Creating YouTube Thumbnails for FREE

One of the most important things if you're looking to get more views on your YouTube videos is having the right thumbnail. This is the first thing that people on YouTube will see. The wrong thumbnail can actually make or break a video. Today we're going to talk about how you can create nice YouTube thumbnails easily AND for free using Canva.  


Step 1: choose a picture

To get started you need the right photo. You can either use a screenshot directly from your video or, better yet, you can take a photo of your subject to use specifically for the thumbnail. If it’s a video of you speaking, then you can also use a picture of yourself.

As we mentioned, if you don't have a picture already prepared, you can take a screenshot from the video. To do this, you can either download an app for screen capturing or use a shortcut if it’s available for your computer. If you use a Mac, press command+shift+4 and on Windows look for the Snipping Tool in your applications.


Step 2: begin a file on canva

Now that you have your picture, head to and click ‘create a design’. Use 1920x1080 as your dimensions. Once the file opens, drag your photo or screenshot onto the main canvas. From there you can adjust the size to fill the entire rectangle.


Step 3: edit your photo

Thumbnails on YouTube are very small... that's why the editing will be a bit different from your typical picture. Studies have shown that an image that is more saturated and sharper than normal will perform better (which means your video will get more views). Click ‘adjust’ as showed here in the picture. There you will be able to edit anything you want in your photo and you can also bring up the saturation and reduce the blur by 10 to 30%.

Step 4: add a title

Now that your background is ready, it's time for a title. in this case, less is more. Because a thumbnail is so tiny, it is best to use 2 to 5 words. You won't be able to fit a standard title here, so pick the best keywords to showcase them as a title. This could be “Amazing House”, “10 Insta Tricks”, “Crazy YouTube Feature” or “New Signal Hill Listing”. 

Add text to your photo, use your chosen title and pick a font that you like and also stands out. We like to use bold fonts and block text because it's easy to see even when it's a small thumbnail.


Step 5: add graphics

The most common graphic to add is a shape that will go behind your title. YouTubers use this trick to help the text stand out better. Go into elements and choose ‘lines & shapes’ and pick a rectangle, circle or another filled in shape. Then you can place this in a contrasting colour behind your title text. 

Tip: if it shows up above the title, you can change its position by going to “position” in the top right corner and clicking “backward”.



If you want, you can also add other graphics. For example, a symbol that represents your video well. Canva also has many social media graphics, so if you’re speaking about a platform-related topic, you can add the logo to make it clear and easy for people to see!


Step 6 - Touch up and export!


Once you have everything on the canvas, you can make adjustments so the whole image looks good. Take the chance to change the colours, move things around or make them bigger if you don’t think they will be visible on a tiny thumbnail. 

Once you’re happy with your work, it’s time to save it! Just click download at the top right of the page. We recommend choosing a high-quality PNG, so it looks as good as possible on the screen.


Now you’re ready to go, all you have to do is upload it to your youtube video!


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Michelle Pijanowski

Michelle Pijanowski, better known as PJ, is our go-to girl for all things social. Don’t let her love of gourmet ice cream and appreciation of craft beer fool you! She isn’t your average millennial whose experience starts and ends with an Insta account. A traveller at heart, PJ has always been excited by storytelling and connecting with people from all walks of life. Her passion for content creation started when she accidentally landed an internship in marketing that ended up leading her into the worlds of social media and journalism. Despite not even having a personal Instagram at the time, she immediately fell in love with helping brands grow a community through the power of the internet. She’s worked with businesses of all shapes and sizes, from hotels to restaurants to startups. After years of learning the ins and outs of different social networks and completing her degree in Communication and Media, PJ is stoked to help brands build a human connection with a virtual audience.

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