How Big is a YouTube Thumbnail?

YouTube pulls in nearly two billion users per month. That is two billion sets of eyes out there for the taking—or rather, to attract to your video. How do you do that though? How do you get those users interested in your video enough so that they actually click on it? It all starts with the thumbnail…Just like when people are looking to purchase a book, they are going to judge said book, at least in part, by its cover. There really is not difference here. Your thumbnail needs to be attention grabbing. It needs to be visually exciting. And it also needs to be the right size. Which brings us to the question: How big is a YouTube thumbnail


how big is a youtube thumbnail


Size does matter—when it comes to your video thumbnail it does anyway. Ensuring the dimensions are where they need to be, and consequently the pixels on point is going to help your YouTube thumbnail put its best foot forward in the hopes of ultimately being opened. 

Of course, it’s not solely about the size. There are numerous elements that go into creating that optimal thumbnail such that you can use to promote your YouTube channel, your business, your cause, you name it. In this article, beyond just the dimensions, we will also look at a few of the key components you should be aware of when it comes to developing a killer YouTube thumbnail. 


So How Big is a YouTube Thumbnail: Fast Facts 


Ideally the dimension you’re shooting for as far as your thumbnail goes is 1280 x 720 pixels. This is actually somewhat large and so it usually won’t display as such. The key though—and why this is the optimal size—is so that when it does show up in various external sites it will maintain a higher quality look. Otherwise, use something with a lower resolution and it could very well appear blurry depending on the context. 


how big is a youtube thumbnail


YouTube recommends a minimum width of 640 pixels wide. If you note, those submitted images that are smaller tend to be quite fuzzy and blurry overall. Again, this is why the ideal thumbnail size falls in that sweet spot of 1280 x 720. 

The Aspect Ratio: What to Consider

Aspect ratio isn’t necessarily something you have to be overly worried about if you stick with that 1280 x 720 size. This is because if the image size is 1280 x 720 then it already has an aspect ratio of 16:9—the ideal ratio for which you are aiming. 16:9 (the ratio between image width and height) fills the entire box perfectly, and so you preclude the need for black bars in the thumbnail which only make it less attractive and less professional looking. 

How About the Maximum File Size?

YouTube indicates that the maximum file size that you can upload as far as thumbnail images is 2MB. If you do try and use anything larger than this, the file will be rejected. 


how big is a youtube thumbnail


Now that we’ve looked into the size question, let’s look a bit more closely at how to get that perfect YouTube thumbnail. Remember, this is your first impression, this is that which gives the user a glimpse at what they can expect from your content. Also, you might want to keep in mind that thumbnail branding—or creating a consistent look and feel across all relevant thumbnails so that viewers instantly recognize it as your content—for many has meant the difference between lackluster performance and a huge boost in subscribers. 

How do you go about making those thumbnails pop and thus getting more clicks…


YouTube Thumbnails Need to Be Visually Stunning

We’ve already established what size your thumbnail needs to be in order for the image to maintain high quality and sharpness regardless of channel. The image itself is also incredibly important here. People are naturally drawn to exciting and interesting visuals. If your thumbnail suggests the same-old same-old, if it is merely meh, then chances are pretty good they will scroll on by. 

And make sure that when choosing your thumbnail image, you make it meaningful. In other words, the picture should represent what your video is all about. People are basing their decision on this still frame teaser; if they consequently select your thumbnail and meet with video that has no relevance to the image, they are only going to be disappointed and may refrain from choosing your videos in the future. 


how big is a youtube thumbnail

Something to keep in mind: Use a face as your image

Why a face? Simply put, it makes the thumbnail more personable. You create this virtual connection with users, especially if the image used is intensely expressive. People love to see what evokes emotion in others—they can’t help themselves. 


Consider Adding Text to the Thumbnail 

Besides adding text to your video, adding text to you thumbnail is a great way to say something about the content contained therein. Plus, if done powerfully, it adds more dimension to this relatively small space you have in which to get people’s attention. This tells people more about what they can expect and could even offer a specific hint or teaser regarding your video. 

Not to mention, let’s say you’re uploading a series of related videos. Having titles on these lends itself to the sequential nature of a YouTube series. And again, this could also go a long way toward branding those videos. Text tends to create a uniform look and thereby helps to establish more of a branded identity. 


how big is a youtube thumbnail

What sort of font should you use for your text? 

Font is pretty important here. Too frilly or intricate and given the size of most thumbnails, it is just going to make it difficult to read. You ideally want something crisp, clean and also bold. It needs to be big enough to get noticed but not too complicated or overwhelming so as to take away from the thumbnail image. 


Think About the Color Scheme in Your Thumbnail

Again, thumbnails are a visual experience, as such you need to consider all aspects of what makes a compelling visual display. Color of course is at the top of the list. The great thing about the design/graphic programs and software available is that you can use them to alter the color of any image. Brighter, bolder colors stand out, plain and simple. Muted tones tend to blend into the background—or in this case, into a sea of thousands of similar YouTube thumbnails.  

Color also, as has been noted, can add to the branding aspect of your YouTube thumbnail collection. If especially, you have an established business for example, with colors that tend to be regularly associated to your brand, try and use these as far as your YouTube presence. It’s about getting people to associate those thumbnails with your brand on sight. 



Thumbnail images can get creative. 

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the color box on this one. Lately, we are seeing more and more color combinations that would otherwise be considered discordant. And yet, when blended together in certain thumbnails they really do pop. 


Go for a Branded Template for Thumbnails

It’s certainly something to try and add a sense of consistency throughout your thumbnails, you can take it a step further even and create a go-to template that you use for all of the relevant videos in a given series. This also makes it easier on you incidentally as you’re not having to come up with a customized version each and every time. 

You could use a more uniform background and then set your photo with a title against it. This is a pretty popular move for many YouTubers. Or you may not even opt to use an image. Depending on how identifiable as far as  your brand, it may be a matter of just keeping things simple. 

You might want to alternate colors in a thumbnail template. 

Many people/companies actually keep the same design/font/style and differentiate one video from another by switching up the background color. This could make for a visually interesting effect when your thumbnails all come up together. 


Always Make Sure You’re Being Honest with Your YouTube Thumbnails


how big is a youtube thumbnail


That is to say, clickbait is only going to anger people when they eventually get to your video and realize it has no relation to the thumbnail on which they clicked. Sadly, clickbait is pretty pervasive on the platform—across many such platforms. All it does is to erode users’ trust, and that is consequently why many are becoming highly skeptical of content in general.

This is all the more reason why you need to make sure that your thumbnail is a fair and accurate representation of what a potential viewer can expect from your video. Plus, consider the fact that if your bounce rates start going through the roof because users are disgruntled once they get to your video, YouTube can actually suspend your usage. 

Think of the thumbnail as a teaser for your video. 

Teasers can be fun, they can be exciting, and most of all they often compel people to want to check out your content. So rather than try and oversell, or worse, lie about what your video is about, create an engaging and attention grabbing teaser thumbnail. 


Test That Thumbnail Out


This is key. If your thumbnail is not getting you any traction, if very few people are clicking on it, then it is probably time to go back to the YouTube thumbnail drawing board as they say. Testing is relevant with anything you do as far as online marketing and/or more specifically as is the case here, YouTube marketing and promotion. The thumbnail, that first impression, needs to be good and what’s more, it needs to actually get results. 


how big is a youtube thumbnail


You can do an A/B test with your thumbnail image. Run them both, see which performs better, see which people tend to click on and which one gets largely ignored. After running this test, you will have a much clearer picture as far as any adjustments you might need to make to the more popular thumbnail. And that’s the other thing, don’t be afraid to change it up. Yes, you may have put a lot of thought and energy into creating your YouTube thumbnail, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be made better. You want to strive to make it the best that it can possibly be. 

Get feedback on your thumbnail first. 

Before even launching that thumbnail into the world, you may want to get some good old fashioned feedback from colleagues and friends for example. The testing itself is a sort of feedback but simply asking peoples’ opinion can help you gauge its potential for success. 


Check Out the Thumbnail Competition


how big is a youtube thumbnail


Odds are, regardless of what type of YouTube content you’re creating, there is someone out there with a competing platform/channel. Take some time to see what they are doing as far as developing thumbnails for their content. You could actually learn a lot in terms of what might be working for them, what people are gravitating toward and how theirs might have outdone yours in some way. 

Especially if your competitor has a similar audience, the information you garner from studying their thumbnails could be extremely helpful in crafting more effective and targeted ones for yourself. 

That said, you don’t want to outright copy their image. 

You of course want to stay true to your brand and your message. Even if thumbnails seem to be working quite well for the competition doesn’t mean yours should mimic theirs. Pay attention to the individual elements that may be working and still keep your uniqueness at the same time. 


Stay Away From the Lower Right Hand Corner of Your Thumbnail


how big is a youtube thumbnail


This is space that generally gets covered by a YouTube timestamp or some sort of button. So, if you do put something in that space, odds are it will be difficult for people to see it. Also, keep in mind that in many countries people tend to instinctively “read” things from left to right. That lower right hand corner will be the last place their eyes shift to. 

Try and center thumbnail content as much as possible.

You really can’t go wrong by putting the most valuable elements of your thumbnail front and center. This is the first thing that will come into a user’s line of sight and consequently, that compelling first impression will definitely be made. 


how big is a youtube thumbnail


Many might wonder why thumbnails are so important as far as videos are concerned…Hopefully you can see that the thumbnail is basically considered your content’s calling card. It gives users a hint of what is to come, and if it does its job correctly, it makes them want to click on it and thus segue to your video. 

You don’t have to spend a ton of money or time either on creating the perfect thumbnail. Just pay attention to the details: how big is a YouTube thumbnail, what colors should you use, should you include any titles or text, does it essentially connect with prospective viewers. These are all questions you most definitely want to address upon creating your next YouTube thumbnail—that is, if you want to ensure that it actually gets you the results you desire. 

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