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Create a YouTube thumbnail that gets views

Create a YouTube thumbnail that gets views

You’ve got compelling video content, now don’t fall at the last hurdle by neglecting your YouTube thumbnails. Why are these important? The best thumbnails solidify your brand identity and attract more views, which ultimately encourages YouTube to show your videos to more users.


Here’s how to create highly clickable thumbnails:


  1. Be consistent

Your thumbnails don’t have to be identical, but the most successful channels have a consistent aesthetic in terms of colour palette, lighting and font. Ideally, a video should be immediately recognisable as belonging to your brand.


  1. Humanise

This won’t apply to every content niche out there, but include a face in your thumbnail whenever possible. Most people head to YouTube to consume content that feels organic and human, so tap into that. If you can, make sure the expression of the face in the thumbnail mirrors the content, for example happy, sad, outraged and so on.


  1. Add text

Sure, your YouTube video will have a title, but it’s smart to double-down and include a shortened version of this in your thumbnail. This way you’ll also catch the attention of anyone just scrolling their home feed without actively reading titles. Keep the text short and to the point, and preferably use fewer than six words. 

Nope: ‘These are the best new restaurants that you simply have to try in the Joburg city centre’

Yup: ‘Best new Jozi restaurants’


  1. Avoid elaborate or script fonts

These are difficult enough to read on desktop, so you’re just asking for trouble when it comes to mobile or the YouTube app. Some solid options to use instead include Poppins, Montserrat, Bebas Neue and League Gothic. 


  1. Watch your dimensions

This is not the area in which to get creative. Your thumbnail should be 1280×720; has to be in JPG, GIF or PNG format; and shouldn’t be more than 2mb in size. Don’t forget to check it on various devices to make sure it’s not pixellated or misbehaving in other ways. 



This example from our Windhoek campaign with Gerard Butler ticks all the boxes:

Gerard Butler Windhoek

√ It’s consistent with Windhoek’s brand in terms of photography style and colour, plus a logo for good measure.  

√ It features a human face (and what a face, right?).

√ It includes text that’s punchy, relevant and on brand.  

√ The font has no frills and is easily legible at a glance.

√ Dimensions are on point (we’re professionals, after all…).



  • You don’t need to have a Master’s in Photoshop to create a clickable thumbnail. Canva, PicMonkey or Adobe Spark will do just fine. 
  • Pro vlogger tip: Use www.remove.bg to remove the background of an image and leave only the person’s face. You can then use your picture-editing app to plant the face on a background that’s more on-brand or more legible for text.

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