Lydia Sweatt is a writer who loves balancing her article/blog time indoors with a healthy dose of nature. She bikes, hikes, and identifies edible plants along the way.
YouTube Shorts Dimensions: How to Get the Right Size for Vertical Content
Creating your videos in the correct format is vital, especially if you want to make an impact with YouTube Shorts. While the basic rules are straightforward — keep the video under 60 seconds and make it vertical — there's more to the equation.
For example, how vertical is vertical? Which aspect ratio will YouTube accept?
Getting the Right Size for YouTube Shorts
The ideal YouTube Shorts resolution is 1080x1920 pixels and the aspect ratio is 9:16. This is the standard for most modern smartphones in portrait mode, making it the go-to choice for creators.
- Aspect ratio: 9:16 (creates the vertical format)
- Resolution: 1920 pixels by 1080 pixels (standard length-by-width ratio for vertical content)
Why These Dimensions Are the Best
Mobile Optimization: The 9:16 aspect ratio aligns perfectly with the portrait mode feature inside most smartphones. It offers a full-screen viewing experience without any black bars, making it ideal for mobile-first audiences.
User Experience: Viewers are used to seeing the vertical aspect ratio on platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels, and other short-form videos. Creating in this format ensures a seamless and engaging experience.
Platform Preference: YouTube itself recommends the 9:16 aspect ratio for Shorts. This format is optimized for the Shorts shelf and the algorithm that promotes short-form content.
Can You Make a Square YouTube Short?
There's a tiny caveat to YouTube's rule that Shorts need to be vertical videos. Apparently, Shorts don't have to be vertical as long as they're at least square. That means you can create Shorts with a 1:1 aspect ratio and dimensions of 1080x1080 pixels. Those videos will look like perfect squares — so, technically not vertical at all — but YouTube will categorize them as Shorts.
Check out the square format versus the vertical format below. When a Short is square (left), you'll see black bars above and below the video frame. That extra bit of artificial "length" is what helps the video qualify (probably) as a Short. Vertical videos (right) fill the entire mobile screen.
We tested all of this on the vidIQ Shorts channel years ago. And we know square videos can become YouTube Shorts because:
- Our test video (a square) made it to the Shorts shelf, which only displays Shorts.
- A large percentage of video views came from the Shorts traffic source.
Here's the test video we used to confirm the results:
Even still, there are advantages and disadvantages to making square Shorts.
- Con: The video will have an unsightly black bar at the top and bottom of the frame.
- Pro: Square videos leave the bottom of the screen empty, and viewers can easily see your channel name, the video's title, and the subscribe button.
YouTube Shorts: Can They Be ‘Wider’ or 'Narrower' Than Perfect Squares?
For our next test, we attempted to make a Short wider than a square. So, we uploaded a video that was just 10 pixels wider than it was tall, and as we expected, the video didn't appear in our featured Shorts section. That's an area YouTube auto-populates, so the results are clear: Our video was not a Short.
That means the widest Short you can make is a square video. If the video is wider than it is tall, it won't be considered a Short.
Here’s another rule to follow: Don’t make a video skinnier than what you’d shoot on a smartphone. We created a video with a resolution of 360x1920 pixels, and while people can view it on YouTube, it didn’t make it to the Shorts shelf.
To see all of our Shorts testing — and view what might be the skinniest video on Earth — check out the explainer below:
Pros and Cons of Wider Aspect Ratios (e.g., 16:9)
- Traditional YouTube content creators are familiar with wide content.
- Wide content is better for displaying landscapes or group scenes.
- Not optimized for mobile viewing; can result in black bars on the top and bottom in portrait mode.
- May not be as engaging for the mobile-first audience.
Narrower Aspect Ratios (e.g., 4:5, 1:1)
- Suitable for mobile viewing, though not as optimized as 9:16.
- Offers a middle ground for content that doesn’t fit well in extremely vertical formats.
- Not fully utilizing the screen real estate on mobile devices.
- May not be as immersive as 9:16 for viewers.
The most important thing to know? Shooting a vertical video with your phone (as intended) is the easiest way to make YouTube Shorts. You will automatically use the correct aspect ratio and completely avoid the "technical" stuff.