How To Add A Custom YouTube Thumbnail To Your Video



I recently published a post about why featured images are important for your blog posts.  That got me thinking about videos, particularly YouTube videos that you upload to your own channel.  Uploading a custom YouTube thumbnail for a video can encourage more people to click on and watch it, so I thought it would be good to put together a quick tutorial to show you how to do this for your own channel.  Let’s get started…

Why Add Custom YouTube Thumbnail To Your Video?

Creating your own videos can be a great way to attract more traffic to your site.  Not only does multimedia content tend to get valued more by search engines, but you can get traffic directly from your YouTube channel.

Whenever you upload a video to YouTube, a thumbnail will be automatically selected for you from your video.  This is usually never a good image to use as it doesn’t describe what the video is about.   You can choose which thumbnail to use (a still from your video), but still that only gives you limited options.  What you really want to do is add a custom thumbnail.

Take a look at the following examples on YouTube.  Which thumbnail stands out for you?

Custom YouTube Thumbnails

Hopefully you thought the green thumbnail stood out, which is great because that is my video!

OK, maybe a little bit biased, but hopefully you see the point.  Whilst all these videos are pretty similar (all AWeber Tutorials), the viewer’s eye is drawn to the thumbnail.  If you can add a thumbnail that is representative of your video, or in my case just a bold title (with branding), then you stand a good chance of being noticed.

So, How Do You Add A Custom YouTube Thumbnail?

In order to add a custom thumbnail to your videos, you first need to jump through a few hoops for YouTube.  Standard YouTube accounts/channels only have limited functionality to them, so in order for you to gain the ability to add thumbnails, you will need to verify your account and become a partner.

Verify Your Account

  1. Log into YouTube (if you have multiple YouTube channels, make sure to switch to the right channel)
  2. In the dropdown menu, go to ‘Video Manager
  3.  Click on ‘Channel Settings’ (in the left sidebar)
  4. Click the ‘Verify’ button

YouTube will ask you to enter in your phone number so that they can send you (either by phone or SMS text) a verification number.  Enter in that number and you will be verified.

You should now see in your ‘Channel Settings’ that you have more channel features available for you.  However, if like me you still see ‘Custom ThumbnailsYour account isn’t eligible at this time’ you will need to become a partner.

Become A YouTube Partner

YouTube will only allow you to become a partner if your channel is in “Good Standing”.  Check your channel by going to ‘Channel Settings’.

YouTube Channel Good Standing

To become a partner, you can select the ‘Monetization’ feature.  This will enable you to add adverts to your videos.

Don’t worry.  If you don’t want to have adverts of your videos, you don’t have to.  You are simply doing this to become a YouTube partner.

Once you have done that, you should see that the ‘Custom Thumbnails’ feature is available.


Adding Your Custom YouTube Thumbnail

Now that we have enabled the feature, we can begin to add our thumbnails.

  1. Go to ‘Video Manager
  2. Click ‘Edit’ on the video that you want
  3. Click on ‘Customised thumbnail…’ and upload your image



Your video thumbnail image needs to be as large as possible, as it will also be used as the preview image in the embedded player (when you embed your video in a post, the thumbnail will be shown).

Your custom YouTube thumbnail should:

  • Have a resolution of 1280×720 (with a minimum width of 640 pixels).
  • Be uploaded as a .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, or .PNG.
  • Remain under the 2MB limit.
  • Try to be in 16:9 aspect ratio, as it’s the most commonly used in YouTube videos.

Quick Tip:  If your video is for your website/business, try to include your branding (logo, colours, etc.) in the thumbnail itself.  That way, not only does it look more professional, but if other people were to embed it on their site your branding will be clear to see (whether they watch the video or not).

That’s it!  You can now design your own custom thumbnails for your videos.

Have you added custom thumbnail to your YouTube videos yet?  Did you even know you could do this?  Please let us know in the comment section below!

About Matt Smith

Matt Smith is the founder and editor of OnlineIncomeTeacher. He is a Professional Blogger, SEO Consultant & Web Developer, running a number of sites from the UK. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

  • Andi the Minion

    Another excellent tutorial Matt and again I have learned something I didn’t know but always wanted to know. I have seen videos with custom thumbnails and whenever I uploaded a video I was never given an option to get the title image as my thumbnail which really cheesed me off and now I know why and how to rectify the issue. Something else to add to my ‘fun list of things to do’ 🙂

    • Hi Andi,

      Why YouTube don’t allow people to add their own thumbnail’s from the get go, I don’t know. Would make it a lot easier that messing about with verifying and becoming a partner.

      Mind you, the other features you gain access to are pretty good.

      • Stuckrevolver

        Play video on GomPlayer, (freeware, with its own capture button). Press capture button till you have a pile of pictures. Then go to :- documents-GomPlayer and pick the best one…easy-peasy .

  • Clair Trebes

    Hi Matt, just followed this step by step! It’s great!

    Do you know if this is something I can do to my existing videos, or does this need to be done at the time of uploading a video?

    Thanks for this post! going into the memory bank!


    • Hi Clair,

      Yes, you can add a thumbnail to any of your existing videos. A couple of my videos had been up for about a year before this feature was even available. Plus, you can change them whenever you want.

  • Mark

    The tutorial is good but didn’t solve my problem. My account is verified and I have uploaded many custom thumbnails to my videos. However, this time it’s not working. It takes the upload and displays it beneath the three auto-generated thumbnails. But after saving, it fails to display what I’ve loaded on the video, either on that screen, on the video manager, or on my website where I have embedded the video. Help!

    • Hi Mark,

      That is very strange?!? Did all your previous thumbnails work that you uploaded or have you been having this problem with all of them?

      The only thing that I can think of is that you need to make sure that your custom thumbnail is selected after uploading it. It also may not switch instantly, mine usually take a few minutes for it to appear on my site as well.

      Failing that, you may need to get in touch with YouTube directly as it could just be an issue their end.

    • Celia

      Did you ever solve this problem because I am having the same problem?

  • Please don’t use thumbnails that are not in the video. A lot of the time I click a video specifically to watch to the scene shown in the thumbnail and after watching the whole video looking for the scene and I can’t find it I’m disappointed and angry. Which usually leads to a comment as such, a dislike of the video, and a report for having a misleading thumbnail.

    • Trump Stump

      We know you’re looking for that scantily clad woman those pervs put up to get you click. Works!

  • yoblin

    there is no verify button on the video manager tab

  • Jodie

    I can’t get verified

  • AW Bhai

    wow. thanks, to helping me. now i can add a custom thumbnail to my videos. thanks you very much

  • Umaari


  • Umaari