Tips and tricks for making eye-catching thumbnails, and 
  • What to avoid when creating Youtube thumbnails.

Let’s get into it!

What is a Thumbnail?

A thumbnail is a graphic asset that you can use to represent your video on YouTube or It serves as an introduction to what viewers can expect and helps them decide if the content is worth their time.

A good thumbnail will encourage people to click on it to access your content. As it’s the first impression viewers will have of you, it’s important to make sure it’s compelling!

Thumbnails may also hint towards the video’s content, and should be a part of your channel’s branding. The best channels have designed their YouTube thumbnails so that viewers know it’s them at first glance.

While Earneo or YouTube will automatically choose a thumbnail from your video, you should create your own custom thumbnail and upload it. This way you can really design the look of your channel and hone in on your branding.

How Important are Thumbnails for Engagement ?

Thumbnails are important for engagement because they help create an emotional connection with the viewer, sparking curiosity and interest in the content. 

The more eye-catching a thumbnail is, the more likely it is to draw viewers in and get them to watch your video!

As it’s the first contact you have with your potential — or existing — audience, getting your YouTube thumbnail design right will lead to more engagement.

Importantly, though, thumbnails on YouTube serve a technical purpose. They actually help your SEO (search engine optimization), both within YouTube and on Google, as they allow your video to be ranked.

In the first hour that your content is uploaded, the click-through rate of your video is how YouTube assesses it in their search algorithm. That makes it even more important to ensure that your thumbnail makes people want to click on it.

As already mentioned, it also strengthens your branding and awareness. On a competitive platform like YouTube, branding is so important– as is standing out from the crowd.

Software to Create or Edit YouTube Thumbnails

So now that we’ve established that your videos need thumbnails, you may be wondering how to make YouTube thumbnails.

There are heaps of tools and software — both free and paid — that you can use for creating YouTube thumbnails.

Here are some of the highest recommended:


Canva is a great image creation and editing tool. They even have a YouTube thumbnail template to help you on your way, as well as plenty of free (and paid for) images, shapes, and colors.

You can use Canva for free or pay a monthly fee for Canva Pro. You can even add people to teams with the Pro version. This means that if you have multiple people working on your YouTube content, they’ll be able to access it from their own account and computer.

Anything you can dream of, you can create in Canva, and the drag-and-drop interface is extremely easy to use.


Visme is an online design tool that helps with creation of documents, presentations, videos, data visualizations, and plenty of other content that needs branding.

They have a specific thumbnail maker that’s free to use and allows you to create and customize your own thumbnails. You can then download these as either a JPEG or PNG, ready to upload to your YouTube video.

There are plenty of templates you can use and customize, or you can simply create your own from scratch. The drag-and-drop interface makes it user friendly, so anybody can jump in and start designing.


FotoJet is another free online design tool that allows you to create designs or edit images. It’s also one of the only design programs that you won’t need to create an account on.

They have a specific template for YouTube thumbnails which has a similar interface to Canva, and you can download your designs directly to your computer without needing to input an email address.

Bear in mind that the free version will only allow you to download your images as small or medium-sized files. If you want large or extra-large files, you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version.

Adobe Express

Adobe Express (previously known as Adobe Spark) is well known in the design industry and is 100% free to use, for life. You won’t need your credit card details to sign up, either — just fill in your information and get started!

While there’s no specific YouTube thumbnail template, it’s easy to create one which you can then add to with heaps of icons and royalty-free photos within Adobe Express. You can also upload your own images.

This one also has a user-friendly drag-and-drop interface, so non-designers can design with ease.


Another well-known name in the design industry, Procreate is a multiple award-winning raster graphics design editor. Ideally used on iOS, you can design directly on your iPad using your Apple Pencil.

While this one is a little trickier to get your head around if you have no prior design experience, it will allow you to add features such as your own handwriting or annotations. 

You may want to use other software to create your thumbnail, then Procreate to jazz it up!

Bear in mind that Procreate doesn’t have a free version (though it is very affordable with a one-time purchase), so this is a bit of a luxury design addition.

One huge benefit of creating your own YouTube thumbnails is the ability to then have a template to work off for the future. This maintains consistency as well as making it easier for you to jump in and design your next thumbnail quickly.

Tips and Tricks for Creating Eye-Catching YouTube Thumbnails

So let’s get into how to make eye-catching thumbnails for YouTube. There are various tips and tricks you can employ to get more clicks, all of which involve putting you — the creator — front and center!

Make Sure Your Thumbnail Dimensions Are Right

YouTube suggests that your thumbnail should be 1280 x 720 px, at an aspect ratio of 16:9, not exceeding 640 px in width.

The total file size should be under 2 MB, and you can upload files ending in .jpg, .jpeg, .bmp, .png, or .gif. Note that animated GIFs are not accepted, so still images only!

Use Close-Up Shots With Eye Contact

Eye contact actually stimulates the part of your brain responsible for processing social interactions and emotions

That’s why when you, the viewer, see a thumbnail with a close-up shot on a face making eye contact with you, it encourages you to click it!

There’s evidence that when the sclera — the white of the eye — is visible, this has an even greater effect.

Use Shots Which Clearly Show Emotions

Similarly, we like it when we can read others through the emotions they’re displaying in their facial expressions.

When you include this in your YouTube thumbnail, it encourages your reader to empathize with the emotion and drives their desire to click on it.

Make Sure Your Backgrounds Are Bright

Brighter backgrounds stand out, especially as the standard YouTube theme is white. It’s also eye-catching next to other YouTube content, helping you stand out from the crowd.

There is some evidence that backgrounds using a pinwheel or sunburst effect can be highly effective, as it draws the eye to a central focus (which should be the subject of your video).

Use Text Where Appropriate

While you don’t want to rely on text on your thumbnail (certain social media algorithms in particular don’t perform as well with heavy-text images), it can at times be a very effective way to make your thumbnail really stand out.

Try to keep text to a minimum — a maximum of three or four words — and be sure that the text is bold, large, and easy to read. Be sure to pick a good, clear font, too — avoid Comic Sans like the plague!

Get Your Branding On There

As we’ve already discussed, making sure your branding is clear is vital. It not only helps build brand recognition, but also makes your channel look consistent.

While you may not want a giant logo on the thumbnail, a bug — a watermark or small logo — works extremely well on YouTube thumbnails.

Be Consistent

Have we mentioned being consistent enough, yet? 

Consistency isn’t just to make your channel look pretty but also to help your viewers identify your content.

Think about the colors you’re using, how you layout and design your thumbnails, and what font you use, amongst others.

You may want to make a list of things that are important to your brand in order to help you design your content more efficiently.

Choose Your Colors Carefully

Complementary colors help make your content stand out, as it’s pleasing to the eye. 

Think carefully about what colors are part of your branding, and how you can use color theory and statistics to draw your viewers in.

For example: Yellow is a high-performing color, due to the makeup of the color receptors in your eyes!

Think Small Screen

Most people these days tend to watch YouTube content on their phones or handheld devices. It makes sense, then, to design for a smaller ratio.

If people can’t see your content clearly, they’re not going to want to click your thumbnail and watch it.

If you’re having to zoom in on your image to get the ideal thumbnail, make sure that it remains hi-res — there’s nothing worse than grainy images!

Make Sure Your Thumbnail Has Clear Context

What do we mean by clear context? 

Well, your thumbnail should clearly tell your viewer visually what they’re going to be getting from your video.

If you’re making a cake video, make sure you have an image of the finished cake in the thumbnail. That way your viewers can clearly see what the final result will be if they keep watching.

You should also make sure that any text on your thumbnail fits with your video title, but isn’t necessarily the same thing.

Make It Relevant To The First 15–30 Seconds Of Your Content

With so much competition out there, you’ll want to make sure that once you’ve drawn your viewers in, you give them what they want quickly. 

People love instant gratification; delay this, and your viewers are more likely to click away– affecting how the algorithm ranks your video!

Don’t Put Anything Important In The Bottom Right-Hand Corner

YouTube will often place a watch later icon or timestamp here, so avoid placing anything of note in this area.

Another important area to avoid is the top 100 px of your image, as this is often where video title overlays are placed.

Keep An Eye On The Competition

Great content creators are aware of their competition so that they know what they’re up against and how they can improve.

Use stats analyzers to keep an eye on what’s working well for you, keep experimenting until you find your winning formula, then keep at it!

What to Avoid When Creating YouTube Thumbnails

While there are a few things to avoid when creating your YouTube thumbnail, such as too much text, low-contrast images and non-complementary or bland colors, the biggest one is this: Clickbait!

It was a trend for a while for clickbait-style thumbnails to lead people into their content. 

However, since 2012 the YouTube algorithm has been based on watch time rather than number of views.

What this means is that if you mislead your audience, this will cause them to click away from your content– affecting your video ranking.

Not only that, but it breaks trust between you and your audience. 

As a content creator, your focus should be on creating a community and engaging with them. Trust is a huge factor here, and what will keep people coming back to your video, or not.

The bottom line: Clickbait — don’t do it!


When creating eye-catching YouTube thumbnails for your video content, there are plenty of factors you’ll want to consider.

If you make sure you get the basics right and then follow our tips for how to optimize your thumbnail, you’ll be off to a great start.

Getting clicks on your content can be a tricky game, especially with so much competition out there, and your first few attempts may feel like you’re climbing a mountain. 

However, don’t be disheartened! As with most things, it’s a matter of keeping going until you find the winning formula.

Remember, every channel and creator is different, and it may take some time for you to find your ideal audience. Don’t give up, keep trying, and you’ll get there.

Good luck!


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