YouTube has been the internet's most popular place for video sharing for a long time, and that's not changing anytime soon. Since so many people are watching and creating videos on YouTube, it's a great place to develop your audience, but also a tough place to stand out above the crowd.
A good way to increase your channel's visibility and appeal is to create eye-catching, polished, and consistent thumbnails for your videos. Having a distinctive personal brand can be important, so creating a template for your thumbnails can make your channel appear more professional and unified.
In this article, I'm going to show you how to make a re-usable template for your YouTube thumbnails. I recommend using Kapwing to make your templates, because it's free, web-based, works on all your devices, gives you free cloud storage, lets you add text, pictures, shapes, & filters, and allows you to upload any file type.
Visually consistent thumbnails helps you build a brand on YouTube. When people see a thumbnail on the homepage, they'll learn to recognize which videos are yours. The visual elements you choose - fonts, watermarks, formats, etc - all communicate the values and personality of your channel.
Thumbnail templates might include a title, background color, outline, shape, or logo overlaid on top of a screenshot from the video. Here are a few examples from some popular YouTube channels:
Making a thumbnail template ensures that your thumbnails will look similar for every video you make. Having a YouTube thumbnail template also saves you time since you won't need to redesign the graphic from scratch whenever you publish a video.
You can create a reusable YouTube thumbnail template with Kapwing since the design will be re-editable online, so you can copy it and drop in a new screenshot for each YouTube video you publish. This tutorial will show you how to make a YouTube thumbnail in three steps:
- Open Kapwing Studio
- Design your generic thumbnail
- Add placeholders and sample text
- Publish, copy, & edit
Step 1: Open Kapwing Studio
The first step is to prepare your thumbnail canvas. To get started on your reusable thumbnail template, head to Kapwing and click "Start editing." Or, if you're already signed in, click "New Project," then "Start with Studio." Now you're in the Kapwing Studio, where you can create and edit your thumbnails in one place.
Step 2: Design Your Generic Thumbnail
To make a template, click "Start with a blank canvas." Then, click "16:9" under "Output Size" on the right-hand side of the window to work with the correct dimensions for your YouTube thumbnail.
Now it's your chance to design your generic thumbnail template. Imagine that this template is a starting point where you can drop in a screenshot from a video everytime you publish a new one. This template should have the repeated visual elements, like text, logos, shapes, and titles.
There are a few ways to begin. If you're planning on reusing your template, you probably want some things to stay the same. If you want the border of your thumbnail to be the same for all your videos, or have the same style in different colors, you can click "Shapes" and select a rectangle. Click & drag the corner buttons to the corners of the canvas. In the right-hand menu, select "Fill color" and choose the "no fill" option (it looks like a white circle with a red "x" through it). Now, click the "+" button under "Outline Width" until your border is thick enough. When you click "Outline Color," you can select the color that you want for your template's border!
If you want a more complex background or border, click "Upload" in the upper left-hand corner of the window. Here, you can simply paste a link to any photo or design you found online, or choose "Click to Upload" to use a photo or design that you have saved on your device. You can move, crop, and resize these pictures the same way you edit shapes. Just use the corner buttons and the tools in the right-hand editing menu. You can even make custom filters by clicking "Adjust" – this way, you can make small visual edits to your custom border, or make them monochrome!
You may also want a logo or channel name to remain the same in your thumbnails. To use a logo that you designed, click "Upload" from the top menu again, and import your logo by pasting a link to an online storage site or searching through your file browser. Once your channel logo is in the Studio, you can reposition, crop, and resize it. To make a custom logo or channel name with Kapwing, click "Text" in the upper toolbar. Double-click on the text box and enter your channel name. Using the tools on the right side to the window, you can change your text's font, color, style, arrangement, and border.
Step 3: Add Placeholders & Sample Text
Some parts of your template, of course, you'll want to change. For example, you'll probably want a screenshot from your video to appear somewhere in your thumbnail. For this, click on the "Settings" button in the upper right corner of the window. From the Settings menu, click "Create Placeholder." Now, click & drag the placeholder layer and its corner buttons so that it appears exactly where you'll want your screenshots.
You'll probably also want to change some of the text displayed in your thumbnail. To do this, simply click on "Text" in the top toolbar. This automatically generates a text box with "Sample Text" in it. You can change the text's font & color using the tools on the right-hand side of the window, and change the text box's size by clicking & dragging its corner buttons. You can even rotate the text box to any degree by clicking & dragging the rotation button on its lower edge.
Step 4: Publish, Copy, & Edit
Once your thumbnail template looks just right, click "Publish" in the upper right-hand corner of the window. Kapwing will automatically start processing your template, and it should be ready in just a few seconds.
If you're not signed in, click the button that says "Sign in to remove the watermark" – if you're not signed in, your content won't be saved. You can sign up for Kapwing using your Google or Facebook account. If you're already signed into YouTube on your device, your Google account will likely be the easiest option.
Once your template is processed and you're signed in, it's saved in Kapwing's free cloud storage. So when you want to make a thumbnail for your video, go to your workspace and click on the thumbnail. From the download page, choose "Make a copy." This keeps your old template and creates a copy for you to edit when you release a new video!
You can also use Kapwing to take a frame from your video to use in the thumbnail. Just go to "Products" from your workspace and scroll down to "Convert Video." Click on "jpeg" from the left-hand menu and click & drag the slider under your video. Once you've chosen the frame that you want for your thumbnail, click "Create" in the lower left-hand corner of the window. Now you can use the jpeg file to replace the placeholder layer in your thumbnail template.
Remember to tag us @KapwingApp whenever you share your content on social media– we love to see what our creators are passionate about! And be sure to subscribe to the Kapwing Resources page – we’re constantly writing new tutorial and features to help you make the most out of Kapwing.