The Ultimate Guide to Video Thumbnails

uberdanger

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These are guidelines aimed primarily at readability and design as far as I can tell as well as creating a good contrast between the font and the picture. What else is there except maybe no text at all? Using a certain video still is exactly what I just said: An image without the text. I don't understand what you mean by "editing a thumbnail in photoshop" if you're not hinting at the same thing I just said earlier (people like Pewdiepie photoshopping stuff together).

I know about your channel man, but you are only using the "text above image" thumbnail type as well besides the occasional image (probably taken directly from the video).

Let's say you're not doing gaming stuff, but vlogging. You could simply exchange the gaming images in the background with some real life photos and the guide would still be helpful.
That's not the point, if you're gonna make an "ultimate guide to thumbnails" you should mention that for example if you're having a viral video you shouldn't just have a normal video with text, in fact by analytics I can see that any of my videos that has over 300,000 views get better exponential growth if I use a thumbnail with no text.

Statistics matter a whole lot.
 

Cosmonaut

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That's not the point, if you're gonna make an "ultimate guide to thumbnails" you should mention that for example if you're having a viral video you shouldn't just have a normal video with text, in fact by analytics I can see that any of my videos that has over 300,000 views get better exponential growth if I use a thumbnail with no text.

Statistics matter a whole lot.
Heya, thanks for the feedback. I don't want to come off as offensive at all but I don't really know of other types of thumbnails, maybe it is a fault on my part. If you could give me some examples I'd be happy to expand the guide on other types of thumbnails and tips for making them. By the way, I've read some of your guides on here and they're really helpful, so it would be cool to get some more feedback on how to make mine better (since this is my first guide). Thanks
 

JeriKane

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OMG IS THAT TOONTOWN? :D PLEASE SAY THAT'S TOONTOWN.

Great guide, by the way. I'll definitely be looking at this when I make thumbnails, but... ToonTown...
 

Cosmonaut

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OMG IS THAT TOONTOWN? :D PLEASE SAY THAT'S TOONTOWN.

Great guide, by the way. I'll definitely be looking at this when I make thumbnails, but... ToonTown...
It is indeed ToonTown :D I miss that game so much...
 
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Future History Projects

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Welcome to my ultimate guide to making thumbnails for your videos! This guide won't tell you that you have to have some epic editing software like photoshop (although it can help), and it won't tell you how to make thumbnails for your videos to the very last detail. It will, however, tell you different steps, techniques, and pointers to make your thumbnails appealing and effective.
For the steps below I'll be making a thumbnail for a hypothetical video about a Toon Town let's play (in honor of it closing down recently, of course).

I. The Background Image
i. What Kind of Image to Use
This is the first part to making a thumbnail. Your background image is essentially what goes behind your text. You obviously want it to be relevant to the video, first of all. One thing you don't want is a background image that is too busy though. For example:
View attachment 14590
The one on the left has too much going on, and it will be very hard for someone to glance at your thumbnail and see what the text says without getting distracted by everything in the background. The picture on the right is good because it's relevant to your topic, but it isn't so busy that it takes attention away from the text you will add over it later.

ii. An Alternative
If you are completely set on a picture that is too busy and don't want to find something different, a quick fix to this would be to make the picture partially transparent. Essentially all you're doing is making the image less, I guess...intense. Here's an example:
View attachment 14593
The "before" is the same as the original - still too busy and distracting. The "after" picture is at 50% transparency, and won't take away nearly as much attention from the text as the original. The "after" example is at 50%, but it doesn't have to be that much. As long as the text is still clearly visible, it should be fine.

II. The Text
i. Basics
Your thumbnail's text (in most cases) is the most important part. It gives the viewer a brief idea of what the video will be about without them having to read through the whole title or description of your video. That being the case, you obviously want to make the text very visible and easy to read at a glance. There are some tips/conditions to make this happen:
  • Use a color that doesn't blend in with your background. Here's an example:
  • Make the font big enough for people to see, keeping in mind that it won't be a full 1280x720 when most people look at it, but instead a fair amount smaller.
  • DON'T PUT THE FULL TITLE OF YOUR VIDEO INTO THE THUMBNAIL. This is a mistake that I see quite often. The only exception to this rule is if the title of your video is something like less than 5 words long. Let's assume that the title of my ToonTown video was "Let's Play ToonTown - Part 1 - Getting Started". You don't want to have to fit that whole long title in there, because if you manage to, the text will be too small and hard to read, and generally look unprofessional. Pick out the important bits and put them in the thumbnail. The one on the left is way too cluttered, while the one on the right is a lot cleaner:

ii. Ways to Make Your Text Look Better
As you can see above, the text is visible, but can still be better. A quick fix to this problem is to outline the text (the outline doesn't necessarily have to be black, it can be any color you like. You can actually choose a color close to something in the background to make the background and text work together):
Another thing you can do is add a drop shadow behind the text, like so:
The third and final method I can show you is adding a transparent banner behind the text. All you have to do is find a solid image of whatever color you want, change the dimensions to be whatever you need to fit the text, and if needed make it transparent enough to where you can still see a bit of your background image. Here's what I mean:
The best method (or at least I think so) is to combine 2 or all 3 of these methods, depending on what looks best with your thumbnail. Here are a couple of examples:
And that essentially sums up the two main parts of a thumbnail - image and text. For additional details and things to keep in mind, keep on reading!

III. Extra Tips/Things to Keep in Mind
i. Dimensions
The dimensions for thumbnails are 16:9, the optimal size would be 1280x720 for the thumbnail to look high quality. If it doesn't fit in the 16:9 ratio, then YouTube will automatically resize your thumbnail, usually making it look bad.

ii. Logos
Many YouTube channels have certain types of logos or branding styles. If you want to use yours, by all means do. When putting it on your thumbnail, you want it to be big enough that it's visible, yet not so big that it becomes the focus of your thumbnail. Ideally it would be similar to this size (or smaller):
iii. "Blind Spots"
(Thanks to Manchildkart for pointing this part out :p) Something else you should definitely be aware of are the thumbnail blind spots. By this I mean the areas of the thumbnail that you should avoid putting anything important in, because they will be covered up by something else. Here are all of the blind spots:
1. Bottom Right A - Covered by video duration.
View attachment 14765
2. Bottom Right B - Covered by "Watch Later" button.
View attachment 14766
3. Playlist - Covered by the playlist videos.
View attachment 14768
IV. Resources
i. Paid Programs

ii. Free Programs

iii. Other Resources/Articles/Stuff
This pure beauty. Thanks!
 

VanCityVideo

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That's not the point, if you're gonna make an "ultimate guide to thumbnails" you should mention that for example if you're having a viral video you shouldn't just have a normal video with text, in fact by analytics I can see that any of my videos that has over 300,000 views get better exponential growth if I use a thumbnail with no text.

Statistics matter a whole lot.
What do you mean when you say they "get better exponential growth"? Also it seems that only one of your videos with over 300k views doesn't have text in the title. But frankly, your strategy seems to be to put irrelevant half naked chicks into the thumbnail, which I guess does work :p

Anyways, OP you're missing some additional blind spots. Check out people's signatures on this forum. There's a bar along both the top and bottom that gets slightly cut off by the player. Also the play button in the dead center. It's pretty silly how many blind spots there are actually.

While it isn't an "ultimate" guide - it is a good start in helping people put effective text on their thumbnails, so thanks for that =)
 

uberdanger

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What do you mean when you say they "get better exponential growth"? Also it seems that only one of your videos with over 300k views doesn't have text in the title. But frankly, your strategy seems to be to put irrelevant half naked chicks into the thumbnail, which I guess does work :p

Anyways, OP you're missing some additional blind spots. Check out people's signatures on this forum. There's a bar along both the top and bottom that gets slightly cut off by the player. Also the play button in the dead center. It's pretty silly how many blind spots there are actually.

While it isn't an "ultimate" guide - it is a good start in helping people put effective text on their thumbnails, so thanks for that =)
The more people click it, the better exponential growth.
The main demographic on Youtube is guys
guys have dicks
dicks like tits
so let's throw em a bunch of boobies and wait in our big pile of money
-Gigguk 2013
 
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I would say that the blind spot session was the most comprehensive explanation that I ever saw, but the center of the video should not contain elements too in case you embed your video somewhere else.
 

FlashToroGaming

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Truly an excellent guide, we all must find our own styles still, whether it be through font, a logo, organization, coloration, etc. Branding in my opinion is something you MUST keep consistent between your thumbnails which means they qall share similarities of style so it just doesn't look like one big mess.