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Custom Youtube Thumbnails

Updated on September 11, 2012

Picture Perfect

A picture, they say is worth a thousand words and what is true of pictures is even more so about videos. Being told how to do something is all well and good, but being shown how to do it is so much better. Abiguity can crop up in even the most experienced writers explanations and oftentimes there is also a language barrier to further muddy the waters, but when you are shown how to do it such problems melt away - with a video, you simply have to watch and you understand.

This power of video to get a message across has not been lost on the Internet surfing population. Videos now regularly turn up in the top ten of most Google searches and anyone with an online business or opportunity to promote are missing a huge trick if they are not producing their own video about it. And of course, producing your own video is so easy these days, you don't even need specialist equipment. Most mobile phones can record video and YouTube (amongst others) are more than happy to host it for free and share you work with the world.

Videos are so easy to make these days
Videos are so easy to make these days | Source

If you search on YouTube, you can find videos on every subject under the sun, each one accompanied by a small image, or thumbnail, which is representative of the contents of that video. Most of these thumbnails appear to be (and in fact are), random screen shots from somewhere in the video, which may or may not be helpful to you in deciding which of the offered videos to watch.

First Amongst Equals?

But if you look closely you will also see a smattering of thumbnails which are not screen grabs but are obviously custom designed images which have been designed as a calling card for it's video. As we mentioned earlier, a picture is worth a thousand words, and such custom thumbnails (with their implied professionalism),tend to attract a bigger share of the searching youtube population – a vital “edge” if you are producing videos to promote your business or service.


So why have some videos got custom thumbnails while the vast majority are denied this little perk? Well, the custom thumbnail videos are owned by YouTube “partners” - that is people who are part of the YouTube business partnership and share advertising revenue with Youtube. Such partners enjoy benefits that the average Youtuber does not – custom thumbnails being one of them.

YouTube partners have agreed to observe very strict standards of quality, content and copyright observance which is why they are trusted with choosing thumbnails which will not be mis-representative of their videos – i.e. they won't use a thumbnail of a scantily clad girl just to con viewers into viewing their video about accountancy – Which is fair enough.

Any Alternative?

So is gaining YouTube partnership the only way to get a custom thumbnail on your videos? Well, there is one other way which is fairly easy to do, and providing you use it responsibly (i.e. not to mislead, which will get you complaints and possibly banned), then you should be OK.

The Hack

When you upload your video to YouTube, the YouTube robot divides your video into three areas: beginning, middle and end. It then chooses a random screen shot from each area and presents these images to you as a choice of thumbnail. We can use this knowledge to ensure that the robot offers us any image we choose to use as a thumbnail by simply ensuring that the last third of your video consists of your chosen thumbnail.

First create your custom thumbnail as a still image. Then when editing your video, fade to black at the end, then leave a second or two blank, and then add your thumbnail image, and stretch it out in the editor until it is at least half the length of the original video – i.e. if your video is 6 minutes long, then you need to add another 3 minutes of your thumbnail image to the end so your final video will be 9 minutes long. You then simply upload your video to YouTube, which during processing will offer you your custom image as a thumbnail choice.

There was a time when having had your custom image accepted, you could go back into the YouTube editor and remove the surplus footage at the end of your video, and your custom image would remain but it seems that YouTube have now got wise to that trick and if you edit your video in this way, YouTube will simply replace you thumbnail with a random choice.

So there you have it, the price you pay for the custom thumbnail is a larger upload. I hope this is a hack that you will find useful, but please use responsibly. Remember you can't cheat the viewing public for long – If you upset them, they will complain, and you could get banned.

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Submit a Comment

  • Maralexa profile image

    Marilyn Alexander 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

    That's a brilliant idea! I wish to learn more about making good YouTube videos. So I shall start with you. Thanks, Gaizy. Up and awesome.

  • Gaizy profile image

    Gaizy 5 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    Just in case you are from the Inland Revenue, let's say it's steady and growing :)

  • Island Tropical profile image

    Island Tropical 5 years ago

    Nice, so how much have you made from Youtube?