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Best YouTube Thumbnails — A Roundup of Top Examples

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Looking for the best YouTube thumbnails? Wanting to find inspiration to create your own custom thumbnail designs? You’re in the right place!

Creating custom thumbnails is not only a great way to elevate your brand as a whole, but it’s also a way to influence viewers to choose your video out of all the options available. No, a custom thumbnail will not make your content better than it is so it’s important to focus on creating quality content — but the thumbnail will help your AWESOME content get noticed!

In truth, we started down this trail when creating our own video thumbnails for Campaign Donut. We wanted to provide our design team with examples of what engaging YouTube thumbnails looked like. In the end, our first design turned out a bit different thank much of what we saw and that was entirely because of the type of content we were serving up in our initial videos.

You can see our final thumbnail design at the end of this article.

Creating Great Thumbnails for YouTube Videos

As mentioned above, you want your thumbnails to be branded and engaging. There are a few common traits we identified in the YouTube thumbnails below.

  • Brand Colors
  • Large Text
  • Obvious Primary Object or Subject
  • Minimal Words
  • Dynamic Images
  • Custom Backgrounds

In addition to these traits above, it was also clear that creating cutouts, or masked images, of the primary subject was very a popular design choice for those who have the time, money, staff, or skill necessary to pull it off.

What Makes YouTube Thumbnails Important

Designing images for YouTube is much different than designing for a social network or create webinar promotional images. Why? Because your brand will be sharing real estate with dozens of other brands. Check out the image below.

Screenshot of YouTube Search Results
Out of all the information available to you during a YouTube search, the element that receives the most real estate is thumbnail.

The thumbnail, by far, is the element that draws the most attention without even looking directly at it. Also, notice what is getting the most real estate? The thumbnail.

As you explore the collection of video thumbnails we put together, remember that it will be important to make your thumbnail design your own. Don’t put pressure on yourself to duplicate a design perfectly or to get your graphic just right.

The best news is that you can always go back to any videos in your library and update the thumbnails in the future if your custom YouTube thumbnails don’t turn out to be exactly what you wanted.

Ahrefs Thumbnails

Collage of four ahrefs thumbnails taken from YouTube videos — Sam Oh... what's working now in SEO 2019, Rank #1 on YouTube, Submit Website to Search Engines, Guest Blogging at Scale

Go to the ahrefs YouTube Channel

NBA Thumbnails

Collage of four NBA thumbnails taken from YouTube videos — Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry

Go to the NBA YouTube Channel

Neil Patel’s Thumbnails

Collage of four Neil Patel thumbnails taken from YouTube videos — what SEO in 2019 looks like, Rank #1 on Google, Why Your Blog Doesn't Rank, Own the Front Page

Go to Neil Patel’s YouTube Channel

The Futur Thumbnails

Collage of four The Futur thumbnails taken from YouTube videos — How to Start with Content Creation, The Psychology of Graphic Design Pricing, the futur yg2, Johnny Cupcakes clothing co

Go to The Futur YouTube Channel

Conductor Thumbnails

Collage of four Conductor thumbnails taken from YouTube videos — Couples therapy SEO & Content, Purna Virji The Digital Marketer's Guide to Testing Chatbots, Seth Besmertnik Customer Value & The Future of Marketing, Conductor Searchlight Audience Intent explorer

Go to the Conductor YouTube Channel

ClickFunnels & Russell Brunson Thumbnails

Collage of four ClickFunnels / Russell Brunson thumbnails taken from YouTube videos — Make $100 A Day, FunnelHacker.TV Ep 113 Surprise, Sales Funnel Shred Episode 58, 3 Success Tips

Go to the ClickFunnels / Russell Brunson YouTube Channel

Sephora Thumbnails

Collage of four Sephora thumbnails taken from YouTube videos — Body Cream Mixology, How to: Festival Brains with Giltter Roots, How to: Cover Under Eyes, Maquillaje Mate Para La Piel Seca

Go to the Sephora YouTube Channel

Amy Landino YouTube Thumbnails

Collage of four Amy Landino thumbnails taken from YouTube videos — Read More Now, Saudi Arabia, Los Angeles, My Life Changing Habits, For my Morning Junkies

Go to Amy Landino’s YouTube Channel

Hootsuite Thumbnails

Collage of four Hootsuite thumbnails taken from YouTube videos — How to Edit Videos On Instagram, How to Use the Hootsuite App Director, Google MY Business Using Google My Business with Hootsuite, Hootsuite Product Update

Go to the Hootsuite YouTube Channel

Justin Brown Thumbnails

Collage of four Justin Brown thumbnails taken from YouTube videos — How we got 250,000 subscribers, how to pick your channel name, make thumbnails that rank, video camera for live streaming

Go to Justin Brown’s YouTube Channel

Think Media Thumbnails

Collage of four Think Media thumbnails taken from YouTube videos — 10 money making tips, waterproof canon camera, 5 confidence boosters

Go to the Think Media YouTube Channel

The Home Depot Thumbnails

Collage of four The Home Depot thumbnails taken from YouTube videos — Flower Bed Ideas, How to Install Laminate Floor Overview, How to Remove Carpet from Stairs, Husky Welded Rack

Go to The Home Depot’s YouTube Channel

Additional Brands with Simple Thumbnails

Not all brands go out of their way to get creative with their YouTube thumbnail design. Actually, the majority of channels we looked at while trying to find great examples of YouTube Thumbnails, those channels didn’t do anything at all — they didn’t even select a unique thumbnail.

These examples below show several channels that utilize very simple thumbnails with one or two elements to comprise their designs.

truTV Thumbnails

Screenshot of truTV Video Channel

Go to the YouTube Channel

Target Thumbnails

Screenshot of Target YouTube Channel Videos

Go to the Target YouTube Channel

Campaign Donut Thumbnail

Campaign Donut YouTube Thumbnail — How to Locate Clickfunnels Funnel ID & Step ID

In contrast to many of the examples above, we took a more “instructional” approach to our YouTube thumbnails. The videos we were creating were more about providing a specific solution to a specific problem — rather than discovery.

Here are a few examples of instructional video thumbnails that you can use for inspiration if you’re considering the same approach to your videos.

Leadpages Thumbnail

Leadpages YouTube Thumbnail for how to videos: Conversion tools for your site, tech tips.

Go to the Leadpages YouTube Channel

Shopify Help Center Thumbnail

Shopify YouTube How To Thumbnail — Shopify Resources & Contacting Support

Go to the Shopify Help Center YouTube Channel

Proof Thumbnail

Proof YouTube Thumbnail How to Video — How Will Proof Work on My Site?

Go to the Proof YouTube Channel

Elgato Gaming Thumbnail

Elgato Gaming YouTube Thumbnail — How to Setup Hotkeys with Stream Deck

Go to the Elgato Gaming YouTube Channel

WPMU DEV Thumbnail

WPMU Dev YouTube Thumbnail — how to Embed a Google Form in WordPress

Go to the WPMU Dev YouTube Channel

Creating Your YouTube Thumbnail Designs

After taking a look through the designs above, you should have a few ideas for your design. Some of the examples, such as the ahrefs designs, are more advanced than others and you may want to enlist the help of a designer if you are to pull off those designs.

Something else to consider is the scaleability of your designs. In other words, will you pursue a design that is more templated that requires you just changing out background, text, and colors or will you pursue a design that will require a professional illustrator to create new designs? The NBA designs are a good example of templated designs that are easy to reproduce. Anyone with basic design skills can easily create new templates with updated content. The thumbnails from Justin Brown will require completely new designs and updated masked images to keep up with over the months ahead.

At Campaign Donut we have a full time design team that can produce anything we need. However, we didn’t always have that luxury. Prior to our team, we enlisted unlimited graphic design services that helped us handle new design mock ups and overall production. If you are not a designer and you do not have your own in-pocket designer, give unlimited graphic design services a look.

Final Thoughts On Custom Video Thumbnails

If you have any question about creating your own custom thumbnails, creating thumbnail design templates, or enlisting design services to help create your thumbnails, send us a message or leave a comment below. Sometimes all you need is another brain thinking through what you’re working on — other times you just need a specific answer to a specific problem… either way, we’re here to help!

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