YouTube Livestream Thumbnail

The YouTube Livestream Thumbnail – The Full Run Down

So why should you focus on creating a great YouTube livestream thumbnail? YouTube is one of the most used platforms when it comes to video sharing. Even so, video sharing is only a part of the services that YouTube offers. Some people use it to stream, while some use it professionally to make a living. A great thumbnail can go a long way in promoting your livecream. In this article, we will take a deep dive into how to create an upload a thumbnail to your next YouTube livestream.

Almost all successful YouTube videos and clips have thumbnails. Thumbnails are the small images you see, which visually describe what you could see if you were to watch a video. They are very effective in drawing in viewers, especially if used properly. For live streams, a thumbnail is as important as it would be for regular videos. Examining thumbnails in detail, however, is worth considering, due to their importance in influencing a video’s overall view count.

Here are a few examples of thumbnails from some of my own YouTube videos – note that these videos are unrelated to the topic of creating a thumbnail, but I wanted to show you a few examples!

What is a YouTube Livestream Thumbnail and Why You Need One

Thumbnails are condensed and resized versions of images, either of photos or videos, used to organize them. In the context of YouTube, they work similarly to a visual summary or index. By looking at a thumbnail, the viewer should know what to expect. Thumbnails often include a mixture of images, the creator, more often than not, and some descriptive text.

Using a YouTube live stream thumbnail is essential because every video on YouTube needs a thumbnail to be more effective in drawing viewers. Images tend to be more attractive than text. Long-time viewers might return because they follow the content on a daily basis, but new viewers might not be interested if the thumbnail is bad or nonexistent. 

Why Are YouTube Thumbnails So Important?

Thumbnails are basically free advertisements for your video or live stream. They work similarly to a photo advertisement except they simply need to make people watch your video. In general, people like images more than text. When an image is available, people are more likely to look at the image, rather than the text, even if the text is more interesting.

Videos with good thumbnails attract more viewers compared to those without, or with a bad thumbnail. This is particularly true for new viewers. 

A certain style of thumbnail associated with the channel is also recommended, which will make it easier for people to find the video or livestream in the recommended section of YouTube.

Best Practices for Making Quality YouTube Livestream Thumbnails

A YouTube livestream thumbnail can be made in various ways to help increase the chances that a potential viewer will check out your video. When done right, a good thumbnail can improve view count and impressions. Below I’ve listed a couple of guidelines that should be considered when creating your thumbnail. It is also important to remember that humans like to view human-centric content, so be sure to make your thumbnail fun to look at and easy to understand.

High-Quality Images

YouTube itself recommends having the highest possible image but not exceeding 2MB in size. Two megabytes is not a very big file, so the image itself should be created at a high resolution and then compressed, or taken with a high-quality camera and then compressed. 

Due to the compression, the quality might decrease slightly, but so will the actual size of the image. Given the ratio of thumbnails, the reduced quality of the image should not be a problem.

Good Lighting Makes Photos and Images Better

The quality of a YouTube livestream thumbnail is determined by a couple of factors, but lighting plays the biggest role. Playing with shadows, the direction of lighting, and omitting parts of an image can have a great effect. Poor lighting should be avoided at all costs.

Overexposing an image is also out of the question. The subject should be clearly visible, without any flares or reflections, unless they are intentional. 

Easy to Read Text

Text is an extremely important part of a thumbnail – you have very limited space to get your point across, so it is important to select the most compelling words. People love being told what they can expect in a video. A short summary, in two or three words, will help with the view count. 

The text should also be in a font that is easy to read. The font color and how easy it is to see the text in contrast to the background are very important. Additional lighting can help the text seem more dramatic or plain, depending on the desired effect. 

A/B Testing Prior to Uploading

A/B testing is one of the oldest ways of determining whether one solution is better than another, which is especially true for marketing and graphic design. The same can be said for thumbnails. Asking non-partial people for their opinions will give you a good idea of which design is better or whether any of the two or more designs can be improved.

A good YouTube livestream thumbnail is typically not created in one sitting unless the creator is a professional. A/B testing is a good way of learning what works best. You can also check out Tubebuddy’s A/B testing tool. For more information on TubeBuddy, check out this ultimate review.

People Love Seeing Other People – Your Own Photos Will Work

Thumbnails from successful channels often include people who represent the channel, the hosts, and other people who deliver the content. You should definitely feature yourself in your YouTube livestream thumbnails if you appear in the videos.

People love seeing other people in thumbnails and react rather positively to them, especially if the said people have dramatic facial expressions. These expressions, often expressing intense emotions, do a good job of attracting new viewers.

Plan Ahead and Not After a Video is Done

Whether making a video or YouTube livestream thumbnail, they should be planned ahead. Not everything has to be made in the last second, prior to the upload. Planning ahead means that the video can be uploaded after editing and post-processing is complete.

Not only can a content schedule reduce stress save time, but this strategy can also improve the effectiveness of your video content as a whole.

How to Add a Custom Thumbnail to a YouTube Livestream

A live stream should have its own thumbnail so that people can see something familiar, rather than a desk and people talking or an overlay and video game, depending on what the live stream is about.

Adding a custom thumbnail to a livestream is simple. Upon creating the livestream, you end up with a window that displays all of your statistics and stream key, as well as other important data. At that point, you are then presented with the option to take a thumbnail photo on the spot or upload one of your own.

How to change a youtube livestream thumbnail

Simply hover your mouse over the current thumbnail and select Edit. Once you do this, you have the option to either retake the thumbnail or Upload Custom Thumbnail. It is here where you should browse for your thumbnail and upload it.

How to Add a Custom Thumbnail to a Scheduled YouTube Livestream

A custom YouTube livestream thumbnail can be added to scheduled streams, as well. After scheduling a stream through YouTube Studio, it will be added to a list of streams. Under the Manage tab on the left, you can click on the scheduled stream.

The same window you would get as if you were to actually attempt to start streaming will appear.

Changing a youtube livestream thumbnail after scheduling the stream

Simply hover your mouse over the current thumbnail and select Edit. Once you do this, you have the option to either retake the thumbnail or Upload Custom Thumbnail. It is here where you should browse for your thumbnail and upload it.

How to retake or upload a custom thumbnail

How to Change Your Custom YouTube Livestream Thumbnail

Changing a thumbnail should be an easy process for anybody who already set their thumbnail but has changed their mind and found a better solution, or revised the previous thumbnail. After a stream has been started or scheduled, going to the manage tab and selecting the stream in question will open the same window as if you were creating the stream. 

Under the Edit button’s window, you can find your current thumbnail. Selecting the three vertical dots in a circle when hovering the cursor over the thumbnail will give you two options, Change and Download. Select Change and browse for your new thumbnail.

How go go into your dashboard to change the YouTube livestream thumbnail
How to specifically upload a new youtube livestream thumbnail

Tutorials on How to Create and Improve a Custom Thumbnail for YouTube 

When in doubt, you could always go back to basics. Google offers a course and brief overview on what you should do when creating and uploading thumbnails. Under this section, Add video thumbnails, you can find the most relevant information about YouTube thumbnails, according to Google.

In the YouTube Creator Academy, there are plenty of tutorials on how one should approach YouTube. One of those tutorials deals with creating thumbnails and it is called Make effective thumbnails and titles. Google is one of the best sources to start with when it comes to YouTube tutorials.

Other ways of learning how to make an efficient thumbnail can come from YouTube personalities, who have played and mastered the game. This tutorial from Video Influencers, a respected channel which deals with YouTube content specifically, is a great place to go from Google’s own tutorials.

An alternative would be Justin Brown from Primal Video, who deals with all things multimedia, from phone recording to professional gear.

Summary and Conclusion – Thumbnails are Necessary

Every YouTube video, at least every successful one, has a thumbnail. Custom thumbnails should be made for every video if you want to excel in view count. 

Making a custom thumbnail, for live streams and otherwise, includes using great lighting, adding easily legible text fonts and colors, a pleasing design, and the creator themselves, for the human factor that we all want to see. With these tips and tricks, a custom thumbnail for YouTube live streams should be less of a challenge to create.

Interested in learning more about optimizing your YouTube videos? Check out this Morning Fame review.

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Morgan is a recognized video marketing expert and content creator. She also runs a video production company and has a passion for teaching all things video.

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