A great ‘thumbnail image’ is essential to making a successful YouTube video. If we think of every video as an edition of a magazine, the ‘thumbnail’ is its front cover.
Just letting YouTube pick a still frame from our video and using that as the thumbnail is not an option if we want to get any clicks from casual viewers, such as those who might have just finished watching a video from a competitor!
If we’re using a standard graphics application such as Photoshop to create our thumbnails, we need to start with a 1280 x 720-pixel canvas.
What we then need is a simple, close-up image, offering enough space to run some headline text alongside over the top. A lot of people take this shot when they’re making the video; for example, if they’re filming a product or a presenter, against a plain background, they might take a still to use as the thumbnail with a close-up of the main person or product, and an extended area of plain background.
I’d recommend a ‘template’ to make all the videos on a channel look consistent.
There are quite a few articles out there if you want some thumbnail graphic design tips, but I find it’s best to just browse around YouTube a bit and see what jumps out of the page. Remember: design simplicity is the key …along with a compelling headline (there’s no requirement to just copy the title of the video).
Note that it’s quite possible to go back and replace the thumbnail images from old videos, and get your channel looking really smart.