Add Your Own Thumbnail to YouTube Videos [How-To]

For the longest time YouTube only allowed partners to create a special thumbnail for their videos. It really gave a unfair advantage to others trying to build their videos on the YouTube platform. Now that its changing we can all partake in creating eye-catching images for YouTube and for our websites – especially if you host outside of Youtube as well.

You may not have this ability just yet as they are slowly rolling out the process. When you do get it, you will see a “Choose Thumbnail” option pop up in your edit screen.

I have two hosts – my YouTube channel ( and hosted through Amazon for download links on Hosting allows me to be on Roku and iTunes, two major players in the podcast arena.

Why You Should Create a Thumbnail

It’s always good to show a screenshot but YouTube would only give you three pictures to choose from. They might not have been the most flattering pictures. There were times where I was embarrassed with the options but had no choice but to choose the best of 3 bad pictures. It was frustrating.

The more vibrant the thumbnail, the more people may click on your video.

How to Make a Custom Thumbnail for YouTube

  1. You will need a program like Photoshop or GIMP (GIMP is free). You can use Paint however the layer tool in those programs will give you a template if you plan to make multiple video thumbnails. Plus you might need it to mask, blend and do more.
  2. YouTube recommends the size of the thumbnail be 1280 x 720. If you use a different resolution, your picture may get cropped.
  3. Place a power background – this is something that will give emotion to your thumbnail. The most powerful graphic is the sunburst look. I have supplied a FREE DOWNLOAD of the sunburst logo

    YouTube Background sun pop 1

    YouTube Background Yellow on Brown

    Youtube background Yellow on Red

    Youtube background image blue on white for a mellower look

  4. Import the background into your editor program.
  5. Take a screen shot of your video – like this one:

    An episode where I talk about Puzzlejuice for iPad

  6. Import in the editor and delete the surrounding area (magic select tool is my best friend in photoshop)
  7. Place some text on the page – Something that grabs attention. Impact is a great font to use – so is Arial Black.
  8. Save your image as a .jpg

Final product of my Youtube video iPad365 episode 180

This completed image took about 5-10 minutes. Like I said before – I can set this as a template and put in new images to reduce the work time.

Dos and Donts for your photo

  • DO make something vibrant
  • DONT make it too busy – Simple image, text and out.
  • DO put an quick explanation of the video – in this case, Puzzlejuice on iPad365
  • DONT mislead – If you say “Cute puppies” and it turns out to be a video on rebuilding a carburetor, you might get disliked
  • DO be creative
  • DONT plagerize.

How to upload to YouTube

Log into Youtube and go to your edit area for the video. You should see a “Custom Thumbnail” option. If you don’t then either you haven’t been granted this option yet, or you are not in good standings on copyright. Be good to Youtube and they’ll be good to you.

Custom Thumbnail option on YouTube

When it’s all done, save and check out your video’s new look!

Add to your Website, too!

Like I said – I upload to Youtube and I also host my videos on another site. When I post the video, I use the hosting video with a custom thumbnail. When you upload that thumbnail, put a full description in there. You won’t believe how much Google search juice you can get from an image!

Keep in mind, this isn’t promising you will get thousands of subscribers or views. It does make you look more professional. You don’t have to go to an extreme – you might just want to make an image that looks similar in every video you upload. Put your logo in there. Put a description in your image and people might just flock to it.

It does take an extra 5-10 minutes to put an image together. If doing that brings 10 more people then I will do it every time.


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  • Thanks for the backgrounds Jeffrey! I would love to learn more about the process you use to get your videos from Amazon to iTunes and Roku. Do you have any posts on the subject?

  • Lucille Bermal

    Whag do you search for those sunburst youtube backgrounds?