Is PNG or JPEG Better for YouTube Thumbnails?

Almost since its inception, YouTube has become a phenomenon no one could have foreseen. The first platform of its kind gave ordinary people a means to be heard, seen, and known by an audience of virtual strangers, who would become virtual fans. Nowadays, a great deal of work goes into producing content for YouTube. Content that rivals network television, other social media, and streaming platforms.

According to many creators, PNG is the preferred choice for YouTube thumbnails. The decision came down to the quality of the thumbnail image, which is the viewer’s introduction to your content.

Everything has to be fresh and exciting, including your video’s thumbnail, which is your primary marketing on YouTube to your content. Image quality is not the only factor in PNG being the preferred format for YouTube thumbnails. However, you can’t discount JPEG formatting just yet. JPEG has its own benefits that should be considered when determining which format to save your image.

For those seeking a quick solution, try out a YouTube Thumbnail Maker to customize pre-made templates. You’ll get the best performing layouts, formatted best for YouTube.

» MORE: Can You Use Google Images for a YouTube Thumbnail?

What Is the Difference Between PNG and JPEG?

Portable Graphics Format (PNG) uses a lossless method of compression for saving your images versus Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG), which uses a lossy compression method. While many photographers use JPEG, digital cameras automatically save photos in this format. PNG is utilized for different kinds of web graphics. That does not disqualify PNG from being the preferred format for photographs; it’s all dependent on your needs.

According to YouTube guidelines, a video thumbnail can be saved and uploaded in either PNG or JPEG format, so it is at the discretion of the content creator to decide. When making your decision, there are a few factors you might want to consider.

  • Quality of the Thumbnail
  • Size of the Thumbnail (Storage Space)
  • Editing of the Thumbnail

Diving deeper into these topics will give a better understanding of why PNG might be the preferred format for YouTube thumbnails.

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Quality of the Thumbnail

Looking at what each format is typically used for can help you determine which format would be best for your thumbnail image. PNG is the go-to for flat, less dimensional images like icons, logos, graphics, and so on. Therefore, if your thumbnail consists of a simple picture of you with bold graphics overhead, then PNG will serve you well. JPEG is utilized for more dimensional and detailed work, which is why it is used so much in photography. So, if your thumbnail is an image of you amid a beautiful landscape, then JPEG will serve you well.

A consideration when choosing a format for quality is editing. JPEG is known to suffer a loss of quality each time an image is opened in a program, edited, then saved. If your thumbnail requires long hours of editing that would entail you going back and forth, opening the image several times, JPEG may not be for you.

Size of the Thumbnail (Storage Space)

The recommended size for a quality YouTube thumbnail is 1280×720 or 16:9 aspect ratio. While both formats can accommodate this size, there are essential elements to consider when saving and storing your thumbnail images. It is known that PNG is the largest format of the two. The larger formatting is due to the method of compression.

The benefit of PNG is that it doesn’t compress the image when saving it, causing quality degradation. The downside of PNG is that it requires more storage space on your device, and it will take longer to upload to YouTube. Therefore, you have to decide what serves you better. Is a fraction longer upload time a reasonable sacrifice for maintaining quality? Could your device accommodate the potential storage needs?

JPEG will take up far less space on your computer. We are talking about 402KB for a full-sized PNG versus 35.7KB for a full-sized JPEG. A smaller image file also means less time to upload. So, what is JPEG’s downside? In order to take up less storage on your hard drive, this format compresses the image, which may cause a degradation of quality. It may not be a significant loss, but it is worth noting.

Editing of the Thumbnail

If you are creating your own thumbnail, you will need to edit regardless of whether the images you use are original or borrowed. While we already addressed one aspect of editing that specifically affects JPEG images, there is more to consider: transparency. Simply put, JPEG does not allow for transparency, while PNG does.

The transparency of an image is only an issue if you would like to edit the image to replace or remove a background or layer an image. An example of this would be text over an image. Transparency would allow you to see the image behind the letters instead of around a solid text block. Therefore, it depends on the aesthetic direction you have in mind for your thumbnail.

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Content Creators Suggestions for Thumbnails

Thumbnail creation is pretty open ended and there are endless possibilities for creating them. Some of the best advice out there may come from high-brow content creators who have been through the process of creating thumbnails for their channels. The suggestions for a compelling thumbnail for a YouTube video is one of three concepts:

  • A still shot directly from the video
  • Custom graphics, or
  • A combination of both

While a simple still shot can be easily turned into a JPEG formatted thumbnail and uploaded quickly, PNG offers more versatility with all three thumbnail ideas.

This kind of flexibility is required when you are churning out one or more videos a week trying to keep your audience interested in your content with an assortment of eye-catching thumbnails. With competitors in every niche of YouTube, you can not afford to be held back by an image format’s limitations.

» MORE: How To Make a Custom YouTube Thumbnail [YouTube Tutorial]


While upload times might be a fraction longer for a PNG formatted thumbnail or added storage may be needed to accommodate the files you save to your computer on a weekly basis, the driving factor for content creators choosing PNG over JPEG is quality and variety. What the audience sees and gravitates toward takes precedence over the added work or cost that may fall on the creator’s end.

We recommend trying a YouTube Thumbnail Maker that allows you to customize pre-made templates. This will give you the best performing layouts, and save you a lot of time every time you create a new thumbnail.