Lydia Sweatt is a writer, bookworm, and bass guitar enthusiast. When she goes outside, a bicycle goes with her.
12 Types of YouTube Thumbnails People Love to Click On
When you want more YouTube views, it makes sense to design enticing, high-quality thumbnails. The only problem? It’s hard to design images that make thousands of people feel something on a deep, emotional level. There are challenges along the way, such as running out of ideas or not knowing what makes a good thumbnail in the first place.
If you’ve run out of ideas, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we share 12 types of YouTube thumbnails people love to click on!
1. The One-Question Format
One way to get people interested in your thumbnail is by displaying a burning question that keeps them up at night. “Can I afford a house right now with my current income?” “Will eating organic produce transform my health?” The more relevant the question is to your audience, the more likely they are to click!
For example, creators Colin and Samir started a new channel to address the most pressing concerns of YouTube creators. So far, each thumbnail displays an actual question from their audience.
In fact, one of their popular videos has a thumbnail that reads, “Will YouTube Shorts pay us more than TikTok?” And that is definitely a hot-button issue for their viewers.
2. Facts and Stats
We often say the best thumbnails draw people in with their emotional appeal. But for some viewers, facts and statistics can be enticing, too! This method works well in niches that rely on numbers and data, such as sports, science, and history.
For example, Golden Hoops make videos about “NBA moments” that lead to shock, controversy, or at least a good laugh. Some of those moments include record-breaking stats for different players, so adding those numbers to the thumbnail is a way to get viewers interested in the video.
After all, it’s a bit surprising to learn that a player achieved 50 points and 40 rebounds in one game!
3. Before-and-After Comparison
Thumbnails that compare an object or place in its before-and-after state — a bare room or a failing garden, for example — is an instant win on YouTube. People love seeing transformations, especially when the final form is far from the original. When you show this transformation in a thumbnail, you prove to viewers that the video is worth watching.
For example, take a look at this thumbnail from Bernardo Bacalhau’s video, “Converting a Van With No Experience.” The before and after shots aren’t even close! With such a beautiful upgrade, you can’t help but press play and watch the journey unfold.
4. ‘Versus’ Comparison
Thumbnails that follow the “versus” format compare two items in the same category. For example, you might display two video games about action and fighting or two washing machines that are both energy efficient. In both cases, you’re helping viewers understand what will be compared and why they should care.
The Vox channel has a great example of this. They did an excellent video comparing rollercoasters of the 1800s to the ones we ride today, and you can see the difference just by looking at the thumbnail.
5. Quotes or Sound Bites
If you’re going to put text on a thumbnail, consider a quote or sound bite from the video itself. That will give viewers a subtle preview of what to expect when they press play. Plus, the more interesting the sound bite is, the more enticing the video becomes.
Want proof? This video from Alpha Leaders is about Kobe Bryant’s incredible work ethic. The thumbnail exposes a little-known fact, claiming that he slept four hours daily to squeeze in longer, harder basketball practices. The video has 3.4 million views!
6. Personalized Headshot
Did you know that headshots aren’t just for vloggers or creators building a personal brand? Sometimes, showing your face in a YouTube thumbnail just makes sense.
But it’s about more than showing dramatic facial expressions. To keep things interesting, most people edit around their faces to convey a unique twist in the video and get more views.
That’s what Shelby Church did for her viral video, “I Tried $600 Smart Glasses for a Week.” The thumbnail shows her face, but it also shows some hologram-like images projecting from her glasses. It’s more engaging than a bare headshot!
7. Dramatic Scenes/Live Action
Do you make action-packed videos on YouTube? If so, you want your thumbnail to give off a similar vibe. Try taking a screen capture of the most exciting scene in your video, then edit the entire image to look bold, colorful, and adventurous. This approach will make your video stand out from the competition!
MrBeast is an expert at making live-action thumbnails, so follow his lead by checking out the thumbnail below!
8. Featured Products
Showing products in your thumbnail is a good idea if you have a tech channel, gaming channel, or like reviewing new merchandise in general. You could talk about the latest mascara, the most fragrant candles, or the best skillets for searing steak. Either way, showing a product in your thumbnail helps viewers decide whether to click or not.
As an example, take a look at the image below. Mrwhosetheboss has a table full of Nintendo consoles, and you can probably guess that he’s reviewing all of them in this video. Seeing all those consoles is exciting because you know an in-depth review is coming!
A funny title and thumbnail can catch viewers off guard in a good way. They might laugh, chuckle, or think, Wow, really? It sounds insignificant at first, but this is precisely the type of reaction you want — for viewers to stop what they’re doing and think about your video. That’s the first step to making them click.
If you need inspiration, Kelly Stamps has some of the wittiest thumbnails on YouTube. Check out the one below, which she used for her video, “The Actual Cost of Becoming an Influencer.”
Nature has a way of captivating us all, from the red rock formations in Arizona to the clear blue waters of Jamaica. People travel thousands of miles to see those wonders, so it can’t hurt to show a little nature in your YouTube thumbnails.
Need an example? DownieLive has one of the best thumbnails on YouTube right now. For his video, “Taking the Train from Miami to Alaska,” icy mountains in Alaska meet the tropical waves of Miami.
11. Emotional Moments
If you’re planning a heartfelt video, don’t forget to add a touching moment to the thumbnail too. People love to see good deeds, random acts of kindness, or cute moments between children and animals. It proves that a bit of emotion can take you far on YouTube!
For example, check out the thumbnail below where a grandpa gets his dream car.
We’ll be honest: Making thumbnails for tutorials is not easy. On the one hand, you want the image to convey what will happen in the video, which is a step-by-step lesson. On the other hand, you don’t want the photo itself to be bland or boring. So how do you spice things up?
To start, take a little inspiration from Rose & Anzai Country Life. Surprisingly, the thumbnail for their coconut chicken video breaks all the rules of a traditional cooking channel. You don’t see a kitchen or anyone cooking at all. Instead, you see the family enjoying the finished meal, which appeals to the heart and not the head!
Spice up Your Thumbnails
Thumbnails play a significant role in getting you more views, so be intentional about each one. Make sure the thumbnail is an accurate reflection of the video and that it draws people in with stunning images, questions, stats, and emotional themes. And if you run out of ideas, come back to this article to get inspired again!
Of course, every YouTube thumbnail needs an amazing video title. So here's a nine-point guide on how to name your YouTube videos!