YouTube Thumbnail Design – 7 Mistakes That Spoil The Game

What’s that one little graphic that can earn you more clicks on YouTube? Your YouTube thumbnail design. In other words, it’s an element that determines whether you get those clicks, whether you get those views, and subscribers on your YouTube channel. 

youtube thumbnail design

To understand thumbnails better put yourself in the shoes of a content consumer. Would you watch a video that has a bad thumbnail design? Will you trust and subscribe to a channel with clickbait thumbnails? Perhaps not! That’s why you should be extra careful about the YouTube thumbnail design for each of your videos. You cannot afford to make mistakes that make a bad first impression on your channel or affect your credibility. What are these mistakes? We’ll discuss them at length today. 

But first, we’ll tell you why custom thumbnails are important on YouTube.  

YouTube thumbnail design – are custom designs worth the effort? 

Short answer – absolutely! 

Here are a few reasons to prove that:

  • According to YouTube, 90% of the videos that perform well on YouTube have a custom thumbnail design. And obviously, you want your video to be among the top performers. 
  • You need a custom thumbnail to touch base with your audience. The video thumbnail is the first thing that your audience notices about your video. Both your subscribers and audiences who have not subscribed to your channel yet! So, it’s a matter of striking up a conversation, and showing people that your video is worth their time. 
  • A custom YouTube thumbnail design helps set a visual style for your channel. This way, when your subscribers scroll through all the videos popping up on their feed, they instantly recognize your video. And by consistently staying in sight you are building a long-term rapport. 
  • Well-designed thumbnails = better conversions. In the long run, for your channel to perform consistently and to get not just more clicks but also better views, custom thumbnails are important. Believe it or not, people judge a YouTube channel based on the thumbnails even before they watch the videos. 

For all these reasons and more, you need to start prioritizing custom YouTube thumbnail designs. Anyone can start using custom YouTube thumbnails. All it takes is for you to get your account verified and then the option to add custom thumbnails for your videos pops up. Once you have verified your account, it’s time to start creating clickable thumbnails for your videos. 

While you are at it, you should also know about the biggest turn-offs that can affect the performance of your thumbnails – design flaws that make a bad impression. So what are these YouTube thumbnail design mistakes to avoid? Let’s dive right in. 

7 mistakes to avoid while designing custom YouTube thumbnails 

Creating a YouTube channel for your personal brand or a business is easy. However, coming up with ideas for content and creating and editing the videos involve a lot of effort. And you do not want all these efforts to be undermined by poorly designed thumbnails. So, let’s look at the mistakes to avoid. 

1. Picking the wrong size 

As straightforward as it sounds, size happens to be one area where many new YouTubers go wrong while designing thumbnails. But let’s face it. We have all been there! Videos come in all shapes and sizes for different social media platforms. And keeping track of all these sizes can be quite overwhelming in itself. On top of that, the thumbnails or cover images are required in different sizes too. But if you do not have the right size, you end up with an oddly compressed image. 

Something even worse will be a thumbnail where the essential details are not within the allowed frame. To avoid all this, ensure that you start with the right size for your YouTube thumbnail design. 

The recommended size for a YouTube thumbnail is 1280×720 px with a minimum width of 640 px. YouTube supports files in JPG, GIF, or PNG formats. Keep the file size under 2 MB and maintain an aspect ratio of 16:9 for optimum display of the thumbnails. 

youtube thumbnail design

Kimp Tip: 

To be sure that you are using the right sizes in your designs for each platform work with templates. Or better yet, work with professional graphic designers to come up with catchy thumbnails for your YouTube channel. 

2. Not adding text to the thumbnail 

Some have the best-looking thumbnails with all the right colors and a visually-appealing theme. But they forget about the text in it. 

Images are essential to make a thumbnail more engaging. But text helps deliver the information in a more straightforward way. Not all messages can be conveyed in an instant with just images. Therefore, you need to add text to your thumbnail. Here’s a thumbnail with a brief copy that instantly tells what the video is about. 

youtube thumbnail design
YouTube thumbnail design by Kimp

Well, adding text is important, but then comes the question – what should the copy say? Some repeat their titles. But that simply does not make sense. Your video title and thumbnail design together help your audience understand your video better. Therefore, you do not want redundancy here. Instead of repeating the title, come up with a brief copy that adds a hook. 

While it should give a brief idea of what your video is about, you should not give away too much information. If your thumbnail says it all why will viewers spend time watching your video? 

Kimp Tip: 

While placing your copy in your thumbnail, choose the right framing. Avoid placing your text too close to the edges. The bottom right corner displays the length of the video. So placing your text here means that parts of it are lost behind the timestamp. 

3. Using fancy fonts that affect legibility 

In many ads, the main copy, the title text is often in a fancy eye-grabbing font style. But you cannot do that with YouTube thumbnail design. Think of the limited real estate available for your thumbnail. If your viewers see some beautiful text on the thumbnail but cannot really read what it says, the whole purpose is lost. 

Moreover, over 70% of the watch time on YouTube comes from mobile devices. Naturally, the way your thumbnail looks on a small screen is more important than you think. So, the legibility of the fonts you choose is a dealbreaker. 

Taking all this into consideration, to ensure that your customers do not have to work hard to get the message, use a fuss-free easy-to-read font. Sans-serif fonts read well even on small screens. Below is an example that shows how you can add accents, play with the colors and font sizes to show variations, and create an impact with a simple sans-serif font. 

youtube thumbnail design
YouTube thumbnail design by Kimp
4. Not defining a subject of focus 

When there is no element of interest in your thumbnail, it looks weak and does not make the intended impression. It cannot look like you have added a thumbnail for the sake of it. If that’s the case there is the default thumbnail suggested by YouTube after all. But you know that a custom thumbnail outshines the auto-generated ones. Because with a custom thumbnail, you get to decide on the message communicated and thus get to influence the response. 

For all this to work, your thumbnail should have an element of focus. This can be the product the video talks about or the face of the creator, presenter, or a special guest. All these elements help personalize the design to suit your brand and the content. In fact, nearly 72% of the popular YouTube thumbnails feature a human face. 

While all this is true, you should also stick with using relevant visuals. Remember that every design element and text that goes into your thumbnail is analyzed by the algorithm. If you consistently use irrelevant visuals or text in your videos, your videos are mistaken for click baits. This can take a toll on the performance of your channel in the long run.  

All these are based on the idea of prioritizing more productive metrics like view duration instead of focusing only on the CTR. While the click-through rate is an important metric to track, high CTR with low view duration affects the performance of your channel. If you are wondering how your image is perceived by the algorithm, you can use tools like Google Cloud Vision to get an overview of what your image looks like. 

5. Ignoring the emotional value of your thumbnail 

Some YouTube creators add fancy images, and good copy and still find that their thumbnails lack the leverage. This could be because of ignoring the emotional value of the thumbnail. 

We had mentioned earlier that the text in your thumbnail should not give away too much information. But the imagery in your thumbnail should set the stage. It should give your viewers a taste of what kind of emotions the video is intended to kindle. Is it content that evokes curiosity or something that educates and entertains your audience? Is it content that talks about your good experience or a bad one? Let your design capture this emotion. 

Ignoring the emotions in your thumbnail makes it look like just another stock image. In general, movie and TV thumbnails that feature strong emotions like surprise are reported to have over 5.6 million average views. When each of your thumbnails conveys a different emotion but maintains a strong visual structure, it sets the mood for your channel. And makes your channel appear more interactive. 

Kimp Tip: 

If your channel does not have talking head videos, and if you find it difficult to create a tone or mood for your thumbnail without featuring a human face, try illustrations. Illustrations can convey the message in a more meaningful way when you are not ready to face the camera. Better yet, you can create a custom mascot for your brand and impart emotions to your mascot. After all, branding is an important part of growing your YouTube channel. 

For example, the thumbnail below reflects the pain of living with a sinus infection using illustrations. There is no headshot and yet this YouTube thumbnail design gets the job done. 

youtube thumbnail design
YouTube thumbnail design by Kimp

Illustrations, custom graphics, YouTube thumbnails, banner images – a Kimp subscription covers all these and more. 

6. Cramming too many things in your thumbnail 

Because a thumbnail makes or breaks the first impression a video creates, some end up cluttering the design by adding too many details. Text and imagery are both important but you need to achieve the right balance. Too many elements within the frame make your YouTube thumbnail design look overwhelming. 

Instead, keep the overall layout as clean and straightforward as possible. The design should communicate the right emotions and tell your customers exactly what your video is about. Capture the idea in as simple a layout as possible. 

The below YouTube thumbnail design uses a simple combination of 3 things: 

  • The creator’s headshot for personalization 
  • Text to convey what the video talks about 
  • Subtle glitch effect of TikTok to capture the idea that the video is about TikTok content. So it immediately appeals to creators aspiring to improve their TikTok strategy. 
youtube thumbnail design
YouTube thumbnail design by Kimp

So, if your thumbnail manages to lay down the core idea, clearly communicate who the video is for, and keeps the overall layout clutter-free in the process, it makes a good YouTube thumbnail design. 

7. Ignoring contrast 

Even with the right mix of design elements and copy your thumbnail does not have the intended effect on your audience if you ignore the contrast. 

All types of contrast in design matter in your thumbnail. Ignoring even one can lead to your image looking dull or the text being hard to read on small devices. 

For example, when you use a textured background or add a photo as a background, the text in the foreground might be difficult to read unless you add a text bubble with a solid background. 

The below thumbnail shows how you can use contrast in colors and textures effectively to create eye-catching aesthetics for your YouTube thumbnail designs. With aesthetics like these, your video will be hard to ignore. 

youtube thumbnail design
YouTube thumbnail design by Kimp

Create catchy YouTube thumbnails with Kimp 

Every piece of graphic you use on your YouTube channel can make or break the credibility of your channel. And the thumbnails on your videos hold a special significance in all this. Having heard about the common YouTube thumbnail design mistakes that YouTube creators make, are you ready to transform your approach to designing thumbnails? What are you waiting for? Choose a Kimp Graphics + Video subscription to take care of all the graphic design and video requirements for your business. 

Register now for a free 7-day trial.