Believe it or not, there’s an art to creating video thumbnails that help make viewers go “CLICK”.
As insignificant as they may seem, don’t overlook the importance of your video thumbnails or you’ll be leaving lots of viewer engagement on the table.
In this quick post, I’m going to show you 7 thumbnail creation tips to attract more views while uniquely branding your video content at the same time.
Read on to learn how you can level up your video thumbnail game to get more views and boost your online conversions.
1. Youtube Thumbnail Size
First off, always use the best resolution possible for your custom thumbnails because they usually get blown up as image placeholders within the video player before streaming begins.
For Youtube, you're limited to 2 megabyte sized thumbnails. Very often, this means you're forced to follow the Youtube thumbnail dimension recommendations of 1280 x 720 pixels.
However, video resolutions are usually capped at 1080p, so if you can make 1920 x 1080 pixel thumbnails that are under 2 MBs in size, do that instead.
When using other video players without thumbnail size limitations like Wistia, make your thumbnail resolutions 1920 x 1080 pixels. Wistia will automatically scale down your thumbnail images to match smaller video resolutions for you.
If you want to know whether you should save your thumbnail images as a JPEG or PNG files, Shane wrote a blog post all about it for you here.
2. Boost Your Click Factor
If you use videos on your sales or landing pages, thumbnails play an important role in enticing people to watch your sales pitch.
Treat your video thumbnails like visual headlines enticing potential customers to actually click play and enter the slippery slope of your sales funnel.
Like the Quiz Builder thumbnail example above, sometimes adding a simple call-to-action paired with an arrow pointing at the play button can create just enough intrigue to get people interested to learn more about a product, service or free offer.
3. Set the Mood
When creating your video thumbnails, it’s important to consider the impression you want to create about your video for potential viewers.
Are your thumbnails bright, fun and exciting?
Do you find them interesting and attractive?
Ultimately, will your thumbnails draw viewers in and make them want to see what your videos are all about?
With this in mind, don’t settle for the auto-generated thumbnail YouTube or Wistia throw at you when uploading your video. Instead, spend some quality time crafting an image that creates interest and appeal through one of the following strategies:
- Fun or silliness
- Unique topics
- People smiling directly into the camera
If you include images of people within the thumbnail, try to capture your subjects showcasing genuine smiles, looking directly into the camera lens to make the images more inviting.
Eye contact and genuine smiles increase the likelihood viewers will actually click through to see what your video is about so it’s definitely worth a try if you often feature yourself in videos.
A great example of Duchenne smiling for video thumbnails can be seen on the Strange Parts YouTube channel. The creator Scotty racked up 322,000 subscribers and over 12 million total views when he had only 2 videos on his channel!
One year later, he now has 25 videos, almost 1 million subscribers and 40+ million total views with almost all of his video thumbnails featuring a Duchenne smile.
Even though his content is super engaging, I’m willing to bet Scotty's big, inviting smile helps boost the click factor of his videos too.
4. Create Visual Consistency
If you haven’t taken our free Thrive University course on featured image design yet (create your free account and login to access it), it will illustrate the importance of creating visual consistency across your website's images for you.
Visual consistency in images helps to brand your website and blog so people can instantly recognize your content whenever they come across it online.
The great thing is that visual consistency can also be applied to your video thumbnails. The images you create can work to represent your brand every time someone streams one of your videos.
Now, when I say branding, don’t let your mind leap to thoughts of needing professionally designed logos.
Of course unique logo design is helpful when it comes to branding your content, but there are simpler (and cheaper) ways to brand your thumbnails without having to hire expensive designers.
Branding can also involve the creation of templates that consistently apply the same visual elements, in the same positions, across many of your thumbnails.
For example, you might include a sidebar element on your thumbnails that shows across multiple images. On that sidebar, you can display your brand name using a set text size and font style. If you happen to have a logo already, you can include that as well.
This way, whenever viewers come across one of your videos, they instantly recognize it as yours — just from glancing at the thumbnail!
Check out a few more examples demonstrating this strategy below:
5. Use Bright & Attractive Colors
Although it’s tough to offer any hard and fast rules about the use of colors on your video thumbnails, keep these general guidelines in mind.
Try to use bright, but attractive (not obnoxious) colors. You can see good use of bright colors in the sidebars of the Guitar Control and Yoga With Adriene video thumbnail examples above.
Of course, dark colors can work well too (as shown in the Gillette example), but they're not always as eye-catching as brighter colors.
Also, notice how the sidebar colors in the examples above are maintained across multiple videos to create a sense of branding. Chances are, if you enjoyed a Guitar Control video, you’ll instantly discover another one waiting for you in the YouTube sidebar.
Just to demonstrate why this attraction factor is so important for engaging more viewers on a video platform like YouTube, consider how video thumbnails look when they’re sitting above and below each other in the “Recommended” sidebar:
Which thumbnail jumps out and grabs your attention?
And which one has the most recognizable brand?
The answer is obvious... Guitar Control for the win!
6. Use Overlays to Increase Your Text Readability
Have you noticed how video thumbnails on YouTube use text overlays to try and increase engagement from viewers?
While not every thumbnail needs text, it’s proven to be a useful strategy in stimulating more views and increasing video content clarity.
If you decide you want to add text to your video thumbnails, it’s crucial to add it in a way that preserves readability.
This usually isn't a problem when you add text to solid color backgrounds, but becomes a big issue when adding text to photo images. Since photos usually have areas of bright and dark colors, your text can blend in with those areas of the image that have the same color or brightness.
A simple trick to sidestep this issue is adding an opaque or semi-transparent overlay between your text and image to increase the contrast. High contrast text usually translates into better readability.
The following are some good text on photo thumbnail examples that do a great job in preserving readability while also being attractive within the overall design:
7. Consider Your Video Streaming Platform
Something else to keep in mind as you create your video thumbnails is the positioning of your video player’s overlay elements.
This includes elements like:
- Time markers
- Play buttons
- Playlist overlays
Always consider how your video player's overlays will affect thumbnail appearance. When it comes to YouTube, the time annotation (1st image) is placed in the bottom right and the playlist overlay (2nd image) is placed over the right third of the thumbnail.
The Wistia (1st image) and YouTube (2nd image) play buttons are placed in the center of your video thumbnails. Because of this, try to avoid placing faces and other important visual elements in the center of your thumbnails.
When placing your logo, text, faces or other important image features, consider these video player overlay positions (they’re in the same location every time) so they won’t interfere with the viewer’s ability to read or interpret the thumbnail.
Several More Examples
I went ahead and collected a smattering of different, well branded video thumbnail examples for you to look through.
These examples are intended to act as guides to help you come up with your own unique, recognizable and attractive thumbnail style:
Did You Know...
...you can use Thrive Architect to override a streaming video's source thumbnail you include within your posts or pages?
To override the source thumbnail:
- Click on the video element in your Thrive Architect editor window.
- Click on the "Video Options" tab in the editor sidebar.
- Click on the "Advanced" sub-tab.
- Click on the "Choose File" button in the "Video Thumbnail" area.
Once the new image is uploaded to your WordPress media, it will be shown to visitors regardless of what the source thumbnail of the video you are linking to uses.
Now It’s Your Turn
Hopefully this article has given you some insights into how you can design and brand your thumbnails to boost views and engagement like a video marketing pro!
Take what you’ve learned here and see if you can create a simple yet strong visual identity for your thumbnails to increase the click factor for your videos.
If you have any questions about creating video thumbnails, feel free make some noise in the comments section below!