How to Choose a YouTube Video Shorts Thumbnail
by Julie Weishaar
January 27, 2024
How to Choose a Thumbnail for YouTube Shorts

Regarding dominating the digital landscape, YouTube video shorts has emerged as a game-changing platform.

With their fast-paced and immersive nature, these short-form videos have quickly captivated audiences worldwide.

In this ever-evolving digital age, the battle for attention is fierce, and the thumbnail is one pivotal element in winning this quest.

Thumbnails play a proactive role in driving viewers to engage with your content. They are potential viewers’ first point of contact, offering a seamless glimpse into your content.

An eye-catching and compelling thumbnail can make a difference in attracting viewers in the fast-paced realm of YouTube Shorts.

How can you choose and use the best thumbnails for your YouTube Shorts to make your content stand out in this exciting yet competitive digital space?

Understanding YouTube Shorts and Their Thumbnail Importance

YouTube Shorts are brief videos that can last up to 60 seconds and are designed to be viewed on mobile devices.

With the ability to create shorts directly from your phone camera, creators can capture engaging content on the go and upload it directly to the platform.

Or they can create animated YouTube shorts using various AI video content creator tools.

These short, captivating videos appear on the YouTube app’s homepage and within the designated Shorts shelf, making them easily accessible to viewers.

What are YouTube Shorts?

YouTube Shorts are distinct from regular YouTube videos in that they are vertical, making them ideal for mobile consumption.

They are accompanied by a prominent “Shorts” badge, signaling their format, and encouraging users to explore this content.

The duration of short videos allows creators to convey their message, capturing viewers’ attention instantly and swiftly.

The Impact of Thumbnails on YouTube Shorts

Thumbnails play a pivotal role in the discoverability and click-through rates of YouTube Shorts.

Shorts are designed for quick consumption, so the thumbnail serves as the initial point of attraction and interest for viewers.

An engaging and visually appealing thumbnail can entice users to click, boosting the video’s visibility and overall reach.

With the brief nature of YouTube Shorts, the thumbnail becomes essential in capturing viewers’ attention within a short time frame.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Thumbnails for YouTube Shorts

YouTube Shorts has quickly become popular for sharing short and engaging videos.

With millions of viewers scrolling through content daily, creating thumbnails that catch their attention is crucial.

When choosing thumbnails for YouTube Shorts, creators need to remember specific elements to ensure their content stands out and attracts viewers.

You will notice my choice of “choose” instead of “create” when referring to YouTube shorts thumbnails.

This is because, for long-form videos, you can create a thumbnail and upload it to your YouTube channel’s editor.

For YouTube shorts, you must select your thumbnail before publishing the video.

In other words, you cannot change the thumbnail once you have published a YouTube short.

Visual Appeal and Branding

Visual appeal plays a critical role in attracting viewers to your YouTube Shorts.

Selecting visually stunning thumbnails that align with your branding helps to establish a recognizable and consistent style across your content.

I like to use funny, outrageous, strikingly stunning, or adorable thumbnails to grab the attention of my viewers.

You should try out different ideas to see what works best for you.

Engaging Imagery and Text

Compelling imagery paired with concise, legible text can significantly impact the click-through rate of your YouTube Shorts.

Using captivating visuals and carefully chosen text can pique the viewer’s interest and compel them to click on your video.

When choosing a visually appealing and informative thumbnail, it’s essential to balance intriguing imagery and text.

So, How Do You Select a Thumbnail for Your YouTube Short?

The process is straightforward if you are uploading a video from your phone.

Start by opening the YouTube app on your phone. Click on the + sign at the bottom of your screen and select from the videos on your phone the short you want to upload.

Plus Icon

Hit “next” and then “next” again. Then, look for the pencil icon in your video and click on it.

This will allow you now to choose the part of the video that you want to use as your custom thumbnail.

pencil icon

Scroll through your video and select the best clip to use as a thumbnail to attract and engage your viewers.

select frame

You can add details like a title, description, tags, etc., to your short and then publish it.

Or you can keep it private and add the title, tags, description, etc., later from your computer.

If you are like me, typing on my phone is challenging. I prefer to use my laptop when adding necessary information.

After I upload the video from my phone and select my YouTube video short thumbnail, I navigate to the video from my computer.

From my YouTube studio, I then add the details, choose the related video, and update the status from private to publish.

It’s essential to remember that before you hit upload, this is when you select the section of the video you want to use as your thumbnail.

Once you upload the video, it is too late to change it.

How Do You Get an Animated Video You Created on Your Phone?

If you are using your laptop or desktop to create animated videos, you can still select your YouTube Shorts thumbnail.

When your video is complete, upload it to Google Drive. Then, from Google Drive, download it to your iPhone.

From this point forward, the procedure is the same as above when selecting your chosen thumbnail.

select video for YouTube short

Don’t Forget About Adding a Relevant Long-Form Video Link

The only thing we can be sure of is that everything changes.

YouTube used to allow creators to include clickable links in their shorts’ descriptions and comments.

According to YouTube, they were recently removed due to spam issues.

However, they do allow you to link to a long-form relevant video.

Read How to Add a Clickable Link to YouTube Shorts and watch the video to ensure you are utilizing this technique.


This process only works on iPhones for now, but I expect it to change soon.

As I said above, the only thing we know about anything digital marketing-related is that it will change.

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