How to Create a YouTube Thumbnail in Canva [Step-by-Step]

You just started your own YouTube channel, and your first video is ready to publish. But you’re still unsure about how to make an enticing thumbnail so that more people will click on your video.

You’re probably familiar with the concept of a YouTube thumbnail – it’s a ‘cover’ for videos that typically summarize the video’s content. Many YouTubers have developed their thumbnail style.

Some of them are highly enticing and almost full-on clickbait. Some others are more toned down.

How to Create a YouTube Thumbnail in Canva

You can develop your own YouTube thumbnail style depending on how you build your channel’s brand. But do you have the tools to make an awesome YouTube thumbnail?

Sure, you can download advanced photo editors like Adobe Photoshop for that purpose. But with their pricey subscription plan, it’s surely a waste of money if you’re only using it to make YouTube thumbnails.

This is where Canva can be the perfect solution for you. Canva is a web-based photo and video editor that helps non-professionals create various graphics with drag-and-drop features – including a YouTube thumbnail.

In this article, I’ll show you the step-by-step guide on how to make an enticing YouTube thumbnail in Canva.

Table of Contents
- Creating a YouTube Thumbnail in Canva
   - Click on Create a Design
   - Select YouTube Thumbnail
   - Explore the available templates
   - Customize Your Design
   - Save Your YouTube Thumbnail
- Why Are YouTube Thumbnails Important?
- Tips on How to Make Enticing YouTube Thumbnails
- Is Canva The Best Thumbnail Maker?

Creating a YouTube Thumbnail in Canva

Before you start making awesome thumbnails for your videos, you’ll need to sign up for a Canva account first. Here’s how to do it:

  • Go to Canva.
  • Click on ‘Sign up’ on the top right corner of your screen.
  • Choose how you want to sign up. The available options are Google, Facebook, or email.
  • Follow the registration process and grant all the required permission.
  • You’ve signed up for a free Canva account.

Now, you can start creating your YouTube thumbnail using Canva’s user-friendly drag-and-drop editor. You can follow the next steps to get the best configuration for your thumbnail.

Click on Create a Design

Once you’ve logged into your Canva account, you’ll see a dashboard with some menus and templates. Skip this and tap on ‘Create a design that’s located at the top right corner of your screen next to your profile icon.

Select YouTube Thumbnail

When you click the button, you’ll see a long list of items that could take a while to explore. Instead, you can simply type ‘YouTube thumbnail’ into the available search bar to directly navigate to that preset. This preset will open up a 1280 x 720 canvas, the recommended size for a YouTube thumbnail.

Explore the available templates

Once you enter the interface for your design, you’ll see many YouTube thumbnail templates on the left side of your canvas. You can choose from various categories, which will help you speed up the design process.

How to Create a YouTube Thumbnail in Canva

If no template catches your attention, you can choose to design everything from scratch with the available tools and elements on Canva.

Customize Your Design

Once you’ve selected a template, you can start customizing your YouTube thumbnail with the available elements and tools from Canva. You can see all the available templates, elements, and tools on the left side of your screen.

How to Create a YouTube Thumbnail in Canva

Now let’s talk a bit about the available elements and tools that you can use to make an awesome YouTube thumbnail.

Using Elements Tool on Canva

The elements tool allows you to use thousands of pre-made elements like pictures, videos, animated GIFs, charts, graphs, and shapes. The longer you explore these elements, the more unique graphics you can find and use for your YouTube thumbnail.

How to Create a YouTube Thumbnail in Canva

You can simply search what you need with a keyword as you would on a Google search. Canva will show you a bunch of relevant graphics, videos, photos, and everything in between. There are also frames that allow you to place another picture inside it.

Some elements also have customizable colors, meaning you can adjust their color combinations to your preference without having to draw everything from scratch.

There are tons of other nifty features that you can use to make your own YouTube thumbnail without having design skills creatively.

Using the Toolbar in Canva

Whenever you click on an element on your canvas, you’ll see a different set of tools at the top of your screen.

This toolbar will have other element modification options like change color, animate, opacity, flip, crop, lock, group, and many more, depending on the type of element you select.

If you click on a pre-made element with customizable color, you’ll see the modifiable colors at the top left corner of your canvas – as shown below.

How to Create a YouTube Thumbnail in Canva

Uploading Your Photos to Canva

If you want to include a photo, video, or screenshot from your computer, you can upload them with the Upload feature that you can find just below the Elements tool.

How to Create a YouTube Thumbnail in Canva

You can upload a new file or find the previous files you’ve uploaded to your Canva storage. You can easily drag-and-drop uploaded pictures or videos to your canvas.

Inserting a Text to Your Thumbnail

There’s also a typing tool that you can use to insert text to your YouTube thumbnail. There are hundreds of presets that you can choose if you want to use unique fonts, but you can also manually create your text style if you wish.

How to Create a YouTube Thumbnail in Canva

Third-Party Apps on Canva

There are also various third-party apps that you can use directly from Canva, including Pixabay and Pexels (stock photos), Typeform (fill-in form), Bitmoji, and many others that you can use to enrich your artworks.

Save Your YouTube Thumbnail

Once you’ve customized your thumbnail, you can download it by clicking on the button at the top right corner of your screen. You can also configure the file type that you want to download.

There are four formats available to use for still images:

  • JPG
  • PNG
  • PDF
  • PDF Print

It’s best to use PNG since it supports better image quality – but you can also use JPG to get smaller image size.

Why Are YouTube Thumbnails Important?

Since thumbnails are essentially the cover of your video, it plays an essential role in deciding whether or not people will click on your video. Aside from the title, the thumbnail is crucial for attracting views since it has a visual appeal for potential viewers.

It’s necessary to have a great video behind an enticing thumbnail – since the views won’t mean anything if you don’t provide high-quality content to your audience.

But most YouTube creators will strive to make awesome videos without being told.

Tips on How to Make Enticing YouTube Thumbnails

You can take the edge on the competition by creating a thumbnail that stands out from the millions of other videos uploaded to YouTube every day.

You can follow the next steps to make a thumbnail that stands out and draws more views.

Keep Your Thumbnail Simple

Even though YouTube thumbnails have HD resolution (1280 x 720), they’re often displayed as smaller images that really can’t show much information about the video – even more so on mobile devices.

Since mobile is taking over the YouTube viewership with over 1 billion daily views, it’s worth keeping in mind to make your thumbnails as concise as possible.

Use Contrasting Colors

Let people see your thumbnails clearly by using contrasting background and foreground colors. There are many videos that still use white text with a light background image as their thumbnail.

As previously mentioned, YouTube thumbnails are pretty small. If the elements inside it are not distinctive, people will have difficulty making out the meaning or message behind your thumbnail.

Use Clickbait Responsibly

If you’re going to exaggerate the content of your thumbnail to draw more views, at least do it responsibly. It’s important to know that views without engagement and retention will not mean anything for your channel’s growth.

Stay clear from using clickbait titles and thumbnails that are not relevant to the actual content of your video.

It’s also considered a violation of YouTube’s creator guidelines, which could lead to the platform not showing your video or taking it down.

Is Canva The Best Thumbnail Maker?

You can use many tools to make YouTube thumbnails with more advanced options, but Canva is one of the best when it comes to ease of use and user-friendliness.

You can easily make thumbnails from scratch without knowing a single thing about graphic design – so it makes for a great thumbnail maker for beginners.

What’s even better is that you can use Canva for absolutely free – with limitations on the smaller elements and feature library access.

But even if you decided to subscribe to Canva’s premium plan, it’s only $49 for an annual plan – which is not a steep price to pay considering what you’ll get from the platform.


Canva is an excellent tool that can help you create enticing thumbnails for your YouTube videos. It has everything you’ll need to make a visually appealing YouTube thumbnail, but there are certainly more advanced photo editing tools in the market.

If you’re unfamiliar with the more advanced graphic design tools like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or ProCreate, Canva could be a solid starting point for making YouTube thumbnails.

Scroll to Top