How to Create Amazing Video Thumbnails: Best Practices to Increase Viewer engagement

Written by
Special HQ
 on 
December 2, 2020

Video thumbnails are incredibly important to establish your brand and to deliver a premium experience to your viewers. Great video thumbnails capitalize on first impressions, define your channel’s unique brand, and help users navigate through your content catalog seamlessly.

Think of your video thumbnails as a “pitch,” helping viewers quickly understand each video’s context, mood, and main attraction.

Great video thumbnails enable you to present your premium content in an engaging, branded interface ultimately leading to higher subscriber acquisition and retention.

In this article, we will cover visual and technical strategies to consider when creating your video thumbnails on Special.

Recommended Upload Size

Special automatically optimizes uploaded thumbnail images for display across devices and screen sizes.

We recommend that you upload your thumbnails at a resolution of 1920x1080px or at least 1280x720px.

Focus on Branding, not Clickbait

On video platforms like YouTube or other social media, thumbnails are displayed next to other creators’ thumbnails and advertisements making it difficult to stand out and attract viewers. This cluttered competitive landscape has incentivised the flashiest, most clickbait-y thumbnails possible to demand attention and screen space.

In some cases, this is okay, but in many cases, you risk creating a video thumbnail that misleads your viewers or a thumbnail that doesn’t work with the premium brand that you have established.

Premium video is not clickbait, nor does it need to be. Focus on developing your premium brand through your video thumbnails.

On Special, things are different. Your viewers engage directly with your content catalog and are never served distracting advertisements or recommendations to other creators’ content. This way, your video thumbnails are surrounded by only your other video thumbnails creating a unique branded experience.

Focus on creating great thumbnails that perfectly represent your brand, heighten quality perception, and create meaningful introductions to your videos.

Create Context between Video Thumbnails and Series

Because content on Special is organized by “Series,” many viewers will progress through your episodes using series and “up next” recommendations. In other cases, viewers may explore your “Recent Releases” or view all videos therefore, looking at a large number of videos on a single page at once.

For cases like these, it’s important to think about how you can align your video thumbnails with their respective series or subject matter.

A viewer looking for a video pertaining to a particular series benefits from knowing that the video they are searching for will have particular visual elements and design.

Be careful not to take this idea too far. Thumbnails that all look the same or are too similar can make finding a video even harder than if they were each highly unique. Aligning your thumbnails with your series’ branding is and will always be a balancing act of ensuring a video is recognized as a part of a series while still being unique enough to be descriptive of what the video is about.

Placement of Visual Elements Inside Your Thumbnail

Special may apply a “Locked” icon, a timestamp, or other descriptive elements to the bottom right hand corner of your video thumbnails to help nurture your viewers through your video catalog. These elements let your viewers know if a video is for paid subscribers only, has already been watched by the viewer, or can be resumed where a viewer previously left off.

Because the best video thumbnails are optimized to tell a story quickly with a number of well crafted visual elements, we recommend that you do not place informative visual elements or text in the lower right hand corner of your video thumbnails.

Contrast with White

In most cases, your video thumbnails are displayed on a white background. To ensure that your thumbnail’s pop, we recommend that you stay away from using pure white or colors that are shades of white. Creating thumbnails that leverage too much white will blend into the background and generally won’t have enough contrast to give your viewers a graphic to latch their eyes to. Think about your thumbnail as an anchor point. A viewer will identify a video thumbnail, determine whether the thumbnail subject matter looks interesting, read the video description, and ultimately click “play” or continue searching.

Optimizing for Mobile

It's common for video thumbnails to be smaller than 135x75px on mobile devices. As Special optimizes your thumbnails for mobile screens, it’s important to ensure that any important elements, graphics, or text can still be interpreted. Small screen sizes reinforce that a thumbnail should be a high level pitch, rather than a comprehensive deep dive into the video’s subject matter. The more clean and concise your thumbnail is, the more it will pop; especially as larger versions of your thumbnails are displayed on bigger screen sizes.

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Special enables creators to own their audience, maximize recurring revenue, and establish their content business.

Viewers subscribe directly to creators and content, curating their unique bundle of subscription media.

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