How to Design for Youtube


To follow up on my Designing for Facebook post, this week I'll guide you through designing graphics for YouTube.

Obviously, your main focus on YouTube should be creating videos that add value to your brand and stay consistent with your brand messaging. But as with any other part of your brand, getting the details polished and perfect can really elevate the quality of your brand and show your audience that your take your business seriously.

Because I have minimal experience with video, this article will be focusing specifically on non-video design elements on YouTube. Editing your videos, adding annotations, etc are a topic for another time (possibly another author.)

Channel Icon

From YouTube (source):

"Use these recommended guidelines when creating a new channel icon. Do not upload pictures containing celebrities, nudity, artwork, or copyrighted images since this violates our Community Guidelines.

  • JPG, GIF, BMP, or PNG file (no animated GIFs)

  • 800 X 800 px image (recommended)

  • Square or round image that renders at 98 X 98 px"

These directions are accurate, and my icon looked great at the recommended size. The only graphic consideration to be aware of is that depending on what device you use to view your profile, your icon will be displayed as either a circle or a square, so be sure to check that you like how the image looks as both. I have a template in my resource library that can help you check.

Note: There could be a slight complication if your YouTube account is connected to your Google+ account. Your channel icon on YouTube will be your profile picture on Google+ and the related Gmail account. You'll have to upload your icon as your Google+ profile picture, and then YouTube will pull it from there to use as your icon. It takes a few minutes for the change to be reflected on YouTube, but if your browser has cached your old profile picture, you may need to clear your browser's cache (use Google to find specific instruction for how to do this for your browser) and restart your browser for YouTube to update your icon.

Channel Art (Header)

From Youtube (source):

"Channel art looks different on desktop, mobile, and TV displays — larger images may be cropped. For the best results on all devices, we recommend uploading one 2560 x 1440 px image.

  • Minimum dimension for upload: 2048 x 1152 px.

  • Minimum safe area for text and logos: 1546 x 423 px. Larger images may get cropped on certain views or devices.

  • Maximum width: 2560 x 423 px. This means that the "safe area" is always visible regardless of screen size. The areas to each side of the channel art are visible or cropped depending on browser size.

  • File size: 4MB or smaller."

Here's what that looks like, factoring in the position of your channel icon on mobile and desktop:

Do pay careful attention to your file size - YouTube won't let you upload an image unless it's under 4MB. If your channel art is design-heavy, you shouldn't run into a problem, but if you mix photography and design, you might start pushing the size limit. If that happens to you, save your channel art as a JPG, and compress it enough to get your file size under 4MB. To reduce your file size in Photoshop, use the File>Export>Save for Web (Legacy) command (Cmd+Alt+Shift+S). Gradually move the quality slider down until the file size in the bottom left corner dips below 4MB.

Custom Video Thumbnail

From Youtube (source):

"If your account is verified or you have live streaming access, you may have the ability to upload custom thumbnails for your video uploads.

Your custom thumbnail image should be as large as possible, as the image will also be used as the preview image in the embedded player.

We recommend your custom thumbnails:

  • Have a resolution of 1280x720 (with minimum width of 640 pixels).

  • Be uploaded in image formats such as .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, or .PNG.

  • Remain under the 2MB limit.

  • Try to use a 16:9 aspect ratio as it's the most used in YouTube players and previews."

Again, follow YouTube's directions and pay attention to your file size. If your image is above 2MB, use the JPG compression I just described to compress it down to the required size.

Custom Subscribe Button

From YouTube (source):

"We recommend that you use a transparent background rather than a solid one and include just one color in the image. This will help the image be less distracting, especially on small screens."

Not a lot of information to go on.

When you open up the menu to upload your custom subscribe button, you get this text:

"For best results, use transparency and just one color. 

Recommended file format: PNG or GIF
Maximum file size: 1 MB"

To start, I uploaded a 100px version of the SKD logo, expecting a horrible quality result. But YouTube displays the custom subscribe button so small that 100x100px square looked crisp, even when viewing a video at full screen. 

Increasing the logo's size to 450x450px didn't do anything to increase the display size or quality. Based on the small size of the design, I would suggest makinh your custom subscription button a simple design that's easily distinguishable at 100px, and you should have no trouble uploading it and having it look crisp.


Channel Icon: 800 X 800px image saved as PNG or JPG

Channel Art: 2560 x 1440px JPG under 4MB

Custom Video Thumbnail: 1280x720px JPG under 2MB

Custom Subscribe Button: 100x100px PNG