How To Create Killer Youtube Thumbnails In GIMP {That Get Clicks}

Are you ready to create Youtube thumbnails that get clicks? Excellent, then you’re in the right place. This article will show you how to develop various design elements to help your thumbnails stand out.

Plus, my finished design {template} can be downloaded for free. No email address is required! I’ve also included links for the images to use as you follow along.

The step-by-step instructions below are for more avid users of GIMP. If you’re new to GIMP, you may wish to watch the video {above} instead. It goes into more detail about each of the design processes.

If you’re ready… let’s do it!

Table of Contents

7 Quick Tips For Youtube Thumbnails That Get Clicks!

Before we get into the designing aspect of your Youtube thumbnails, I’d like to share with you 7 killer tips for getting clicks. Oh, and examples of the three top design styles of the past couple of years for inspiration.
Each of the design styles is easy to replicate. Later on, I’ll show you how easy it is to create them in GIMP.

In addition to those 7 tips, I’ve seen a definitive design style for the past couple of years. Here are the top three I’ve seen…

ONE. Branding

gimp thumbnails

GIMP Youtube thumbnail with my branding.

photoshop thumbnail

Similar design style as before except the colors are different for Photoshop.

Are you in a crowded niche? Does everyone’s design style look the same?

You can stand out by adding your branding to your thumbnails! Branding includes things like your logo, font choice (s), specific colors, and even your face!

Incorporating your branding will make you stand out from an over-crowded field. Notice how I use a banner with my brand (glasses) for my Youtube thumbnails.

Plus, each category (Photoshop, GIMP, Lightroom, Photography, etc.) has its own color for the banner. This makes it easier for viewers to find my videos out of a crowd of similar thumbnails.

TWO. Photo + Banners


This Youtube thumbnail design includes; a photo of the Youtuber, bold text on light-colored banners.

Is everyone in your niche already doing this? Then, try the opposite!

THREE. Photo Outlines

youtube thumbnail

Once upon a time, Youtube thumbnails were all alike. Someone decided to use a self-portrait in the thumbnail since they were the “face” of their brand. Then, everyone started doing it!

Yes, we all look unique. But a sea of faces starts to look the same. So, someone decided to make their face stand out more by outlining it and adding a colorful stroke.

Now, it seems everyone is doing this!!

How can you still create an outline like this but make yours unique? How about three strokes, all different colors, instead of One?

How To Make Youtube Thumbnails With GIMP

Here’s what this design project will look like when you’re done…

youtube thumbnail design

Use this image as a reference as you work on this project.

This project aims to create a unique thumbnail that no one in your niche is doing. Since you’re most likely in a different niche than I, you’ll have to figure that out for yourself.

However, what follows are the three essential design styles we saw previously… combined into one thumbnail!

This way, you can see how to create each design element and how to style it. You can then decide which features are best for your design and will have the knowledge for making it.

If you’re ready, let’s do it!

Step 1: Youtube Thumbnail Best Practices

foreground color and new doc

According to Youtube, your thumbnail size should use the 16:9 aspect ratio, with a resolution of 1280×720 (@ 72DP). The file format can be JPG, GIF, or PNG, with a maximum file size of 2MB.

So, create a new document with those dimensions! For the initial background color, I’m using this hexadecimal; #

Step 2: Download, Import, And Resize the Images

add the images

Here is the primary image. The GIMP logo can be downloaded from here and the Youtube logo from here. Drag and drop the files, from your operating system folder, over the GIMP interface and release them. They will be added as new layers!

The images are much larger than our canvas, so we’ll need to scale down. Grab the Scale tool (Shift + S) and resize them smaller. Use my finished design (above) as a reference for the size and location.

Step 3: Mask the ‘Ole Man + Reposition

image layer mask

The first step is masking out the background (of the main image), so only the old man is visible. Since the background is a solid color, the quickest way to select it is using the Select by Color tool. Make your selection and then add a Layer Mask using the “Selection” option.

Pro Tip:

The Select by Color tool, like any selection tool, will not make a perfect selection 100% of the time. Often, you’ll need to tweak the selection for the photo you’re working on. I like using the Quick Mask mode to achieve this.

Step 4: Add the Text

create killer text

I’m using a free one from Google fonts called Raleway, and the style is black for the font. The font size I suggest is 125pt. Add four lines of text; Create, Killer, Thumbnails, and that get clicks.

Step 5: Create 4 Banners

create four banners

Next, it’s time to create a banner for each text layer and the Youtube logo. To create the banners, since GIMP doesn’t have a shape tool, you’ll use the Rectangle Select tool to make them.

Create four new layers (filled with transparency) and name them “Banner 1, 2, 3, and 4.” Create a shape banner in each layer accordingly. 

Either watch the video or learn how to create shapes here.

Make sure each banner is placed below its respective text layer. This way, your text will be visible!

Step 6: Style Each Graphic Element

all layers of final design in proper order

To make our Youtube thumbnail stand out more, we will add a stroke or two around each image and the banners. Plus, we’re going to take our bland rectangle banner and transform it into something spectacular!

Transform the Banners

Let’s start by selecting the first banner layer and distort it. Here’s how…

  1. First, crop the Layer Boundary to the pixels by going to Layer > Crop to Content.
  2. Grab the Unified Transform Tool (Shift + T) and click on the banner to activate the tool.
  3. For the first banner, click on the top left corner and drag it down to the right. Take the bottom right corner and drag up and in.
  4. Hit Enter or Return to transform the shape of your banner.

Now, repeat for the other two banners and transform them into a unique shape. Again, use my final design as a reference.

Once you have them transformed, rotate both the banners and text layers to add a little pizazz!

Add a Stroke Around the Banners

To add a stroke to a banner, right-click on the appropriate layer and chose “Alpha to Selection.” This auto-adds a selection around the banner. Now, we need to convert the selection to a path. Otherwise, it will be pixelated if we stroke the selection, whereas stroking a path is not.

Go to Select > To Path. Now, go to Edit > Stroke Path and set the “Line width:” to 12px. Also, make sure to have your Foreground color swatch set to the color of your choice. For mine, I’m using #faaa11… click the “Stroke” button to add it.

Repeat these steps for the remaining three banners.

Click to enlarge.

Add a Drop-Shadow To the Banners

Next, to make the graphic elements pop, we will add a drop shadow to each banner. Select the first banner and make sure the Layer Boundary is set to image size (Layer > Layer to Image Size).

Next, go to Filters > Light & Shadow > Drop Shadow. Adjust the settings according to your own preference or refer to the Drop Shadow panel image that shows my settings.

Again, repeat this step for each banner.

Add Three Strokes Around the Old Man Image ​

We can’t forget adding some strokes around the ‘ole man! I’ve added three strokes, each in a different color; Black, Red from the Youtube logo, and the same yellow used around the banners. Here’s how to add the strokes…

For the next stroke, grow the selection by 10px’s again, create a new layer, and fill it in as before. Repeat for the third stroke and when completed, deselect with Command or Ctrl. + Shift + A or via the menu, Select > None.

What's Next?

I’d love to see your final design! Post your masterpiece in our private Facebook group to show off your new skills.

Now is the perfect time to expand your skills with more of my free GIMP tutorials. If you’re looking for a structured environment to learn how to use GIMP for graphic design and or editing your photos check this out.

Here’s one more!

Like this article? If so, please share!

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