How to Add Thumbnails to Your YouTube Shorts: A 2024 Guide

Mar 02, 2024
how to add thumbnails to youtube shorts

How to Add Thumbnails to Your YouTube Shorts: A 2024 Guide


YouTube Shorts are vertical videos that last up to 0:59 seconds long. In the beginning, it was a beta-testing platform that YouTube rolled out. One of the questions that I get from my clients regularly is, "Are shorts going to stick around?" What I can say is, we never really know for certain, as it seems like the YouTube algorithm changes almost monthly. But in recent years, YouTube has started to double down on them. In recent months YouTube has rolled out Shorts Only Ad revenue. It’s also created a secondary feature to become monetized earlier if your shorts specific. 


With the popularity of TikTok and Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts offers a dedicated space for short videos. It's an excellent platform for those looking to quickly grab the attention of viewers and explore innovative content creation in bite-sized formats. While Shorts are only vertical videos, creators have been longing for the ability to add thumbnails to increase the CTR, or Click Through Rate when someone sees your content. 


Did you know that you can add thumbnails to your YouTube Shorts in 2024?

As of 2023, YouTube has listened to the feedback from content creators and has introduced the option to add thumbnails to YouTube Shorts. This was originally rolled out in 2023 to Android users but in December 2023 they included IOS users. What this means, is you have to do this on a smartphone, not a laptop or desktop computer. This exciting update opens up new possibilities for creators to make their Shorts stand out, increase click-through rates, and establish a more polished and professional appearance on their Shorts channels or Shorts-shelf.


In the past, YouTube automatically generated thumbnails for Shorts based on the content of the video. While this worked for some, it often left creators and me wishing for more control over the visual representation of their Shorts. I would constantly get asked by my clients, why I picked that shot for the thumbnail of their shorts. I would explain over multiple messages that I was not able to change it at this time. What I would do for clients in the past, was to re-edit the short and I found that I could create the thumbnail at 45 - 50% of the video every time. At this point, YouTube would pick the thumbnail for these shorts. Then I would keep my fingers crossed. 


Until recent months where that is not the case anymore. I’m sure YouTube has plans to roll out a better system down the road but for the time being, I’ve created this step-by-step guide on how to do it exactly. Now this is a bit tricky, I was on a troubleshooting call with my friends at VID-IQ trying to figure out why I was not able to edit the shorts as directed in their blog post. 


How to add thumbnails to YouTube Shorts

You would think that to upload a YouTube short you would go through the YouTube Studio App, but with some careful testing that wasn’t the case and it’s why I created this step-by-step guide.  

1. Update your YouTube App

Make sure that you have the newest version so your app is working and in tip-top shape with your phone. 

2. Open the YouTube App

Once you have opened the YouTube app on your phone go to the + sign in the middle at the bottom of your screen. From here you can select the vertical video (bottom left-hand corner - where it says “Add”. (Make sure that it is below 0:59 seconds long, or it won’t be classified as a short and have access to the Shorts features on YouTube) 

 3. Uploading your Short to YouTube

Next, it will take you to a screen where you can make sure that the content is what you want it to be. Here you can edit out the beginning or end of the video before you step into the Shorts Studio. Click “Done” if you are happy with the result. 


On the next screen is where you can get a little creative with flipping and all. I usually just hit the checkmark, and this brings you to where you can add a lot of elements to the video you are creating. You have the option to add: Sounds, Text, Voiceovers, Filters and even a Q&A. If you are happy, click “Next” in the top right-hand corner. 


 4. Picking the Perfect YouTube Shorts Thumbnail

While at the time of this post, I haven’t been able to see if I can upload a “Pre-designed thumbnail”, you can scrub your content with your finger to pick a part of the video that you think would be the most beneficial to your video. 

How you do that, is click the pencil icon, then scrub away. Then click “Done” if you are finished. 

Some tips, are to find the most engaging part. Think of it like a hook. Something that would grab the attention of the viewer who has 2-3 seconds to look at your content. 

5. Adding Details

In the add Details page you can add a description. While in YouTube videos normally the first 200 characters are crucial for the growth of your channel, it’s yet to be proven with YouTube shorts. So what I usually do is add a hook or a call to action that is intriguing. 

Last but not least go to the bottom right-hand corner and upload your short to YouTube. 


The ability to add custom thumbnails to your YouTube Shorts in 2024 is a game-changer for content creators. It allows for greater creativity, control, and the opportunity to make a lasting impression on viewers. By following the simple steps outlined above, you can enhance the visual appeal of your Shorts, increase click-through rates, and establish a more professional presence on YouTube. 


If you’re new to YouTube or content creation as a whole, I’ve created a program that teaches you how to film content with your iPhone. I show you how to film with your iPhone settings, the perfect apps, editing tricks and even tips and tricks when filming your content HERE. 

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17 Videos covering everything you need to know to start and succeed on YouTube in 2024. 

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