How to create compelling YouTube thumbnails that can attract attention within a split-second

Youtube is big… like… really big.

Here’s a stone cold stat for you: almost 5 billion Youtube videos are watched on the platform ever-y-day. How do you possibly make your videos stand out in all that noise?

Here’s the trick — your video thumbnails have to be great. Not just good, but great. The Youtube thumbnail is the 21st century’s book cover. They need to be visually intriguing enough to catch eyeballs in a split second, or else you risk your videos gathering dust on your channel’s shelves.

In this article, we’ve curated a collection of 20 incredibly eye-catching youtube thumbnails from channels started by people all over the world.

You’ll come across Canva Youtube thumbnail templates throughout. Clicking on them will open the template in your own Canva account, for you to customize as your own.

To know which ones are customizable Canva templates, look for the “Edit this design in Canva” caption on the right.

01. Camie Juan

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Camie Juan has loads of fun creating content for her YouTube channel. To do so, she travels around the world and eats as much gorgeous food as she can.

She probably also spends quite some time creating her channel’s great artwork. Our designers at Canva have drawn inspiration from her and the great template above.

02. The School of Life

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The School of Life does an awesome job of being consistent with their typefaces and treatments. It makes the channel feel professional and put together.

They’re also great at setting type at large sizes on their thumbnails to make sure it reads easily.

Type set over images can get tough to read, especially at small sizes. To make sure this isn’t a problem plaguing your YouTube thumbnails, try setting them over solid shapes, as we’ve done above.

03. SoulPancake

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Another great way to make sure text over images reads is to set them over color bars. SoulPancake shows us just how on their thumbnail for their exploration of love.

While SoulPancake has chosen to overlay their color bars, we’ve chosen to keep them tidy and separate from each other.

04. Ted-Ed

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TED not only produces great content worth spending hours watching, they also design awesome thumbnails. Head over to their channel to check them out and catch a chat or two.

Placing your episode’s title within a color bar and at the center of your thumbnail makes sure your audience won’t miss it. Me mindful of the image you choose though, as you’re concealing quite a bit of it. You want to make sure it still works, even after it’s missing a big chunk.

05. Buzzfeed Violet

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Big, bold type is always a plus. It works especially well when you’ve got little text to set. Go the Buzzfeed Violet way and set your episode titles in bold text.

If you have a subheading, set it at a smaller size and/or in a different weight. Create a bit of hierarchy for a stronger layout. Not sure how? Work off the template above.

06. SoulPancake

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Place your content front and center. If you’re placing it over an image, make sure you’re not creating an awkward composition. Consider the example below. It would not work as well if the text were set directly over the girls face.

You can also choose to work with imagery that offers a little more flexibility. While we did craft the template above carefully, we did not have have to worry about covering up anyone’s face.

07. Peaceful Cuisine

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If two or more of your episodes are related, make sure you tie their thumbnails together too. You can do so by using similar imagery, the same design elements, and being consistent with type.

Try a top view shot, like the one we use above. If your image choice is too bright, use a apply a filter to it to make sure your text reads.

08. Reese Lansangan

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Don’t forget that you can always build custom type for your thumbnails. Break out pencil and paper or paint if you’re feeling up for it. Create beautiful letterforms or novel design elements.

While we love paint and exploring, we’ve decided to use one of our great typefaces for the template above.

09. Tegan and Sara

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Take chances with your type choices. Combine an expressive script with a clean sans-serif, like Tegan and Sara’s cover art. You will build contrast and add visual interest.

Set your type over interesting images. We love that our choice for the template above has movement in it. It adds life to the thumbnail.

10. Laneway Festival

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Achieve an interesting visual solution by going with images shot from interesting angles. Consider the example below for Laneway Festival. It’s appealing and in line with what Laneway Festival is about.

Consider also images that offer rare visuals. How often do we see red trees? These make people want to take a second look.

11. WongFu Productions

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WongFu Productions focuses on telling stories and doing it darn well. In fact, they do it so well that they’ve managed to hook 2,771,458 subscribers.

Create a cinematic feel just like what WongFu Productions did for their thumbnail. Set a san-serif over an engaging image and go heavy on the kerning.

12. Refinery29

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If you’re working with photographs, be mindful of the colors in them and how they work with your background. Consider the example below. All the colors in the girl’s dress and yarn work well with the pink background.

My favorite aspect of the thumbnail template we’re sharing with you above is how the girls attire matches the type. It is such a lovely detail.

13. The Verge

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The Verge covers everything science, art and technology. They boast a whopping 304,045,304 views and some sweet thumbnail art, like the one below.

You can create eye-catching visual contrast by setting crisp white type over dark images. If you have an image you wish to use that isn’t quite dark enough, edit it using our filter option. If you don’t want to go through the trouble, work off the template we’ve linked above.

14. Sky Ferreira

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Sky Ferreira is an American singer and songwriter. As a teen, she’d upload videos of herself online. This eventually led to her discovery on MySpace.

Handwritten type adds loads of character to any piece. You can create it from scratch or browse through the options we have to offer. Give it a shy hue and set it over a black and white photo to achieve the same feel shared above.

15. BBC Music

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BBC Music’s YouTube channel is packed with great musical performances. The thumbnail you see below is for BBC Introducing, a segment where they spotlight new artists from across the UK.

Shapes are often the perfect backdrop for copy. We’ve chosen to ground ours but they can also hover within your thumbnail, as showcased by BBC Music.

16. Improv Everywhere

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Thumbnails don’t have to be all type and images. You can thrown in a few design elements as well. Below, Improv Everywhere uses a megaphone icon.

In our template, we used music notes. However, if these don’t work well for you, browse through our icon library. Select an element that is a better fit and drop it into our template.

17. Kryz Uy

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Kryz Uy is the girl behind Thirstythought, a blog where Uy records her travel and beauty adventures. Her blog found here is just as fun as her YouTube channel.

We’ve shared quite a few examples of type set over images. But you can also divide your thumbnail into sections and give type its very own space. We shared an example of how to do so above.

18. The Art Assignment

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For their episode on Performance Art, The Art Assignment created a thumbnail that features a color overlay and white type. It’s one of the channel’s many lovely visuals.

We’ve showcased a number of different pieces of collateral that make use of color overlays and white type. It just works. Think so too? We’ve a great template for you above.

19. The Tonight Show

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The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is a collection of comedy sketches, interviews, crazy games and my personal favorite, Jimmy’s Thank You Notes. The show is hilarious, definitely worth a watch.

Many of their thumbnails feel like they are stills pulled out from the show. They’ve been designed around the show’s classic TV bumper and work surprisingly well. We’ve created our own for you to edit.

20. The Art Assignment

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The Art Assignment is a weekly PBS Digital Studios channel curate by Sarah Green. These guys travel around the world and chat with artists. New episodes are released every Thursday.

If you’re working with a beautiful image and a few lines of text, set it on your bottom-left hand corner, just as we showcased above. This way, you won’t cover much of your lovely shot.

Maria is a professional designer and social media devotee. After a few years of working in boutique agencies in New York and Boston, she decided to trade in her morning runs for morning dives and moved down to the warm Caribbean. She is currently working on becoming a scuba instructor in order to find a way to merge her two loves: design and the ocean.