Your YouTube video’s thumbnail is like the cover of a book. That is the image the users will see when they stumble upon your video in the search results or the recommendations list. It allows other users to get a quick understanding of the video — while you shouldn’t judge the contents by it, people do anyway. That’s why the thumbnail should represent the video and look as good as possible.
To add a thumbnail to your YouTube video, choose one of the options below, and then follow the instructions.
Once your video has been processed, you can choose either from among pre-selected thumbnails or make your own. To customize a thumbnail for a video you can use built-in editing tools on your PC or Mac computer.
How to change a thumbnail on a YouTube video
When you upload a video, YouTube automatically chooses a few of the frames that make up the video and sets it as the video’s thumbnail. Sometimes YouTube fails to select a thumbnail that captures the essence of the video or is not striking enough. Therefore, you should consider switching to customized thumbnails. This way you can attract more viewers and it will help you to improve your channel stats.
Out of the two ways mentioned above, either select one of YouTube’s suggested thumbnails or upload one from a computer or smartphone. You will need YouTube Studio, whether you decide to do it with your computer or your smartphone. Here’s how to do it.
Adding thumbnails on YouTube videos on computer
The desktop version of the site has built-in studio features. Meanwhile, on smartphones, you will have to install a separate app. You can install the YouTube Studios app for both Android and iOS operating systems.
1. Choose from auto-generated thumbnails
You can choose a video thumbnail when you initially upload the video, or later when the video has been processed. You can also change it after it is published. Besides, this method is the same on all major operating systems.
Follow these steps so you can set or change the thumbnail on your computer:
1. Go to the YouTube website, and click the YouTube sign.
2. From the YouTube homepage, click your profile image at the top right of the screen and choose ‘YouTube Studio.’
3. In the left pane, click ‘Videos.’
4. Move your cursor over the video you want to edit and click the pen icon that appears.
5. On the Basic Details page, by default you will see three animated thumbnails. Each of which contains some part of your video. Choose the one you want to use and then click ‘Save’ in the top-right.
2. Customizing a thumbnail
If none of the auto-generated thumbnails captures the essence of your video, you can create your own, but YouTube doesn’t have any tool for doing this. One of the easiest ways to customise a thumbnail is to use screenshot tools on Mac or Windows, like the Snipping tool.
Here’s how you can do it on a PC or a Mac.
1. Open the video on your computer on any media player.
2. Pause the video at the point that you want to create the thumbnail.
3. Start the Snipping Tool from the Start menu on Windows, or press Command + Shift + 4 on a Mac to enter screenshot mode. Set Snipping Tool to take a ‘Rectangular Snip.’
4. Make sure to capture as close to exactly the video window as possible.
5. The screenshot will appear in the Snipping Tool. Save it by clicking ‘File‘ and then click ‘Save As.’
6. Go back to the video on YouTube and click ‘Custom thumbnail.’
7. Choose the file, you just saved, in the ‘Thumbnail’ section, click the ‘Upload thumbnail’ option.
8. Once YouTube Studio uploads the image, click the “Save” button.
Many creators also use programs like Adobe Photoshop or websites like Canva to design their custom thumbnails. If you want a thumbnail that is not just a frame from your video, consider designing your own.
Ideally, your custom image should have a 16:9 ratio to fit the dimensions of the thumbnail in search results and previews. The optimal resolution is 1280×720 pixels, though you can make your custom thumbnail smaller. Keep in mind that it must be at least 640 pixels wide, so the minimum resolution allowed is 640×360 pixels.
Adding thumbnails on YouTube videos on a smartphone
To set or change the thumbnail on mobile phones you first need to download and install both the Youtube and YouTube Studio app. iOS users can download it from iTunes, while Android users can download it from Google Play.
1. Open the YouTube app. Tap ‘Get Started’.
2. Log in to your YouTube account.
3. Tap the three horizontal lines ‘Menu’ icon.
4. Select the ‘Videos’ tab from the dropdown menu.
5. Then, browse the list and choose the video you wish to set.
6. Tap on the ‘Pencil’ icon to go to the app’s edit mode.
7. Again, tap on the ‘Pencil’ icon to edit the thumbnail.
1. Pick ‘Custom Thumbnail‘ in editing mode.
2. Browse your gallery after permitting the app. Tap the photo you want to customize.
3. After that, tap the ‘Select’ button.
4. Hit the “Save” button.
Learn more: How to fix YouTube video not playing error
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any limitations to adding thumbnails?
YouTube does a great job of moderating content and has a policy related to what you can and can’t do. For example, you can’t upload a thumbnail that doesn’t represent the content of the video.
Is it possible to update the thumbnail after I have published my video?
Be it a video that you uploaded 30 minutes or 10 years ago, you can still update the thumbnail through the same steps mentioned above.
A perfect preview image can considerably increase the amount of traffic your video receives. Therefore, switching the default option with your custom-made thumbnail is a sensible choice. Follow the steps mentioned in this article to make your video thumbnails more attractive.