In the same way that a strong headline can attract a lot of readers, a thumbnail can also define if a lot of people will check your content or not.

Instead of words, thumbnails are pixels that make up an image, but a thumbnail image of the original content. The lighter file helps load pages and takes up less space on the server.

YouTube, Instagram and Google are the networks that use thumbnails the most. Each has its own peculiarities — dimensions, graphic styles, functions… so it’s important to know how to use each in their respective channels.

Furthermore, a thumbnail is like the element of a shop window. If it’s not well-crafted, seen as a whole, it can detract from the visual experience.

So, do you want to know what it is and how to create good thumbnails? Continue reading the article!

What is it and how thumbnails came about

These are reduced-size versions of photos or videos, used to help you recognize and organize them. In the age of digital images, visual search engines make a lot of use of these thumbnail versions.

The term ‘thumbnail’ refers to the thumbnail and, surprisingly, this expression was already used in the 19th century to represent a small image. But, in the context of technology, it was used for the first time in the 1980s.

Some people take advantage of the thumbnail images to create the famous ‘clickbait’, another term in English, which is bait for clicks — it encourages the user to click because they think it is content x, but it often addresses a content y. Although it is the tactic responsible for many viral, it is not welcome for a brand, because it deceives visitors and leads to customer losses.

How to use thumbnails

According to YouTube, 90% of the videos with the best performance on the platform have custom thumbnail (not the ready-made ones, made from a video frame). From Adobe Photoshop to Canvas, there are professional programs and others very accessible to create one.


IGTV and Reels videos are the types of publications that need thumbnails.

For IGTV create JPG images and layout the content in 9:16, 1:1, or 16:9 aspect ratio (depends on how you shot the footage). Recommended resolutions are 1280 x 720, 720 x 720, or 720 x 1280 pixels.

Reels videos can appear normally in the feed (ratio 1:1) or in the gallery dedicated to Reels (ratio 9:16). To have no problems, you can work on the same logic as IGTV, of leaving the content more centralized (as if it were a safe zone), keeping the margins free.


The image aspect ratio for this platform is 16:9, in a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. The site also accepts files in., GIF, BMP and PNG format. As the community is exclusive to audiovisual content, you need to really take care of the thumbs.

  • Prioritize colours that contrast YouTube’s black, red, and white (such as lavender, yellow, blue, and green — bright colours in general).
  • Include a picture of a person, which can increase user engagement with your content by up to 38%.
  • If applicable, represent action scenes in the thumbnail. For example, the video is of a special dish, so instead of filling the thumb with a picture of the ready meal, take a picture of it preparing it.


In addition to being careful with the image filename, caption, alt text, etc.

The thumbs that appear in organic search results impact the click, create anticipation and can transform a user’s expectation of what the target site is. Especially when searches are done by smartphone, thumbs are even more important.

Prioritize square images (1:1), avoid putting too many details and elements into a single image, and make it informative (if the site content is informative).

Bonus: e-commerce

The miniatures of virtual stores go beyond a differential, but an opportunity to display a greater amount of products and, thus, have more chances to show what the visitor is looking for immediately.

Thumbs on landing pages also serve to offer similar products and possibly increase shopping cart value. Most companies already use this feature — such as net shoes, Magazine Luiza, among others.

Tips for producing your thumbnail

Websites and online programs already do some of the work for you

It is not necessary to open a blank document, set the dimensions and generate your thumb from scratch. Today there are a number of free sites and programs that have the template almost ready for you to fill in with the content.

Canvas and Adobe Spark are great tools for producing your thumbnail. The Snapper is also widely used for this purpose, but in its free mode, limited to five projects of downloads per month.

Adapt resources thinking about Brand Awareness

A very common mistake is that people make their thumbs at random, without following a brand’s own visual identity and style. Especially on YouTube, it’s a serious flaw because users are exposed to too many videos, and without a layout that helps them remember your channel, less engagement will be.

If you chose to edit your thumbnails once with lavender, yellow and white, for example, as they are vivid and compatible with each other, stick with the same palette for a reasonable amount of time. If you do a rebranding, then it would be interesting to vary.

Test everything you’ve applied

In the digital market, the best way to do well is to test what works. Some tools allow A/B testing with thumbs, such as Tube Buddy. As much as there are so many recommendations, your audience has their own preferences, so it’s important to identify them as soon as possible.

With this article, it was possible to understand the importance and how to create a thumbnail for some of the biggest social networks and even for an online store.