3 Minute Read

Total time for artwork: 5-10 minutes max

Updated Jan. 2016

Recently I was working on some videos and while uploading them, I went through the process (which you should) of creating a custom thumbnail.

First, what is a YouTube Custom Thumbnail?

YouTube states that they are “a quick snapshot of your video.”

To elaborate, custom thumbnails are the book cover or front door to your video.

It’s the first thing people see in their feed or sidebar on YouTube (or google search) and usually the reason they choose or don’t choose your video.

They are very important.

Second, lets discuss why you should do this:

1. It makes you stand out and gain attention in the noisy world of YouTube

2.. Instead of leaving your “front door” image up to YouTube, you can dictate the branding and image which will help with consistency and continuity or your brand.

3. It can increase your views by over 100% – that is my history of doing several tests with two versions of a similar videos with similar headlines.

Let’s discuss the process (or my process, you can choose any art platform you would like).

Step 1:

Get Wonderful Stock Photography or a solid, authentic image

My favorite site is unsplash.com for AMAZING, free and royalty-free photographs.

This article from Bootstrap Bay gives some additional (terrific) resources:


When I say authentic image I mean a high-quality photo from the screencast or video you are taking.

A great example are the images that the team at VaynerMedia use for Gary Vaynerchuk‘s “#AskGaryVee Show.

Here is an example:

It’s real, it’s authentic and it’s super high quality.  Simply put, its engaging and that’s what you want your YouTube thumbnails to be.

Step 2:

Go to Canva.com and create your image

Wonderful news!

As of early 2016, my friends at Canva.com have update their template and guess what, BOOM!

A new YouTube Thumbnail is ready for you.

All you have to do once you reach the Canva.com home page is:

  1. At the top of the page, CLICK MORE (a plus symbol is next to it)
  2. Scroll down to the Social Media and Email Headers section

Here is a screen of what that looks like (after you click the plus symbol) and where it is:


As a reminder, here are the specifications:

  • Have a size/resolution of 1280 x 720 (with minimum width of 640 pixels).
  • Be uploaded in image formats such as .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, or .PNG.
  • Remain under the 2MB limit.

Next, you design.

Canva has some wonderful templates but I always choose to upload an image (by dragging and dropping from my photo file) and design on top of it.

You do this by clicking on “Uploads” on the left side of the screen, seen here:

Custom Dimensions Upload

After I have dragged and dropped my image over the white template above (super easy), I head over to the sidebar section on the left side and select “Text.”

Canva has a TON of free, awesome, text templates seen here:

Custom Dimensions Text


ART TIP: Try to overlay text that is a different color altogether than the background so it will stand out and be highly visible

After I have set my text and photo and I’m satisfied, it is time to download the completed image. You can do this by clicking the “download” button in the top right hand corner of the screen.

Your image will start the download process and like most downloads on the internet, it will ask you the destination folder.

Save it down and get ready to use it.

Before we get to the next step, I wanted to take this opportunity to recommend a resource.

If you are looking to take your YouTube marketing to the next level I HIGHLY recommend James Wedmore’s YouTube Training Academy

Click on the image below to check it out today, it’s awesome. James has taught me a ton.


Ok, back to the article! :)

Step 3:

Head over to YouTube and use the image

Whether you are using your downloaded custom thumbnail for an existing video or an upload, the process is the same.

BUT….the button is in a slightly different place whether you are doing one or the other.

To upload a custom image to an existing video, the custom thumbnail button is just to the right of the video, seen here:

YouTube Custom Thumbnail existing


To upload a custom image to a NEW video, the custom thumbnail button is at the bottom of the upload page, seen here:

YouTube custom thumbnail2


Once you are ready to upload your image, click the custom thumbnail button and select your image from your saved location.

Give it 10 seconds to upload and then save or publish your video (you will see a prompt from YouTube when it’s done uploading).


And that’s it!

Once you do this first process it will get easier and easier every time.

I suggest doing this for EVERY Video you do.

It will make a HUGE difference.


Great video on YouTube Thumbnails and how important they are:

Enjoy the day!

12 thoughts on “How To Make a YouTube Custom Thumbnail

    1. Thanks Nathan, really appreciate that. Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. Let me know if you ever need anything at all. Take care!

    1. Wow, thank you so much for leaving a comment. I love Canva too. Use it for EVERYTHING! Let me know if I can do anything for you. Take care!

  1. This is great, I appreciate the specific actionable advice you give here. I’ve had trouble getting the hang of Canva but I keep hearing how awesome Canva is from many that I look up to. Sounds like I need to commit to learning it! I’m building a YouTube channel that will go hand in hand w/ my smart home technology and real estate blog. Learning a lot from your content. Also, how awesome that you link to Gary Vaynerchuk. He is THE man

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