What is a YouTube thumbnail

Display, read out or download YouTube thumbnail [instructions]

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YouTube uses thumbnails to preview the videos. In this short tutorial we reveal how to read out, download or simply enlarge the YouTube thumbnail.

What are YouTube thumbnails?

A thumbnail is a preview image that is placed in front of the YouTube video. For example, you can get an impression of the video in advance without playing the entire clip. Some thumbnails are kept simple and represent a still image from the video. Other preview images, on the other hand, are lavishly provided with titles and effects.

Display and read out YouTube thumbnails

In many cases it can make sense for web developers to be able to access these graphics directly. For example, when it comes to

  • embed a thumbnail instead of a video in the blog,
  • to get a higher resolution version of the thumbnail (e.g. for print or for presentations),
  • save the thumbnail file on your own hard drive.

So the reasons to save a thumbnail from YouTube videos are many. But how do you get the thumbnails from YouTube now? Here comes a simple solution, with which you can get directly to preview images of the videos without much effort.

View and read YouTube thumbnails via URL

In order to access the thumbnails of YouTube videos, the URLs under which the videos can be found on the Internet can be displayed and read out. The following addresses come into play here:

Manual: Replace the string with the ID of the video whose thumbnail you want to view or download. The ID of the video can be derived from the URL of the corresponding video. You can often find this in the last position in the address line. Sometimes it is also included as a parameter. The video ID is the string that follows.

Tip: It is entirely possible that a thumbnail will not be displayed for each of the specified links. So it's best to just try out the URLs and see if you can find what you are looking for. Sometimes it can also be that no high-resolution thumbnail has been stored at all. Then you can only fall back on the standard resolution.

Ideal YouTube thumbnail sizes

Incidentally, the ideal YouTube thumbnail size is 1,280 x 720 pixels (width x height). This should roughly correspond to the format of the graphic that can be displayed under the link above ("Maximum size"). The minimum width for thumbnails is 640 pixels. An aspect ratio of 16: 9 is considered ideal and is used for most YouTube players and preview functions (as of March 2019). You can find out more about ideal sizes for social networks in the Social Media Image Sizes Cheat Sheet.

Download YouTube thumbnail

If you want to save the thumbnail afterwards, a simple right-click on the graphic is sufficient. A context menu then opens. This is structured similarly in almost every browser. Click on "Save graphic as ..." and you have downloaded the thumbnail from the YouTube video.

Important: observe rights

Downloading the thumbnails may make sense in some cases. But of course you have to respect your rights. The images may also contain proprietary or licensed material. The copyright of the designer or developer must also be taken into account. Tip: It is better to ask the channel operator directly whether you can use the graphic.