How To Make YouTube Video Thumbnails That Get Clicks

How To Make A YouTube Video Thumbnail That Gets Clicks
"Don't make thumbnails as an afterthought. They're your first shot at captivating your audience."

We all know the power of video content. From being a great medium for communicating with your followers to being the best sales pitch, it’s all been covered before. But apart from the content, audio quality, and production value, there’s one equally important component that often gets overlooked.  It’s the thumbnail. Thumbnails can make a massive difference in your content’s success because they’re the thing that first sparks intrigue. Want to know more? Read on with us.

Now, if we’re talking thumbnails, we have to talk about CTR. That stands for Click-Through Rate, and it’s a way to measure how many people are actually clicking to watch your videos after seeing your thumbnail. The better the thumbnail, the better your CTR, which means more eyes on your content. Makes sense, right? This is going to be how you measure the success of your thumbnail. Remember, the more, the better.

The Ideal Youtube Video Thumbnail

The Elements Of A Good Thumbnail

A thumbnail isn’t just a pretty picture. Oh no, it’s so much more than that. A truly effective thumbnail is a cocktail of several elements — a high-quality image, compelling text, and your branding — all wrapped up in a neat little package that grabs attention. This is what makes choosing the right thumbnail tricky. You need to create an image that intrigues, communicates what the video is about and still manages to look nice and uncluttered. It’s a challenge but it’s incredibly rewarding when it pays off.

The Psychology Behind A Good Thumbnail

And here’s the cool part — there’s a bit of psychology involved here. Catching attention while people scroll through the endless amounts of content available means you have to spark an emotional reaction to pull them in. This can mean having bright colours, bold typography, or extreme facial expressions to draw their eyes. Seeing that vivid, intriguing image with a catchy title makes them more likely to click on your video. It’s all about sparking that curiosity and getting them to take action.

extreme facial expression thumbnail

Tips for Creating Video Thumbnails That Work

Choose The Right Photo

A blurry, dull photo would drown even the best content. You need to make sure you have a good image as the base of your thumbnail. It should be clear, high-quality, and interesting. Bright colours and facial expressions help with this immensely, but make sure it lines up with the tone of your video. Think of your thumbnail as a mini movie poster. You want it to captivate people, draw them in, and make them want to know more.

Bright colours and sharp image

Getting The Text Right

Thumbnails are often laid up against a wall of other thumbnails, so any text you have has to be big and bold. You only have milliseconds to grab attention, so use just a few words to hint at what your video is about. Make it intriguing, exciting — something that makes people go, “Hmm, I want to see what this is about!”


If you’ve got a knack for making hit videos, people will be looking out for ones made by you. This is where your branding comes in. Whether it’s a certain colour scheme, a logo, or a style, be consistent and unique. This way, people start recognizing your content immediately, which boosts your CTR.

Emotional Appeal

As social creatures, we’re all hard-wired to focus on facial expressions when we see them. You can harness this to boost your CTR by tapping into the power of human emotions. Having bold facial expressions centred on your thumbnail draws the eyes immediately. Moreover, people relate to people. So, a thumbnail with a human face, especially one showing emotion, can greatly increase your clicks.

Aim For The Sweet Spot

Lastly, balance is key. We’ve discussed a lot of different areas to focus on, but if your image, text, branding, and emotional appeal are all screaming for attention, the result would be too overwhelming. Your thumbnail shouldn’t be too cluttered or too bare, and all the elements should work together to place emphasis on what you feel is most important. This can be the image taking a backseat so the text shines more, or focusing more on branding than on drawing attention. Find that sweet spot between simplicity and intrigue to create a winning thumbnail.

Utilising Data to Improve Youtube Thumbnails

Now, you’ve just started making killer thumbnails, but there’s always room for improvement.

Measure The Success Of Your Thumbnails

And now for the fun part — data! I know, I know, it might sound a bit daunting, but trust me, it’s more like your secret weapon. Remember our earlier discussion about CTR? Here’s where it comes into play. By tracking your video CTR, you’ll know how well your thumbnail is doing. If people are clicking, you’re golden. If not, well, it’s time for some tweaks.

Youtube Statistics

Trial And Error

As we’ve mentioned, finding that perfect balance for thumbnails isn’t easy. So how do you know if you’re headed in the right direction? This is where A/B testing comes in. It’s like a digital science experiment. You create two thumbnails, send each one out to different groups of viewers at the same time, and see which one performs better. This way, you get to learn what your audience prefers. Fortunately, Youtube is launching a new A/B testing tool for thumbnails soon.

5 Examples Of Awesome Youtube Thumbnails

We’ve talked at length about how to make a good thumbnail, but sometimes all you need is a good example. Here are 5 excellent thumbnails that you can use to improve your thumbnail design.

Six Benefits of Being an EU Citizen

This collage-style thumbnail puts all the elements we’ve discussed together in a way that just works. Being a video about the European Union, the EU Flag in the background conveys the video’s focus perfectly, while the bright colours stay eye-catching. The man in the centre gives that emotional touch while the bold “Live Anywhere” text gives a sneak peek into the video’s content. You know exactly what it’s about just at a glance.

Showreel 2022

What better preview is there for a showreel than a glimpse at what’s to come? This thumbnail takes some of the best frames of each featured clip and puts them together, showcasing the diversity and style in all the videos. It’s dynamic, it’s intriguing, and it makes you want to click and see more.

How to Write a Short Film

Movies and short films are all about drama and emotion, and this thumbnail shows that perfectly. The image zooms in on a man’s troubled expression, with the high definition of the photo amplifying the detail of the photo. This strong emotional pull commands attention, while the overlaid text conveys what the video is about. Simple, yet so effective.

Why Insane Singapore Changi Airport Is Best In The World

Nothing like a drastic before and after to for a thumbnail to really grab your attention. The stark contrast between the grey photo of Changi Tower and the vibrant image of the waterfall in Jewel Changi enhances the impressive feeling that the latter gives. The brightness and major difference spark curiosity about just how it changed, and you’re left wondering what the rest of Jewel Changi looks like. And that is what drives you to click.

Acura TLX – ‘Geek + Chic’

When it comes to cars, there’s the technologically fascinating side and the more fashionable side for you to show off. Acura TLX gives you the best of both worlds, and the thumbnail tells you that at a glance. With images of gears and sleek metal placed side by side with their stunning car, it tells you both sides of what makes Acura TLX so great. The text works to bring them together, with each word laid over one photo to form a single phrase. It catches your eye and tells you just what it’s about in a subtle yet effective way.

Final Thoughts

A great video is nothing without a great thumbnail. You need to draw enough attention and intrigue for viewers to click on your video to ever get a chance to impress them. For this, you’ll need to balance the design elements with the emotional appeal, and you’ll need to try and try again to get it right. It’s a constant process of improvement, but once you see the results, you won’t have any regrets.