If you want to generate more views on YouTube, you need to create a beautiful thumbnail. Just picking any random still from the video won’t work. You need to design a separate thumbnail that will drive more attention in the feed and get people to click. 

Creating this thumbnail can seem like a complicated task, but it is pretty easy once you know what to do. I am going to share a step-by-step process that works every time below…

Conduct research on the most-watched videos:

As the goal here is to drive more views, you need to know what types of thumbnails will get the most clicks/plays. This is why before you create the thumbnail, you need to figure out what types of thumbnails drive the most views. For this, simply type in the keyword you are targeting in the YouTube search field. Then use YouTube’s filter to filter searches by videos with the most view. You’ll then see the most viewed videos and can analyze the thumbnails they have. You’ll now have a better understanding of what will get you the views. Try to look for similarities and patterns that get results. 

Figure out what your audience likes:

Just because a thumbnail worked for someone doesn’t mean it will work for you too. This is why you shouldn’t completely copy a template. You need to adapt it to your own target audience. So, before you create the thumbnail, figure out what your audience likes to see. You can survey your audience and directly ask them what sort of thumbnails and visuals they like. Another option is to check out the channels they subscribe to and see the thumbnails the top YouTube accounts use. 

While doing this research also try to figure out what video topics your audience likes. This will give you plenty of ideas to cover in your next videos. 

Pick a still from your video:

Now that you know what to include in your thumbnails, you can begin creating them. You can start by picking a still from your video. This will be the background image on which you’ll overlay the headline and other elements. You can use a screenshot tool or your video editor itself to get this image. Try to pick a crucial part of the video that people want to see. 

Also, feel free to take a brand new photo separately if you’d like to. 

Add overlay text on it:

Once you have the background image, you can overlay text on it. These can range from banners to icons to illustrations. The key is to add something that will stand out. You can place your text on top of the image directly or on top of the overlay to create some extra contrast. 

For best results, try to add the video headline here. It needs to be a persuasive one that gets people to click. I recommend that you brainstorm 20 headlines and add the best one. 

Once you add all the elements, you should modify the colors to suit your brand palette. People should be able to recognize that you created it as soon as they come across your thumbnail. 

You can actually save this thumbnail if you use a tool like Canva to create the thumbnail. It’ll make it easy to reuse. Software like these even have templates that make it easy to start. 

Attach it to your video:

After the thumbnail is ready, you can attach it to your video. This is pretty straightforward. Next, test it out to make sure the thumbnail looks good. People should be able to read the text on both desktop and mobile devices. 

Create different versions and track performance:

The next step should be to create several new versions of your thumbnails and add them to your other videos. This is because you can never guess what will work on the network. You might do extensive research, but it is very unlikely that you’ll create the best version of your video in the first attempt. This is why if you create several different versions with different styles and attach them to different videos, and track views, you’ll figure out what works best. 

And the next time you create a video thumbnail, you won’t have to rely on guesswork. 


This is the step-by-step process for designing a beautiful thumbnail image. After you do this, you should create visuals for other parts of your YouTube channel like the art image, watermark, and end card. These visuals will get your account to stand out. You might also want to create visuals for posts and stories as you can publish these too now.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.