YouTube Shorts Thumbnails: How to Upload Them for More Views

Do you make thumbnails for YouTube Shorts? Here's why you should create them, plus two ways to attach the graphics to your videos.

Are you a Shorts creator? If so, here’s some advice you probably haven’t heard in a while:

Thumbnails aren’t just for long-form videos.

In 2024, your Shorts need attention-grabbing thumbnails to stand out on YouTube — not just a great title and description. A captivating graphic will persuade viewers to click on your content, and that could kickstart a viral moment on your channel. You might even get enough views to achieve YouTube Shorts monetization!

But First, Why Make Thumbnails for YouTube Shorts?

Take one look at the YouTube Shorts player, and you’ll notice thumbnails don’t appear in that part of the app. Instead, viewers see a random frame from the video, which could be anything — an awkward hand gesture, a transition moment, or a non-essential character from the video. Without a custom thumbnail, there’s no guarantee YouTube will choose the best frame for your content.

And that makes sense, considering how YouTube designed the Shorts player. It was made for endless swiping and not necessarily the browsing features we see on the YouTube homepage. Most creators look at the Shorts player and say, “I don’t need thumbnails here.” And they’re right.

Thumbnails Are Important Outside the Shorts Player

But while thumbnails don’t appear on the Shorts player, they do show up in other areas of the app and website, including:

  • ​​The Shorts tab on your YouTube channel
  • Videos on the subscriptions tab
  • Recommended videos on YouTube’s homepage
  • YouTube search results

So, if you want the maximum number of views, don’t overlook the power of thumbnails. You’ll need them to get more clicks outside of the Shorts player.

How to Add Thumbnails to Your Shorts

There are two ways to give your Short a recognizable thumbnail on YouTube. As of writing, the feature that makes this possible is available to Android and iOS users.

Option 1: Select the Best Video Frame

The first option is to set a specific frame as your video’s thumbnail during the upload process. It’s not the best solution, especially if your video doesn’t have an engaging frame to catch viewers' attention. But it’s quick, efficient, and gets the job done.

Option 2: Create a Custom Thumbnail Frame

The second option is to create a thumbnail ahead of time using a tool like Canva or Photoshop, then add the graphic to your video as a new frame. You’ll have to do this in an editing program, such as Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro. But the extra step allows you to set the new frame as your video’s thumbnail when uploading to YouTube.

Here’s how to select a thumbnail for your Short:

1. Upload the Short as you normally would. When you reach the details screen, tap the pencil icon at the top-left corner.

2. Use the frame selector to choose a scene for your thumbnail, then tap Done.

3. Fill out any other sections, then tap Upload Short.

Design Tips for YouTube Shorts Thumbnails

If you're designing a custom thumbnail, here's how to make your Shorts stand out from the rest.

Add text that describes your video accurately. For example, the thumbnail below reads, "hack for more views," which is just enough information to pique viewers' curiosity.

Use compelling images in your thumbnail. The Short below is about YouTube monetization, and the first thing you see is physical money.

If you're creating a tutorial, use your thumbnail to show one step in the process. This signals to viewers that your video is helpful, like Short below!

What Is the YouTube Shorts Thumbnail Size?

Shorts are vertical videos with a 9:16 aspect ratio and a size of 1920x1080 pixels. If you want to make custom thumbnails for Shorts, they should match those dimensions (1920x1080 pixels).

Can You Change the Thumbnail for a YouTube Short?

As of writing, you can’t change the thumbnail for a Short once it’s posted. YouTube hasn’t explained why, but a brief notice says as much in the content editor of the YouTube Studio. So, be sure to select your thumbnail frame before tapping upload!

Now that you know everything about Shorts thumbnails, check out the 12 types of thumbnails viewers love to click on!