How To Add Thumbnails to TikTok Videos

In the dynamic realm of social media, TikTok has established itself as a hub for creative short videos.

With over 1 billion global users, it offers individuals and brands a chance to engage with a diverse audience.

However, given the millions of daily uploads, standing out becomes a challenge.

That’s where thumbnails come into play. 

Thumbnails are the first thing potential viewers see.

They act as a teaser, giving a snapshot of what your video is about. An engaging cover can significantly increase your video’s click-through rate, enticing users to watch your content.

In this article, we will delve into the importance of thumbnails on TikTok, how to create them, and how to add them to your videos.

We’ll also discuss common mistakes to avoid when creating covers. 

Understanding Thumbnails on TikTok

Thumbnails, essentially, act as the cover image of your video.

On a platform like TikTok, where users scroll through a seemingly endless feed of content, a compelling thumbnail can be the difference between getting your video viewed or being scrolled past.

In the context of TikTok, thumbnails are automatically selected from the first few frames of your video by default.

However, these initial frames may not always accurately represent your video’s content or be enticing enough to draw in viewers.

This is where custom covers come into play.

Unlike other platforms, on TikTok, you can’t create a bespoke video cover with an online flyer creator like Vista Create or other graphic design tools. 

Customized covers allow you to select a specific frame from your video.

This gives you greater control over how your content is presented and perceived.

A well-crafted custom cover can intrigue viewers, hint at your video’s content, and encourage clicks.

Finally, as of today, you cannot change the cover image or thumbnail of your video once it has been posted.

This is why it’s crucial to select the most engaging and representative frame as your cover image when initially posting your video.

Preparations Before Adding a Thumbnail

Before you start adding thumbnails to your TikTok videos, it’s important to understand what makes a TikTok cover effective and attractive. Here are some key points to consider:

1. Composition

Your cover should clearly convey what your video is about. Use clear, high-quality images that represent your content.

If there are people in your video, close-ups of faces work well, as they naturally draw viewers’ attention.

2. Lighting and Colors

Bright, vibrant colors can make your cover pop and stand out in the feed.

Make sure it is well-lit so that all elements are clearly visible.

3. Text and Graphics

If relevant, you can add text or graphics to your cover.

This can provide additional context or create intrigue.

However, keep in mind that covers are small, so any text should be large enough to read and not clutter the image.

4. Consistency

If you’re a brand or a regular content creator, maintaining consistency in your thumbnails can help build brand recognition.

This could be through the use of specific colors, fonts, or a particular style of imagery.

Step-by-Step Guide to Adding Thumbnails on TikTok

Adding a thumbnail to your TikTok video is a straightforward process.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through it:

Step 1: Record or Upload Your Video

Start by either recording a new video directly in the TikTok app or uploading a pre-recorded one from your device.

Step 2: Edit Your Video

Once you’ve recorded or selected your video, you’ll be taken to the editing screen. Here, you can add effects, text, stickers, and music to your video.

Step 3: Select Cover

After you’re happy with your edits, tap on the “Next” button.

You’ll now see an option to select a cover for your video.

Tap on “Select cover”.

Step 4: Choose Your Thumbnail

You’ll now see a slider at the bottom of the screen, showing frames from your video.

Slide through these until you find a frame that you want to use as your thumbnail.

Once you’ve found it, tap on the “Next” button.

Step 5: Add Captions and Post

You’ll now be able to add a caption to your video, tag friends, and choose other settings.

Once you’ve done this, tap “Post” to share your video with your chosen thumbnail.

Remember, while TikTok does not currently allow you to upload a completely custom image as a video cover, you can still manipulate the frames of your video to create the perfect thumbnail shot.

Plan your videos with the cover in mind and ensure you have a frame that can serve as an effective thumbnail.

5 Examples of High-Converting TikTok Thumbnails 

As a content creator on TikTok, it’s natural for you to want to get views.

So, here are five examples of covers you can use to make sure people watch your videos:

1. Reactions

Reaction thumbnails typically involve the content creator making a dramatic or exaggerated facial expression, often in response to the action or event occurring in the video.

These thumbnails are highly effective because they create curiosity and anticipation for what caused that reaction.

The viewer is more likely to click on the video to see what caused such a shocking or hilarious reaction.

2. Large Numbers

Thumbnails with large numbers stand out due to their boldness and size.

They quickly grab the viewer’s attention and can indicate a listicle or countdown, which are popular video formats.

Large numbers can also signify impressive statistics or achievements, enticing viewers to click and learn more.


Quotes can be a powerful tool in thumbnails when used correctly.

A compelling quote from the video can intrigue viewers and make them want to hear more.

It can provide a snapshot of the video’s content and tone, helping viewers decide if it’s something they’d be interested in.

4. Questions

Question-based thumbnails work on the principle of curiosity.

When viewers see a question they find intriguing, they’re more likely to watch the video to find the answer.

This format encourages viewer engagement and interaction, which can lead to higher conversion rates.

5. Transformation

Transformation thumbnails are particularly popular in the beauty, fitness, home renovation, and DIY niches.

They typically display “before” and “after” images to showcase some form of transformation.

These thumbnails are effective because they promise and visually preview a dramatic change, which is enticing for viewers who enjoy transformational stories or are seeking inspiration for their own projects.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Creating TikTok Thumbnails

Creating compelling thumbnails is an art, and like any art, it’s easy to make mistakes, especially when you’re just starting out. Some common pitfalls to avoid include:

1. Using Misleading Thumbnails

While it might be tempting to use a sensational or provocative image to get clicks, misleading thumbnails can harm your reputation and engagement in the long run.

Make sure your video cover accurately represents the content of your video.

2. Overcrowding Your Thumbnail

While adding text or graphic elements can enhance your thumbnail, too much can make it look cluttered and confusing.

Remember, less is often more. Keep your thumbnail simple and focused.

3. Neglecting Quality

A blurry or poorly lit thumbnail can give the impression that your video is also of low quality.

Always use high-resolution, well-lit images for your thumbnails.

4. Ignoring Consistency

If you’re a regular content creator or a brand, maintaining a consistent style in your thumbnails can help build recognition and trust with your audience.

This could be through the use of specific colors, fonts, or a particular style of imagery.

5. Not Testing Different Covers

What works for one video might not work for another. It’s important to experiment with different thumbnails and see which ones perform better.

Evaluating the Success of Your TikTok Thumbnails

The effectiveness of your TikTok covers should not be left to guesswork. It’s important to evaluate their success through a systematic approach. Here’s how to go about it:

  • Check Your Video Analytics: TikTok provides detailed analytics for your videos. Monitor the number of views, likes, comments, and shares your videos receive. If a video performs exceptionally well, its thumbnail likely played a part in attracting viewers.
  • Try Different Styles: Don’t stick to one style. Experiment with various types of covers, such as close-ups, action shots, or text overlays. Observe which style garners the most engagement.
  • A/B Testing: If you want to dive deeper into thumbnail optimization, conduct A/B testing. This involves posting two similar videos with different covers and track which one gets more engagement.

After you’ve conducted these tests and gathered data, take the time to analyze your findings.

What commonalities do the most successful thumbnails share?

Do certain colors, text overlays, or image types consistently perform better?

Use this information to guide your future thumbnail creation.

Remember, social media trends are ever-changing.

What works today might not work tomorrow.

Therefore, it is crucial to stay updated with the latest trends and continuously test and refine your cover. 

Conclusion and Final Tips

Creating compelling TikTok thumbnails is crucial to capturing viewers’ attention amidst the sea of content on the platform.

An effective thumbnail can significantly increase the visibility and engagement of your videos.

To sum up, here are the key points of this guide:

  • Keep it Relevant: Your thumbnail should accurately represent the content of your video. Misleading covers may attract initial clicks but can lead to viewer dissatisfaction and lower engagement rates.
  • Quality Matters: Use high-resolution images. A blurry or poorly lit cover can give the impression of low-quality content.
  • Experiment and Learn: Don’t be afraid to try different styles, colors, and text overlays. Monitor your video performance to see what works best and adapt accordingly.
  • Consistency is Key: If you’re a regular content creator or a brand, maintaining consistency in your covers can help build recognition among your audience.

Remember, while creating engaging covers is important, the content of your video ultimately determines its success.

Focus on creating high-quality content that provides value to your viewers, and use your thumbnails as a tool to attract and engage your audience.

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Cristian Stanciu is a freelance video editor, owner, and post-production coordinator of Veedyou Media – a company offering video editing services to videographers, marketing agencies, video production studios, or brands all over the globe.

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