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social media how toDo you want to attract more viewers to your videos?

Have you thought about creating custom thumbnails?

A video thumbnail works similarly to a book cover. It sells your video to potential viewers. An attractive, eye-catching thumbnail makes people more likely to click through to your video.

In this article you’ll discover nine tips to create thumbnail images that boost video views.

create video thumbnails that boost views

Discover how to create video thumbnails that boost views.

Listen to this article:

#1: Use a Close-up of a Person’s Face

Both offline and online, we love making connections with other people. When choosing your video thumbnail, choose an image that shows a person making eye contact with the viewer. This subtle visual cue draws people in and makes them feel more connected. Once that connection is made, people will be more likely to watch the video.

video thumbnails with face closeups

Choose an image of a person making eye contact with viewers to draw their attention to your thumbnail.

#2: Choose an Image That Conveys Emotion

As humans we’re intrigued by strong emotion. A thumbnail of someone yelling or showing anger captures our attention more than an image of someone staring blankly into space.

video thumbnail with strong emotion

An image of a person showing emotion will make people want to find out more about your video.

If your video includes people, design a thumbnail that captures an emotional moment in the video.

#3: Include Simple Yet Powerful Text

Video thumbnails are small, so you don’t have a lot of room to add text. To make the most of this space, it’s important to write something that inspires users to click.

video thumbnails with text

On your video thumbnail, include text that is both informative and catchy.

In your text you need to evoke emotion, be informative and rouse a little curiosity to get viewers to click through to your video.

#4: Select an Image That Reflects the Content

Your video thumbnail needs to make sense to the viewer. For example, if the goal of your video is to inform, your thumbnail needs to show this.

video thumbnail with matching image

For your video thumbnail, choose an image that conveys what your video is about.

Don’t choose images that are nonsensical or violate the viewer’s expectations. If your thumbnail doesn’t relate to the video or seems random, you’ll erode the trust of the viewer.

#5: Pick a Bright-Colored Background

If potential viewers scroll through YouTube or another video channel, they’ll look more closely at images that capture their attention. You can use a brightly colored background to draw attention to your video.

video thumbnail with bright background

When users see bright colors in a video thumbnail, it draws their attention.

Bright colors catch the viewer’s eye, so use this to your advantage.

#6: Embed Your Logo

Your logo helps differentiate your brand from your competitors and can bring some consistency to your thumbnails and videos. The most effective way to use your logo is to place it in the bottom-left corner of your thumbnail. Don’t let it cover the entire screen because you need to leave enough space to optimize the rest of the thumbnail.

video thumbnails with logos

Using logos in your thumbnails is a great way to build a consistent brand image.

#7: Choose Complementary Colors

When you’re looking for colors that work well together, choose complementary colors. These are the colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel. If your background is yellow, for example, consider using a purple foreground.

color wheel shutterstock 228029527

Use complementary colors in your video thumbnails to create pleasing visuals. Image: Shutterstock.

Also experiment with analogous colors, which are adjacent on the color wheel. When using analogous colors, consider placing them next to each another in your video thumbnail.

As with any visual, the more attractive the color scheme, the more likely it will draw users’ attention and compel them to click on the thumbnail.

#8: Use a Consistent Style

When you’re building a brand, it’s important to have a consistent image style. So for your thumbnail image, choose a visual that makes it easy for viewers to recognize your brand and content.

video thumbnails with consistent style

Use a similar thumbnail design for all of the videos in a series to make them more identifiable to viewers.

You can create a consistent design by placing your logo in the same location, selecting similar color schemes or using the same title font in your thumbnails. It’s important to choose something that differentiates you from your competition.

#9: Design for All Screen Sizes

Because thumbnail images are tiny, you don’t have a lot of space to capture the viewer’s attention. Your thumbnail needs to look good on a variety of screen sizes, so make sure your text is readable and your image is clear even when the size is scaled down.

Create multiple thumbnails in various sizes to find the one that works best. For instance, if you browse YouTube on a smartphone, the thumbnails are about the size of a postage stamp.

video thumbnails on mobile

Part of marketing your video is knowing which devices it will most likely be viewed on. Image: Placeit.

If you know the majority of your viewers will come from mobile searches, make sure details in the thumbnail are visible on smaller screens.

Closing Thoughts

A video thumbnail gives people an initial impression of your video, and if users find it compelling, you’ll attract more viewers.

Crafting the perfect thumbnail takes a bit of extra time, but it’s time well spent. Instead of users passing over your video in favor of your competitors’ offerings, a memorable, eye-catching thumbnail will draw people in and compel them to click through to your video.

Experiment with the above tactics to see which ones resonate with your viewers, and build a more consistent brand in the process. You don’t have to implement every step; often with just a few simple tweaks, you’ll start to see an increase in eyeballs.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so make your video thumbnail count.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these tips to design video thumbnails? What are your favorite ways to optimize your thumbnails? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below.

Color wheel photo from Shutterstock.
Mobile video view image created with Placeit.
create video thumbnails that boost views

Tips for creating video thumbnails that boost views.

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  • I’m sure there’s a statistic out there that talks about thumbnails increasing CTRs. A professional grade CTR makes one believe that the video is going to be of a certain quality as well, which is a definite signal for a user to click the video. Each time I’m searching for an unboxing video or a tutorial, the thumbnail makes a MASSIVE difference for me.

  • David Shiffman

    Your thumbnail is just as important as your title and description.

  • Good tips for custom video thumbnails. I have used many of the tips, yet two other thing I consider are: 1) The social media site & 2) Purpose of the video, if I plan to use it in an Ad on Facebook then I avoid the more than 20% text.

  • David Shiffman

    Troy, yes good point about Facebook and the 20% rule.

  • All great content here. Love #4. I remember watching it over a year ago – “How to tie a tie” because I didn’t know how. It’s one of the best tutorial videos I’ve seen, it built my confidence in how to tie a tie. I commented and they replied back, even though the channel owner said he seldom reply to comments. He only reply when the comments are awesome. It may seem simple, but this video has helped me and many others…just watch the view count.

  • Thanks for sharing.. Great tips.. I am also thinking there these tips can be applied to feature images for blog posts. What do you think?

    Cheers!

  • Hi David
    I like the article. Thumbnails really affect one’s interest in a video he/she is about to see… so these are all good tips. I’ve always thought that this was an obvious/easy topic to think of… I don’t know why I haven’t seen it written anywhere. Anyway, cheers on this, man! 🙂

  • David Shiffman

    These types can definitely be applied to featured images. The idea is to increase CTR with thumbnail.

  • David Shiffman

    Thanks!

  • Thumbnails are the most human part of Video SEO. Also they show the effort the person is putting and provide context. Another strategy not mentioned here is that if you have different types of content, you should differentiate them with the look of the thumbnails within your overall visual branding scheme.

  • Liz R

    I haven’t started using video thumbnails but I will. A picture is definitely worth a thousand words!

  • ArtaGene

    Custom Thumbnails are useful…and will definitely improve your watched video stats. The Secret is to relate the thumbnail to the content with your audio before doing a “Branding” loop. !
    Talk first, band later!