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11 Best Free YouTube Thumbnail Makers in 2023 [Windows & Mac]

Last Updated on Jun. 10, 2022 – by David Morgan
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Making YouTube Thumbnails

If you want to get more views on your YouTube videos, one of the easiest ways is to use better thumbnails.

With hundreds of videos covering the same topic, a good thumbnail is the only way to get yours picked over the rest. Your YouTube video thumbnails should give viewers a quick snapshot of what your videos are about while grabbing their attention when searching or browsing on YouTube.

This article will delve into the best YouTube thumbnail makers available and provide step-by-step instructions for making your own eye-catching thumbnails.

Top 3 Free YouTube Thumbnail Makers Snapshot

PhotoDirector Logo

1. PhotoDirector Essential - Best Overall YouTube Thumbnail Maker

Create click-worthy thumbnails, edit photos, and more through an incredible mix of tools, design packs, ready-made templates, and 4,000,000+ stock images from Shutterstock and iStock by Getty Images. Detailed Review >

Picmaker Logo

2. Picmaker - Best for Stock Images

An all-in-one graphic designer, thumbnail creator, and photo editor with over 100 million stock images. Detailed Review >

Canva Logo

3. Canva - Best for Teams

Browser-based online tool for people and teams needing to design thumbnails, logos, social media content, and more. Detailed Review >

Why Do You Need Great YouTube Thumbnails?

A thumbnail is a still image that should convey what your video is about. It is the first impression a viewer gets of your video and can mean the difference between having only a few clicks or thousands. 

A good thumbnail will give your video a professional look and make people want to watch it. It will clearly explain your video and make it more enticing to watch.

You may have the best content on a subject, but the person with the best thumbnail will win the click battle. Your thumbnail can make or break your video. 

YouTube will automatically generate a thumbnail if you don’t upload a custom one. 

Have you ever paused a movie and then laughed at the horrible expression on the actor’s face? That’s probably what you will look like if you let YouTube pick a random image from your video. You aren’t going to like it, and viewers aren’t either.   

According to YouTube, 90% of their best-performing videos have custom thumbnails, which is why finding the right YouTube thumbnail maker is important. 

11 Best Free YouTube Thumbnail Makers in 2023 [Windows & Mac]

1. PhotoDirector Essential - Best Overall YouTube Thumbnail Maker

PhotoDirector Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

TopTenReviews Rating: 5 / 5

Thumbnail Creation Tools: 5 / 5

Price: Free
*Premium subscription available for $3.42/month

Key Features:

  • Glitch effect
  • Deblur and defog
  • Facial retouching
  • Color grading

PhotoDirector Essential is a powerful, time-saving photo editing software with more than 1,900 special effects and templates for your YouTube thumbnail design. It is the best YouTube thumbnail maker because it offers tons of photo editing and enhancing tools, yet remains beginner-friendly. The guided editing modules allow you to add visual effects and do photo touch-ups in seconds—no need for editing experience. Even the most novice of editors can create stunning thumbnails. 

This free YouTube thumbnail maker also includes millions of stock photo options from Shutterstock and iStock, so you can easily add elements and imagery to your thumbnails. Plus, add text effects, overlays, and stickers, so your thumbnails look unique and professional. PhotoDirector even has AI tools like Sky Replacement and Object Detection to remove backgrounds quickly.

No matter where you are in your YouTube career, PhotoDirector Essential has the tools you need to make click-worthy thumbnails and boost engagement. 

  • Huge selection of constantly updated features
  • Lots of tutorials and guided edits
  • AI-powered editing tools
  • Stock photos only available with a subscription

Download PhotoDirector for free and start making thumbnails that grab viewers' attention.

2. Picmaker - Best for Stock Images

Picmaker Interface

Compatibility: Web Browser

G2 Rating: 4.7 / 5

Thumbnail Creation Tools: 5 / 5

Price: Free
*Premium subscription available for $95.88/year

Key Features:

  • Background remover
  • Touch-up tools
  • Upload your brand kit
  • One-click resize

Picmaker was the first design platform to offer YouTube thumbnail templates, and it remains their flagship offering. This online YouTube thumbnail maker has 100 million stock images, both free and paid, so you are bound to find the perfect image to fit your budget. 

And it’s not only a thumbnail creator. Picmaker is also a label maker, certificate maker, t-shirt designer, invoice generator, book cover designer - basically anything that might need design elements, you can make with this platform. It also offers some photo editing features such as layer editing, color adjustment, filters, crop, and flip. 

We liked that Picmaker has free options for every design asset and photo editing tool. However, we found it was sometimes hard to tell the difference between free and paid, which is frustrating when you spend time on a project only to discover when it’s finished that you used premium assets. Our top choice, PhotoDirector, has clearly labeled premium assets and offers more editing tools at a lower price. 

  • Tons of free and paid assets
  • Great thumbnail template options
  • Hidden fees
  • No GIFs or animations

3. Canva - Best for Teams

Canva Interface

Compatibility: Web Browser

Capterra Rating: 4.7 / 5

Thumbnail Creation Tools: 5 / 5

Price: Free
*Pro version available for $12.99/month for up to 5 people

Key Features:

  • Stock Photos
  • Illustrations, lines, and shapes
  • Grids and text
  • Trendy filters

Canva is graphic design software that we think is the best thumbnail creator for people who work in teams. It offers real-time collaboration, comments, sharing amongst teams, and easily accessible folders and shareable cloud storage. Also, the price includes a subscription for 5 people, so there’s no need to shell out extra cash for team collab features. 

You can find over 1 million graphics, templates, images, and fonts to use in this YouTube thumbnail maker. Canva offers thumbnail templates categorized by type, such as music, food, travel, beauty, and tutorial. You can also save your brand’s color palette, and the YouTube saving option makes your image the correct size and format.

Canva is a popular site for social media posts and designing elements for your brand. We found this YouTube thumbnail maker easy to use, however, professional photo editors and graphic designers may find the lack of control over effects frustrating. PhotoDirector offers more precise adjustments and manipulations to every element of your thumbnail. 

  • Easy drag-and-drop interface
  • Free version offers many features, and paid options are marked
  • Limited photo editing functions
  • Lack of control over effects

4. Snappa - Best for Online Marketers

Snappa Interface

Compatibility: Web Browser

G2 Rating: 4.6 / 5

Thumbnail Creation Tools: 4.5 / 5

Price: Free
*Premium subscription available for $120/year

Key Features:

  • Instant resize
  • Pre-schedule posts
  • Speech bubbles
  • Over 200 fonts

Snappa is another graphic design software and YouTube thumbnail maker, offering both free and premium versions. We think professional graphic designers will prefer Canva, but Snappa is best for online marketers. No design experience is required to create YouTube thumbnails, Facebook and Instagram posts, ebook covers, zoom backgrounds, banner ads, and many more. Snappa comes with over 100,000 vectors and shapes, over 5,000,000 stock photos and graphics, and 6,000+ templates for any type of online need. 

The YouTube thumbnail maker comes with a few photo editing tools, such as crop, rotate, and flip. You can also add overlay or blur effects, and apply color adjustments.

While Snappa does offer a completely free version, it only allows 3 downloads per month and doesn’t include a background remover, which is a necessary tool for a thumbnail creator. The Pro version is quite expensive. Though easier to use than Canva, it has fewer assets, which is why we placed it at #4 on our list. A good compromise is PhotoDirector, which offers tons of tools for both beginners and pros. 

  • Thousands of templates and presets
  • Beginner-Friendly
  • Expensive pro version
  • No animations/GIFs

5. Fotor - Best for Emojis

Fotor Interface

Compatibility: Web Browser, Windows, Mac

TechRadar Rating: 4.5 / 5

Thumbnail Creation Tools: 4.5 / 5

Price: Free
*Premium subscription available for $39.99/year

Key Features

  • RAW file converter
  • Collage creator
  • Color Splash
  • Portrait retouching

Fotor is a cloud-based image design software and photo editor. With Fotor’s dedicated YouTube thumbnail maker, you can decorate your thumbnail with design elements like text, stickers, and emojis. This thumbnail creator has tons of cool and unique emojis to choose from and an easy drag-and-drop interface. 

There are over 500 professionally-designed thumbnail templates you can customize with fonts and colors. Fotor also offers templates for all of your social media design needs like Facebook covers, Instagram posts, Twitch banners, and more. 

We found Fotor to be a quick and easy YouTube thumbnail maker. However, in our research, we found that while users enjoyed the free version, the premium version has extremely low ratings across the board so do your own research before buying the upgraded version. 

  • Good for beginners
  • Fast processing speed
  • Can’t make designs from scratch
  • Free trial is not free

6. Pixlr - Best for Different Skill Levels

Pixlr Interface

Compatibility: Web Browser, Windows, Mac

G2 Rating: 4.4 / 5

Thumbnail Creation Tools: 4 / 5

Price: Free
*Premium subscription offers a 30-day free trial, then $7.99/month

Key Features

  • Free stock images
  • Animations
  • Drawing tools
  • Collage maker

Pixlr is an online photo editor and thumbnail creator to cover every experience level of designer. It has a Quick and Easy mode, Pixlr X, for those new to photo editing and graphic design. It has a more limited toolset (only the tools a beginner really needs), an easy one-click application, and tons of templates to kick-start your designs. Pixlr E is the Advanced Editor with tons of professional tools, and the ability to create designs from scratch. 

A recent addition to Pixlr is Photomash, a one-click photo studio for a variety of social media posts or e-commerce. Use the YouTube thumbnail maker to remove backgrounds, change colors and add text quickly in up to 50 photos in one go.

We like that there are so many options with Pixlr, both for skill level and budget. This YouTube thumbnail maker has a completely free-forever version, a generous 30-day fully-featured and ad-free trial, and a paid premium version. You also have the option to purchase individual tools and effects for about $1 a piece. We’ve placed it at #6 on our list, because it is not as feature-heavy as our first 5 offerings, but offers better pricing options than PicMonkey. 

  • Customizable interface
  • Supports layer editing
  • Lacks customer support
  • Contains ads

7. PicMonkey - Best YouTube Templates

PicMonkey Interface

Compatibility: Web Browser

G2 Rating: 4.4 / 5

Thumbnail Creation Tools: 4 / 5

Price: 7-day free trial, then $72/year for Basic or $120/year for Pro

Key Features

  • 100s of fonts
  • Smart resize
  • Auto-save as you work
  • Collage creator

PicMonkey is an online YouTube thumbnail maker and graphic design tool by Shutterstock. We were impressed with the software’s 100+ professionally designed YouTube thumbnail templates. You can customize your thumbnail from a template or create a design from a blank canvas and add frames, overlays, filters, text, and more. 

PicMonkey isn’t just a thumbnail creator. You can make YouTube banners and design a logo for your channel with over 9,000 graphics and textures to choose from. Other features include beautification tools and fun effects like Ombre and Zombify.

Similar to Canva, this beginner-friendly YouTube thumbnail maker has an outstanding array of graphic design tools for YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. Many users complained that they were charged the full amount even after they tried to cancel - long before the free trial was over. But unlike Fotor, PicMonkey does not offer a free version, only a quick 7-day free trial. If you don’t want to pay for a YouTube thumbnail maker, try one of our top 6 options, all of which offer a free version. 

  • User-friendly
  • Packed with design tools
  • Free version won’t let you download images
  • Poor customer service

8. PlaceIt - Best for Gamers

PlaceIt Interface

Compatibility: Web Browser

TrustPilot Rating: 4.3 / 5

Thumbnail Creation Tools: 3.5 / 5

Price: Free
*Premium subscription for $89.69/year

Key Features

  • Transparent background option
  • Animated logos
  • OBS stream overlays
  • Webcam frames

PlaceIt is a graphic design tool and logo maker found online. It includes a gaming portal with gaming-specific templates for YouTube and Twitch such as logos, intros, lower third banners, thumbnails, and more. It’s a one-stop-shop if you are a professional YouTuber who also sells merchandise for your channel because PlaceIt provides models and mockups for a countless number of items. 

The platform offers over 600 YouTube thumbnail templates, some free and some paid. We found you can browse only the free options, which was a huge time-saver. The YouTube thumbnail maker also has templates available for specific tags and subjects to make creating thumbnails take no time at all.

PlaceIt is first and foremost a merchandising site, so if you are only looking for a thumbnail creator, you may want to go with one of the other options on our list. The thumbnail templates are easy-to-use for beginners but don’t offer the creative freedom found in a YouTube thumbnail maker like PhotoDirector or PicMonkey.

  • Great selection of tools for gamers
  • Simple logo and thumbnail creator
  • Glitchy
  • No photo editing tools

9. GIMP - Best for Professionals

Pixlr Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux

G2 Rating: 4.3 / 5

Thumbnail Creation Tools: 3 / 5

Price: Free

Key Features

  • Animation tools
  • Photo effects and filters
  • Clone brush
  • Customizable brushes

GIMP is an open-source image manipulation platform for professionals. With GIMP you can create original artwork and graphic design elements from scratch that will give you completely unique thumbnails. It contains tools you wouldn’t expect from a free platform such as precise selection tools and layer masks. GIMP is often used by professional illustrators, graphic designers, and photographers for its high-quality output and advanced features. 

With GIMP you can retouch and restore any photo you want to use on your thumbnail, and create floating logos, icons, graphical design elements, and art to add a unique flair. Other photo editing tools include cropping, resizing, distortion correction, exposure correction, straightening, and many more. 

GIMP is a very powerful and completely free photo editor that can be used by professionals to create one-of-a-kind YouTube thumbnails. While PlaceIt lacks photo editing tools, GIMP is jam-packed with advanced photo editing features. We placed it under PlaceIt on our list, however, because GIMP lacks YouTube thumbnail templates which make it easy for anyone to become a thumbnail creator. It also has a steep learning curve and a confusing interface. 

  • Regular updates
  • High-quality photo editing tools
  • High learning curve
  • No thumbnail templates

10. Visme - Best for Branding

Visme Interface

Compatibility: Web Browser

PC Mag Rating: 3.5 / 5

Thumbnail Creation Tools: 3.5 / 5

Price: Free
*Premium subscriptions available for $147/year for Personal and $297/year for Business

Key Features

  • 1 million+ stock photos
  • Crop and frame photos
  • Filters
  • Social media scheduler

Visme is an online tool and YouTube thumbnail maker used to create, edit, share, and store branded content. Input your website, and Visme’s AI-powered template tool will pull your logo, brand colors, and fonts and create a custom template in seconds. Or use Visme to create your brand’s assets from scratch and use them in future projects. 

The platform also offers YouTube thumbnail templates by themes that are fully customizable. We like that you can create a template from scratch or choose one ready-made, making this a good YouTube thumbnail maker choice for all skill levels. 

Both the free and Personal versions of Visme are highly restrictive, even though the Personal plan is already one of the most expensive on our list. The Business version offers the best features but is too expensive for personal use. For this reason, we’ve placed Visme near the bottom of our list of free YouTube thumbnail makers. 

  • Appropriate for beginners and pros
  • Easy template creation with your own brand assets
  • Free version is highly restrictive
  • Expensive premium version

11. Adobe Express - Best for Budding Professionals

Pixlr Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

PC Mag Rating: 3.5 / 5

Thumbnail Creation Tools: 3.5 / 5

Price: Free
*Premium subscription offers a 30-day free trial, then $9.99/month

Key Features

  • Remove background
  • Animation
  • Filters and overlays
  • Instant resize

Most Adobe products are expensive and have a steep learning curve. However, Adobe Express (formerly Adobe Spark) is a free and beginner-friendly photo editing software. We think it’s the perfect YouTube thumbnail maker for novice photo editors and YouTube content creators looking to advance. Adobe Express allows you to get familiar with Adobe products without paying a dime. When you are ready to advance, you can try Lightroom Classic or Photoshop Express, then work your way up the Creative Cloud chain.  

While the paid version is relatively expensive, the free version offers plenty of tools a thumbnail creator could need. It includes thousands of unique templates, design assets, and fonts, plus a limited collection of royalty-free stock images and 2GB of storage. 

Adobe Express is a good free tool for beginners to make simple designs for social media and YouTube. It gets the job done, but doesn’t offer anything exciting or unique. For someone interested in graphic design, we recommend a YouTube thumbnail maker like PhotoDirector or Canva. 

  • Offers a mobile option
  • Variety of options for any budget
  • Premium version is expensive
  • Not geared toward designers

Best Free YouTube Thumbnail Maker Comparison Chart

PhotoDirector Essential vs


Windows, Mac








Stock Images



AI Tools



How to Make a Thumbnail for YouTube on Windows and Mac

Here’s how to make a thumbnail using PhotoDirector on Windows and Mac. Download the #1 YouTube thumbnail maker PhotoDirector and follow along:

  1. Import your photos using the Import button at the bottom of the Library tab.
  2. Select the photo you want to use as your thumbnail and open the Edit tab.
  3. Open the Guided Tools (magic wand icon on the right side), scroll down the left menu, and choose Background Removal under Improve/Remove.
  4. PhotoDirector Interface - Background Removal
  5. Under Select a Brush, use the Auto Select the Most Prominent Object or Brush Tool to highlight the image's background. 
  6. PhotoDirector Interface - Brush Tool
  7. Choose Remove Unselected Area and click Apply.
  8. If needed, use the brush tool to fine-tune the edges.

    PhotoDirector Interface - Finetune Brush
  9. Add a color board to create a solid color background.
  10. PhotoDirector Interface - Color Board

    You can skip this step if you have an image you would like to add underneath your cutout. Simply layer the cutout above the background image after Step 7 and before Step 8.

  11. Click OK to save changes to the image and continue editing.
  12. Click on the Text icon (the letter T) from the menu on the right. 
  13. PhotoDirector Interface - Add Text
  14. Click on your image where you would like the text box and write in your text. 
  15. Use the Text Menu to change your text's font, color, size, and style, move the Text Box around and play with your text settings until you're happy.

  16. Click Save/Share in the bottom left corner. 

To learn more about making YouTube thumbnails, click here.

Best Practices for YouTube Thumbnails

Here are some golden rules for making eye-catching thumbnails:

1. Add Bold Titles

Even the most beautiful image will cause viewers to scroll by if there isn’t a title. A photo of the Grand Canyon won’t tell you what the video is about. Use titles like “The 10 Best Sites to See in the US,” “The 5 Best Holes in the Ground,” or “Travel Tips for Visiting Arizona.” to boost click-throughs. 

Most people are scrolling through YouTube videos on their smartphones, meaning the thumbnails will be tiny. Make sure titles are bold, clear, and contrast with the background. The easier to see, the better.

2. Be Accurate

Omit “click-bait” with nothing to do with your actual video. If too many people click on your video and immediately turn it off, YouTube will stop featuring your video. It will also damage your brand and cause people not to click on your videos in the future.

3. Be Consistent

If you are trying to grow your brand, a consistent color scheme, font, and logo will help fans easily find your videos.

4. Use the Right Thumbnail Size

Your thumbnail will be viewed on big-screen TVs and smartphones, so make sure it looks good on any size screen. That means starting big and letting the device scale down and not vice-versa.

YouTube guidelines state that thumbnails should be 1280 x 720p, with a minimum of 640p.

Download the Best YouTube Thumbnail Maker for Free

The best tool for creating custom thumbnails is PhotoDirector. It has professional tools used by graphic designers and professional photographers. In addition, it includes guided edits and templates plus tutorials to make it easy for beginners. 

PhotoDirector offers more effects, templates, and stock images than any other YouTube thumbnail maker, which means thumbnails made with this software will stand out from the crowd. It constantly adds new features, keeping it up-to-date with the hottest trends.

Download PhotoDirector today to create a YouTube thumbnail for free.

Free YouTube Thumbnail Maker FAQ

1. What Is a YouTube Thumbnail?

A YouTube thumbnail is a still photo that represents your video. It is the only thing viewers see when scrolling through content, so it needs to convey what your video is about in a single image.

2. How Do You Upload a Thumbnail to YouTube?

Follow the steps below to upload and share your YouTube thumbnail. Please note you need a verified account before you can upload custom thumbnails.

  1. Open YouTube Studio and sign in. 
  2. Choose Content from the menu on the left. 
  3. Select a video. 
  4. Go to Thumbnail, then Upload Thumbnail
  5. Choose your custom thumbnail. 
  6. Click Save.

3. How Do I Change a Thumbnail on YouTube?

  1. Log in to YouTube Studio.
  2. Choose Content from the menu on the left. 
  3. Choose the video you want to edit. 
  4. Go to the Thumbnail section and click on Upload Thumbnail
  5. Choose the file you want to use as your custom thumbnail. 
  6. Click Save

4. What Size Are YouTube Thumbnails?

The best size for YouTube thumbnails is 1280 X 720p, with a minimum of 640p. 

5. What Are the Requirements for YouTube Thumbnails?

Thumbnails can be no larger than 2MB and should have an aspect ratio of 16:9. They should be uploaded in image format like JPG, GIF, or PNG.

There is a Daily Custom Thumbnail Limit that varies per country and channel. 

As far as content, the thumbnail needs to follow the YouTube Community Guidelines and not contain nudity, graphic violence, or hate speech.

6. What Are Other Uses for Thumbnails?

Thumbnails are found all over the internet. They make for quicker scrolling because you can see many thumbnails at a time, whereas you can only see maybe two or three full-size images or videos at a time. 

Thumbnails are used on Pinterest to represent an article or recipe. 

Google Image Search uses thumbnails to represent the keywords typed into the search bar. 

Online stores like Amazon use thumbnails of items to help users quickly find what they need. 

7. What are the Best Free YouTube Thumbnail Maker Apps?

The best free YouTube thumbnail maker apps are:

  1. PhotoDirector
  2. Pixlr
  3. PicsArt
  4. Snapseed
  5. Canva

For more information about the above YouTube thumbnail maker apps, check out 7 Best Free Photo Editing Apps for iPhone and Android.

8. What Features Should I Look for in a Free YouTube Thumbnail Maker?

The top ten features you should look for in a free YouTube thumbnail maker are:

  1. Customizable thumbnail templates
  2. Large selection of fonts
  3. Background remover
  4. Design assets like stickers, emojis, and shapes
  5. Stock images
  6. Background colors
  7. Photo editing tools
  8. AI tools
  9. Layer editing
  10. Auto resize

If you’re looking for a free YouTube thumbnail maker that checks all of these boxes, we recommend PhotoDirector.

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