Why is Your YouTube Thumbnail Black?

A YouTube thumbnail is essentially the elevator speech of your video…except shorter. This brief video or image is the only representation of your video’s content that subscribers and non-subscribers will see as they scroll past the hundreds of other videos on their feed. Needless to say, the importance of the thumbnail to draw them in is enormous, which is why it is a significant issue if you find that your YouTube thumbnail appears as a big black box.

Your YouTube thumbnail appears black because YouTube is using the default method of choosing an image from the first few seconds of your video, and this video happens to be black or the customized thumbnail you have chosen doesn’t adhere to YouTube’s sizing and other spec requirements.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the most common reasons why your YouTube thumbnail is appearing black instead of the stunning image or video clip you wanted. As you read, you’ll learn how to resolve this issue by either customizing your thumbnail rather than using the default, and how to ensure it meets the site’s thumbnail requirements.

Fixing a Black YouTube Thumbnail

As we mentioned previously, the most likely causes of your YouTube thumbnail appearing black is either a poor default image/clip or your designated image/clip failed to meet YouTube’s recommended photo or video specifications.

Alternatively, you might notice a gray thumbnail with a darker gray YouTube box containing white ellipses rather than seeing a completely black thumbnail. Regardless, the issue is the same in that your ideal thumbnail image or clip is not loading and displaying properly, but don’t worry, we’re here to help you fix that.

The best way to fix this issue is usually to:

  1. Delete any default thumbnail YouTube might have chosen for you
  2. Limit or completely remove any excessive spans of black footage in your video
  3. Upload a custom thumbnail
  4. Ensure the issue isn’t a creator side glitch

We’re going to discuss these steps in a bit more depth so you know exactly what to look for, how to make these changes, and what further steps you should take in the future to ensure every YouTube thumbnail for your videos displays properly and beneficially markets your content to current and potential subscribers.

1. Delete The Default Thumbnail

While this isn’t always the case, most YouTubers who have been creating content for several months, or even years, and therefore, have significant experience with this website refrain from using default banners, icons, thumbnails and any other media that represents their channel and its unique content.

These need to be deliberate marketing opportunities that specifically demonstrate what your brand has to offer, and so, opting for the default is never ideal as YouTube will never know your brand better than you do.

That being said, you’d be surprised how many media related issues arise purely because the creator took the easy way out and stuck to the default image or clip YouTube provided. While we understand this is a convenient time-saver, the quickest way to resolve a black thumbnail is to use an image or clip of your choosing so you know what the thumbnail is supposed to look like and can ensure it follows the necessary specifications we’re about to discuss.

2. Limit or Delete Black Footage

If you’re set on sticking with your default image, a quick fix would likely be to check your video’s footage and see if there is a span (most likely at the very begging or end) where your viewers are only seeing a black screen.

In the grand scheme of things, you almost never want these black voids of footage in your videos as they are boring and unappealing to audiences, but for the sake of your thumbnail, it’s likely that YouTube has selected the default image or clip from this black span of footage and that’s why it appears the way it does.

So, if you don’t want to create a customized thumbnail (or if you simply want to create more engaging content) you’ll want to do some serious editing and cut out these blacked-out moments in footage. A transitional blip is fine; 2-10+ seconds is not.

3. Upload a Custom Thumbnail

While it is definitely an important skill to have, we won’t delve into the process of how to create a customized YouTube thumbnail in this article.

The best tips we can provide for this process is to either use a graphics editor program/software or an online template to create an image that portrays a strong video title in a clear font with a simple background and pops of vibrant color.

What your thumbnail portrays is less important here than its overall specifications (unless the image in your thumbnail violates YouTube community guidelines and policies, in which case the site will prohibit its display and notify you of this).

The key requirements for your customized YouTube thumbnail are as follows:

  • 1280 pixels wide by 720 pixels tall
  • Minimum width of 640 pixels
  • Ratio of 16:9

If your thumbnail does not meet these specifications, you might find yourself facing a series of issues such as a black image, failure to upload, or poor image quality (either dimensionally or in terms of overall resolution).

Anyone about to create their own customized YouTube thumbnail should make sure the image adheres to these specifications at all times. But what if you’ve already made and saved your thumbnail? Don’t worry; as long as you have the file saved somewhere, you should be able to edit your thumbnail to match these specifications and then reupload it to your YouTube account.

4. Refresh Your Screen or Restart YouTube

Hopefully, by this point, after you’ve checked your thumbnail’s specifications and reuploaded it, you’ll see a stunning image or clip instead of that nagging black box.

If you don’t see your intended thumbnail displayed and the black box persist and you’re sure everything about the image or clip is right, try refreshing the page or, better yet, save and then log out of your YouTube account, close the website, and the log back in.

Sometimes, issues relating to a content creator’s brand media features, such as the thumbnail or banner, won’t appear properly at first.

There are even times when content creators notice that the image or clip doesn’t display properly on their end in the content creator editor, but once they open YouTube on the consumer’s end, everything appears perfectly. So, the real issue might just be a bug on your end that needs to be resolved and everything, in reality, is displaying properly for your viewers.

Final Thoughts

A black thumbnail can be a huge detriment to your video’s success and, consequentially, your channel’s success and even your revenue. Thankfully, it’s an issue that’s usually easy to fix once you upload a customized thumbnail that meets YouTube’s specifications. If you follow the steps listed here and still see a black thumbnail, reach out to YouTube’s creator support team for more help.