A video thumbnail resembles a cover of any printed media in certain ways. It means that it should be attractive to potential viewers and encourage them to see more. Ordinary thumbnails generated automatically by YouTube are obviously not suitable for this role and usually lead to a decrease in the view count and profit margin of uploaded videos.
That’s when custom Photoshop thumbnails come to the rescue. Here is a comprehensive guide covering all the steps you need to take to build a catchy and appealing custom thumbnail in Photoshop.
STEP 1. Create a New Document
Launch Photoshop and create a new document by pressing Ctrl + N/Cmd + N in case you’re using Photoshop keyboard shortcuts, or by clicking File > New.
The New Document dialogue window will appear. You’ll notice the Preset Details section where you should set the proportions for your future thumbnail. Take into consideration, that the most frequently used thumbnail resolution is 1280×720 with an aspect ratio of 16:9. You should always try to use such settings.
STEP 2. Open the Photos
Select a picture that better represents your YouTube video ideas. Click on File in Ps top left corner and select Open, or use Ctrl + O combination on your keyboard. You’ll notice a Browse box where you should find the image you’d like to use, select it, and hit the Open button.
Excellent thumbnail design components include bright colors, photos of people, and uncomplicated objects. This time I’ve picked a photo of a lady holding a camera because I’m working on an image for a photography topic.
STEP 3. Grab the Polygonal Lasso Tool
Select the Polygonal Lasso Tool to highlight the image contours. To do this, just go to the Tools panel, click on the Lasso Tool icon, leave your cursor there until a list of different lasso tools appears, and then choose the Polygonal Lasso Tool.
STEP 4. Copy the Selection to a New Layer
I chose a cutout style for the girl in this PSD thumbnail to make her stand out from the surroundings. Trace over the outer sides of the object for rough highlighting and the tool will automatically cut it around. After the selection is complete, press the right mouse button and choose Layer via Copy.
STEP 5. Add an Outline
Add an expressive outline to the image in Layer Style panel. First, double-click the recently created layer. The Layer Style window will appear. Find and click Stroke in the list on the left side and pick the color that you want. I’ll use an orange line this time.
STEP 6. Add a Gradient
If a clear and uncomplicated background is your target, then a gradient is what you need. Go to Layers box, press the Adjustment Layer and select Gradient. Test different gradient styles to find which ones you prefer. For this case, I’ve decided to pick dusty pink to rosy pink, because it complements the original pink background.
Style determines the gradient form.
Angle determines the gradient’s angle of application.
Scale adjusts the gradient’s rate.
Reverse swaps the order of gradient’s colors, while dither adds some noise to the gradient, making it blend more smoothly.
Align With Layer checkbox is used to match the gradient with the layer on which it’s being applied. You may adjust the gradient’s center by dragging in the picture window. Move the Gradient Fill down until it’s visible beneath the cutout layer.
STEP 7. Change the Blend Mode and Move the Layer
Hover the cursor over Blend Mode to see how each alternative affects the image you’re working with. This time I chose Liner Burn as it brings more contrast to the presented colors.
I also decided to change the position of the cutout image a bit with the Move Tool.
STEP 8. Add Text
Inserting some text is an effective method to give viewers a hint about the content of your video covers in general terms. Select the Type tool to make a short outlining header. Then choose the text style you liked the most. There’s a variety of fonts available and you can access them by pressing More Fonts.
You can modify parameters like leading and size tracking, responsible for space between lines and letters respectively, or change the color of text in Photoshop.
STEP 9. Make It Bolder
I decided to turn the bottom-line text bold to draw more attention. The Options bar lets you do this.
STEP 10. Frame Your Text
Bringing some style and vibrant colors to your header may help it to excel. Select the Rectangle tool and draw a box around the top line of the text. Pick a color that blends well with the picture and drag the rectangle in the Layers panel down so it shows below the text.
If you want to adjust the rectangle sizes, press Cmd+T/Ctrl+T and move the slider; drag and change the position of the rectangle after that. Save the adjustments using Return or Enter keys. I’ve decided to pick an orange color so that it matches the outline I created earlier.
STEP 11. Duplicate the Frame
Use Cmd+J/Ctrl+J combinations to duplicate the rectangle. Place it behind the current frame to add a drop shadow in Photoshop. It’s an excellent method to give Photoshop thumbnail header more depth.
Your thumbnail is ready! Remember to save the result, and preferably, do it twice – as a PSD file (so you can easily launch Photoshop and modify it), and as a JPEG file (so it’s ready to be shared on YouTube). Applying the same colors, layouts, and font styles consistently while you’re gathering your thumbnail library will make it easier to bring your channel a cohesive appearance.
If you want to enhance the appearance of your channel even more, then you should make a YouTube Banner in Photoshop.