Hacking the YouTube ‘Creator Playbook’: Pick Your Poster

/ Mar 17, 2014


Perhaps a more crucial attention grabber than all that metadata, your video’s thumbnail should look like a movie poster: clear and compelling with a well thought out composition. Here are a few tips for creating custom thumbnails that will draw audience to your content:

1) Make It Hi-Res: The “Creator Playbook” gives us 640px x 360px min. with a 16:9 aspect ratio as a guideline. A sharp, focused image will make it look like you know what you’re doing when it comes to online video entertainment.

2) Get Real Close: If you’ve got faces in your thumbnail, use a close-up shot. As a rule, people are always drawn in by other people’s faces. If you shoot someone from a distance and use it as your thumbnail, viewers won’t see any eyes to stare into and will look elsewhere for a more captivating image.

3) Size It Up: Zoom in and out on your thumbnail and make sure it looks good at all sizes. Viewers will see the thumbnail in a number of different contexts, so make sure it’s not only legible but attractive regardless of the size.

4) Keep It Flashy: “Flashy” may be an overstatement, but ensuring that your thumbnail’s colors are bright, crisp, and provide high contrast will accomplish that movie poster feel. Don’t let colors of distinct items blend (unless it’s a deliberate, artistic choice), so if you have a blue car set against the bright, blue sky, make the car blue pop from the sky blue and create sharp lines that designate the car as the object in the foreground.

5) Think About It in Advance: While you’re shooting your video, it couldn’t hurt to imagine the thumbnail that will best capture your whole project. Take a moment to shoot the still as you shoot the video, if you have the resources and the desire.

6) Remember to Represent: This may seem obvious, but some people insist on adding thumbnails that follow all of the previous guidelines except for one, distinct flaw: they have nothing to do with the video. Having an irrelevant thumbnail will not only mislead your viewers but will also prevent them from clicking on your stuff in the future. They’ll realize that your content will disappoint compared to your beauteous thumbnails.

Thumbnails appear in search results, at the end of your video, and at the bottom of your playlist runner. They make more of an impact than most ‘Tubers realize. Now that the “Creator Playbook” has reminded you of their importance, you can perfect your thumbnails and move onto the extras that optimize viewership from within your videos…

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  • Great advice, wish you had examples 🙂
    My fav thumbnails are from shaytards, Karenkavett, thefinebrothers, and ArrielleIsHamming 🙂


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