What size should a YouTube thumbnail be? What fonts are recommended? Is clickbait OK?
In this tutorial we are going to take a look at what goes into making YouTube thumbnails. This includes both technical aspects as well as practical things such as how to actually edit a thumbnail.
I am going to be using the free graphics editor GIMP to do all of the editing. You can download GIMP from here.
This tutorial assumes you have some basic knowledge of using GIMP. If you are totally new to the editor, please check out this GIMP basic tutorial first.
Project Files: thumbnail_project_files.zip (images, gimp project file)
Size, Position, Theory
My preferred resolution for thumbnails is 900 x 507 pixels, this is the correct aspect ratio as well. Which means that the thumbnail will display correctly on YouTube and not have any black border cut offs on the sides of the thumbnail. The size is also good for most situations where the video would be embedded on an external website.
Make sure everything in your thumbnail is visible when you zoom out, because thumbnail sizes can be both big and small. That’s why you also want your text to be somewhat large, and a lot of the time a bold font is the best option.
As for the actual thumbnail itself, it should of course be something that describes the content of your video, should match with your title, and should obviously be something that people would want to click on.
To find out what kind of thumbnails would be good for your videos, it depends on your content. For example if you make software reviews and tutorials like me, then photos may not be the best option. Personally I’m a minimalist, so I decided to figure out a simple thumbnail style. Now I just stick to that style for pretty much all of my videos untill I get tired of it, or figure out something better. I recommend taking notes of the thumbnails you find yourself clicking. Also check out some of your favorite channels and competitors to get some inspiration.
Create Your Image In GIMP
I’m going to use a generic thumbnail style that a lot of different channels use. Including some news channels and a lot of gaming channels as well. Usually these have a person or character cut out on a background scene, and then some text on top of that.
First we’re going to make a new image, 900 x 507 pixels with a transparent background.
Cut Out A Character or Person
Next we’re going to open a picture of a person or character that we can then cut out using the free select tool. For this example I am using a picture of Kim Jong-Un.
Once you’ve made the cut out, copy it by pressing CTRL-C. Then go back to the thumbnail image and to the Edit menu where you want to go down to Paste and select Paste as New Layer.
Now use the scale tool to resize the cut out layer to the proper size. Use the move tool to position it where you want it.
After this you want to create the background layer. Find a suitable background for your image, and go to File, and then Open As Layer, browse to the image and open it. I found a cool looking wavey North Korean flag on Google images that I want to use.
Depending on the size of the image, you may have to use the scale tool to resize it to fit in the thumbnail.
Then you want to also add an overlay layer to kind of spice up the image a bit, although this is not mandatory. Once again go to File, select Open As New Layer and choose the overlay image. In this case I went for a flame overlay with transparent background. I found it on Google images by searching for ”flame png”. But there are other keywords you could, for example ”flame transparent” or ”flame no background”. Just substitute the word flame for whatever you’re looking for.
You want the overlay layer to be between the Kim Jong Un cut out and the flag background.
Next we’re going to add some text to the image using the Open Sans font in Ultra Bold. The color of the text is going to be white. Once I’ve typed, configured and resized my text, I want to make an outline for the text. This can be done by right clicking in the text area and selecting Path from Text. Then make a new layer for the outline and go to the Select menu, choose ”From Path”. Go back again to the Select menu and this time choose Grow. Enter how many pixels you want to grow the selection, usually 1 or 2 pixels should be enough. Then click on OK. After this you want to fill the selection with a black color using the bucket fill tool. Then make sure the outline layer is below the original text layer. Right click the text layer and select Merge Down to combine the text and outline layers.
At this point you could be done with the image. But in some circumstances you might want to add a text box around the text to highlight it. Create a new layer for the text box, then choose the rectangle selection tool. Highlight the area around the text and use the bucket fill tool to fill it with your desired color. You can then also adjust the transparency of the text box layer if you want.
And that’s pretty much that. Now you can just go to the file menu and export your thumbnail. Here’s the result.