In a nutshell
- Great YouTube thumbnails are essential for increasing views, as they serve as the first impression and marketing tool for your video.
- The elements that make a thumbnail successful include compelling imagery, strategic use of color and text that teases the video’s content.
- Consistent thumbnail branding not only makes your channel instantly recognizable but also plays a vital role in boosting overall viewership.
If you’ve spent any time on YouTube, you’ve likely heard that a video’s thumbnail is more important than the video itself for getting people to watch. YouTube thumbnails are a lot like book covers or movie poster art. They’re designed to draw potential readers in — excite and intrigue people just enough to get them to watch their videos. They’re a very powerful tool that, unfortunately, many creators may not put enough time into or know how to optimize.
We’re here to show you why good YouTube thumbnails directly lead to more views on YouTube, as well as what makes a great thumbnail.
Great YouTube thumbnails are necessary for getting views
Oftentimes, people’s first impression of your video dictates whether they will click or scroll past it. Thumbnails are essentially a snapshot of your content and should be treated as their own piece of content. Videos have a dramatic boost in click-through rates when they’re paired with a thumbnail that can market the video well. And with about 90% of the best-performing videos on YouTube having custom thumbnails, there’s a clear correlation here. Creators who spend time tailoring their own thumbnails will see higher views than if they didn’t.
What makes a thumbnail successful?
Ultimately, a successful thumbnail is a thumbnail that leads to a high click-through rate (CTR). CTR is the amount of clicks a thumbnail receives divided by the number of impressions. An impression is when the thumbnail is seen. So, a high CTR is the main way to know that a thumbnail is doing well.
While making a great thumbnail is easier said than done, there are a few tried-and-true components that will increase your chances of creating a successful thumbnail. For more direction on thumbnails, check out our guide on creating YouTube thumbnails, covering the universal rules of great thumbnails.
Here, we will discuss the important elements of thumbnails and why they are important for getting views.
The image you use in a YouTube thumbnail serves as its hook. The bulk of your thumbnail is determined by this image. Though you can enhance the image with text and graphics, the image remains the foundation of your thumbnail. Given that viewers make split-second decisions on which videos to watch, a clear and relevant image can significantly increase the likelihood they’ll click on your video.
There are various image types you can use for your thumbnails. For instance, some YouTubers prefer simplicity and choose a screenshot from the video. penguinz0 (MoistCr1TiKaL) frequently selects stills of himself in his office without added graphics or text. On the other hand, you might edit a photo of yourself and place it over a different background. This method is prevalent in thumbnail designs. The background can be another still, graphics or a custom creation. This approach is particularly effective for case studies or Q&A sessions. However, the best choice will always depend on the type of content you make, your audience and how well you can execute your planned thumbnail.
Colors in a YouTube thumbnail aren’t just decorative; they’re strategic tools to capture attention. Bright, contrasting colors can make your thumbnail stand out, drawing potential viewers to your video. For example, vibrant reds or yellows can evoke a sense of urgency, prompting viewers to click. Color also serves to visually convey the content and tone of the video. Consider the thumbnail from The Take on the “The Girly Girl” trope, which employs the color pink. Pink is often associated with femininity or being “girly.” By using pink, they bolster the connection to their subject, reinforcing the message even before viewers click play.
Furthermore, consistent color branding enhances channel recognition. If you routinely use a specific color palette or theme, viewers can quickly identify those colors with your brand. That’s why many renowned YouTubers and brands maintain a uniform color scheme in their thumbnails: to make their content instantly recognizable.
Text and fonts
While imagery and colors in thumbnails often convey subtler messages, text is more straightforward. Typically, thumbnail text acts as a teaser to entice clicks. For instance, Marques Brownlee occasionally uses text in his thumbnails, teasing whether a product is good or bad or highlighting its price. Best practices suggest not overloading with words. Depending on your content, it might even be best to skip text altogether. After all, in certain contexts, text might just be a distraction. It’s common to see text in thumbnails for video essays, discussions and news pieces but less so in clips, compilations or IRL content.
Consistent thumbnail branding and getting views
Branding is a crucial factor in racking up YouTube views, and a lot of it starts with your thumbnail. Elements like colors, aesthetic choices, logos and fonts all contribute to building a recognizable brand, and they often make their first impression in your video’s thumbnail.
For instance, First We Feast employs warm hues like yellow, orange and red in its thumbnails. These colors not only match the channel’s food-centric theme but have also helped their popular Hot Ones series gain millions of views.
Similarly, Elena Taber uses a cohesive visual style in her thumbnails to represent her content, which focuses on travel, fashion and wellness. Elena’s thumbnails usually have a centered white title accompanied with images of outfits and locations. All of these aspects fall under her neutral/pastel color palette. She also utilizes stickers from her content such as the cropped image of her hands holding a camera.
Boiler Room is another standout for consistent branding. Every thumbnail showcases the Boiler Room logo in the upper-left corner and keeps the typeface and fonts consistent across all videos. This consistency doesn’t just look good — it also contributes to the channel’s substantial viewership, with view counts ranging from thousands to millions.
YouTube thumbnails aren’t just an aesthetic choice — they’re a powerful tool for raking in views. Perfecting your thumbnail design is crucial for standing out. Monitor metrics like click-through rate (CTR) to see how well your thumbnails are performing and where improvements can be made. Always invest as much thought into your thumbnails as you do for your videos; they’re key tools for boosting views.