There are all sorts of ways to tackle this. The traditional approach is to use some graphics software installed on your computer, such as Photoshop or Affinity Designer. Those apps are very powerful, but they can be overkill for this, potentially expensive, require installing on your computer, and have their own learning curves for yet another app. If you already have these apps and are comfortable using them, by all means, use them to create a YouTube thumbnail image. But there are simpler and cheaper options.
One of those is to use Canva. Canva is one of the best of the cloud-based graphics services that have sprung up in recent years. Another is Snappa. Both run in a web browser, which means nothing to install on a computer, and you can even use a mobile device. So you can do it from anywhere.
Canva is geared toward creating high-quality graphics quickly and easily. There’s a lot you can do with it, but it’s especially good for creating things like social media posts or banners, website headers, or thumbnail graphics. The whole point of them is that you don’t need to be an illustrator or designer.
And Canva has a few things that I like when it comes specifically to creating YouTube thumbnails. It has built-in templates sized perfectly for the YouTube thumbnail size. There’s a simple built-in way to use any frame from your video as the background. And it also has an entirely free plan.
For the purposes of this guide, I’m using the free plan. You can sign up here. You don’t need to enter credit card information. Having an account will allow you to save your work and return to it later or reuse it as a template for next time. If you find Canva useful and later decide you’d like a whole suite of extra features, you can sign up for the Canva Pro paid plan (you can find the 30-day free trial of Canva Pro).
Step-by-Step Guide to Creating YouTube Thumbnail Images with Canva
First, you’ll need to sign in to your account. If you don’t yet have an account, sign up for the free one.
Once you’re signed in, you should be at the main dashboard. From there, click on the Create a Design button at left. (You could also click on the “Custom Dimensions” link and manually insert the dimensions, but it’s simpler to use the preexisting YouTube thumbnail image template category.)