How to make custom thumbnails for your YouTube videos and upload them

How to make custom thumbnails for your YouTube videos and upload them

FILE PHOTO: People are silhouetted as they pose with mobile devices in front of a screen projected with a Youtube logo, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica October 29, 2014.   REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo


YouTube lets you make your own thumbnails, if you don't want to use one of the defaults.

  • YouTube auto-generates three thumbnails you can choose from when you upload a video, but you can also make a thumbnail yourself for any YouTube video you upload.
  • YouTube provides no tools for making thumbnails, which means you'll have to use another program or website.
  • The easiest way to make a thumbnail is to capture a screenshot with the Snipping tool and save it to your computer. Then you can choose "Custom thumbnail" in YouTube Studio, or when uploading a video.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Your YouTube video's thumbnail is like the cover of a book - while you shouldn't judge the contents by it, people do anyway. That's why the thumbnail should represent the video and look as good as possible.

When you upload a video to YouTube, you can choose from among several pre-selected thumbnails, or make your own.

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How to select an auto-generated thumbnail for your YouTube video

You can choose a video thumbnail when you initially upload the video, or later, when the video has been processed. You can even change it after it's published.

If you are uploading the video, you should see three thumbnail options appear at the bottom of the upload screen while the video is uploading and processing. To choose one, simply click it.


If you want to create your own thumbnail, see the section "How to make a custom thumbnail for your YouTube video" below.

thumbnail 1

Dave Johnson/Business Insider

Click one of the auto-generated thumbnails at the bottom of the screen to set it for your video.

If the video has already processed or been published, you can set or change the thumbnail from YouTube Studio.

1. From the YouTube homepage, click your avatar at the top right of the screen and choose "YouTube Studio (beta)."

thumbnail 2

Dave Johnson/Business Insider

Go to YouTube Studio to select a thumbnail for your uploaded video.


2. In the pane on the left, click "Videos."

3. Click the title of the video you want to change.

4. On the Basic Details page, you should see three auto-generated thumbnails. Choose the one you want to use and then click "Save."

thumbnail 3

Dave Johnson/Business Insider

Pick the thumbnail you like and then save your changes. If you want to create your own thumbnail, see the section below on making a custom thumbnail for your YouTube video.

How to make a custom thumbnail for your YouTube video and upload it

If none of the auto-generated thumbnails suit you, you can create your own, but YouTube doesn't have any tool for doing this. The easiest way to create a thumbnail is to use a screenshot utility like Snipping Tool on a Windows computer, or any of the various screenshot methods on a Mac computer.


Here's how you can do it on a PC or a Mac.

1. Open the video on your computer in any media player.

2. Pause the video at the point that you want to create the thumbnail.

thumbnail 4

Dave Johnson/Business Insider

Open the video and pause it at the moment you want to turn into a thumbnail.

3. Start the Snipping Tool from the Start menu on Windows, or press Command + Shift + 4 on a Mac to enter screenshot mode. If using Snipping Tool, click "Mode" and choose "Rectangular Snip."


thumbnail 5

Dave Johnson/Business Insider

Set the Snipping Tool to make a rectangular snip.

4. Click in the upper left corner of the video and drag the rectangle to the lower right corner. Be careful to capture as close to exactly the video window as possible.

5. The screenshot will appear in the Snapping Tool. Click "File" and then click "Save As." Name the thumbnail image and save it. If using a Mac, the photo will appear in the bottom-right corner of the screen, and will disappear in a few seconds. Once it disappears, it has been saved.

6. Return to the video in YouTube and, beside the auto-generated thumbnails, click "Custom thumbnail."

7. Choose the file you just saved.


Many creators also use programs like Adobe Photoshop to design their custom thumbnails. If you want a thumbnail that's not just a frame from your video, consider designing your own.

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