How To Use Canva to Create Custom Thumbnails for Your Videos

September 16, 2015

Create Custom Video Thumbnails Using Canva - Featured Image

As a designer, I value the importance of first impressions and visuals. Visuals are key in situations such as having a single thumbnail represent an entire video. Every video on YouTube has a thumbnail to show a glimpse of the video. And boy, is there a range of types of thumbnails people create. If you’ve ever wondered how to get more than a preselected thumbnail from YouTube, check out this great post explaining how to create a custom thumbnail. However, what if you want to create an eye-catching thumbnail with text? Never fear! I will give you some instructions and tips to make creating a custom thumbnail easy as pie.

*Please note, YouTube guidelines indicate you must have a verified channel on YouTube to upload a custom thumbnail. You can verify your account here.

Here are some general tips to think about before you begin your design:




As for creating the actual thumbnails, there is a great graphic design resource called Canva. It allows for anyone to create simple, stunning designs. The website is easy to use and they have tons of design tutorials to help you along. There’s also a Canva app for iPad if you want to create your thumbnails on the go.


The page you’ll see after logging in will allow for you to create a design using the pre-sized templates they have for some of the most common uses. Click the ‘More’ button to browse even more options. They have a lot of template types and are constantly adding more. If you have a special size need you can select ‘Use custom dimensions’ and create whatever size you may need. When creating a custom thumbnail, you can select ‘More’, scroll down to the section labeled ‘Documents’ and select ‘Presentation (16:9)’.


Create a Custom Thumbnail Design in Canva

Once you have selected the image size you want, it will open a new window in your browser. You will see layout templates on the left side panel. The large white box on the right is what will soon be your well-designed, custom thumbnail. If you want to title your design something, select ‘Presentation (16:9) – Untitled design’ on the top toolbar and give it an awesome name.


Select a Template for Your Thumbnail


The layout templates Canva provides are great for getting your design started. You will see some that say ‘FREE’ which means they don’t have any assets you will have to pay for when you publish
or save your design. Typically, the part that would cost you anything would be the image, which you will likely be switching out so no worries! Choose whichever layout you like and you’ll see it appear in that big white box. However, if you find an asset that costs money, don’t worry. They cost a whopping $ 1 and you don’t pay until you save or publish your design.

Customize Your Design – Adding an Image


You can start by editing the background image. If you’ve taken a screenshot or photo that accurately and interestingly portrays your video you will click ‘Uploads’ on the very left of the screen and then select the green box that says ‘Upload an image’. Locate the image you want to use and open it. Once uploaded, click and drag it to the area the current image is. You should see a preview of how your image will fill the frame and then you can let go of your mouse to place the image in your design.

Image Filters


You can change characteristics of the image you imported. Select the image, choose ‘Filter’ from the left side of the toolbar. The top of the box has preset filters you can apply. If you select one, you can then customize it to perfectly fit your need with the sliders beneath the preset filters by selecting ‘Advanced’ on the bottom of the toolbox.

Editing Text


Once you have edited your photo, you can change the text already in the layout. Select the text and input what would accurately describe your video in a thumbnail. Remember: keep it concise. Thumbnails aren’t very large and you want to catch a viewer’s attention. Change the font, make it bigger, do whatever you have to do to make the text on the thumbnail stand out! Select the triangle on the right side of the toolbar and you can edit the text with the drop down menu. You can change the color, text kerning, alignment, etc. As you see from my example, the text area was right over an area of interest in my photo, so I wanted to move it to the open area. This will be dependent on your image and template you chose, so use your inner designer to balance elements of the whole thumbnail to get a great result.

Custom Icons for Your Design


Next you’ll want to adjust the graphics to correctly fit the image.13 If you select the search button of the left side of the screen you will see categories pop up and icons will be a choice. Select icons
and start browsing for something that fits your need. Once you have removed any icons you don’t want and have found yourself a winning icon, drag and drop it into your design. If you’d like to upload a logo, go back to the ‘Uploads’ tab and upload it. Once it’s uploaded, click it and it will appear on your artboard. A toolbar will pop up that you can view by selecting any feature in your design you want to edit. You can customize the icon with whatever color you’d like by selecting the colored circle in the toolbar. Resize your image to fit as you would like. Be sure to explore the other features Canva has to offer to make your thumbnail unique and stand out among the see of other YouTube thumbnails.


Once you are thrilled with your thumbnail you can download it as an image to upload to your account by selecting ‘Download’ on the top right of the window and ‘As an image’ from the dropdown menu. Now you have an eye-catching thumbnail to use for your awesome YouTube video!



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