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Choose Your Video's Thumbnail
Choose Your Video's Thumbnail

The thumbnail is what viewers see before they press play. Make sure it's just right!

Caroline F avatar
Written by Caroline F
Updated over a week ago

Changing the Thumbnail

Video still, poster image, first frame …  we’ve heard all sorts of terms for the image that appears when the page loads, before your viewers begin watching. We call it the thumbnail.

By default, our system selects the middle frame of the video. But sometimes this can catch the speaker awkwardly, in mid-sentence, or can reveal something about the content you want to keep a secret!

To change it, select one of three options: Upload a new image (one you have carefully crafted) or Use the current frame — which means you want the frame that is currently showing in your video to the right. These options both result in a still thumbnail image. You can also set a Video Thumbnail by choosing a section of your video to loop before the viewer presses play.

Selecting a Frame from Your Video

If you decide to choose a frame from your video for your thumbnail, you’ll first need to play the video until you reach the frame that you want, then pause the video on that frame (you may need to drag the playbar back and forth a little bit to get the frame just right). Then, just click Use the current frame. You’ll see a "Processing … " message for a couple of seconds, then your video will refresh and you’ll see the new thumbnail. Be sure to click Save to keep these changes!

Uploading a Thumbnail

Maybe you have a great image you’ve custom-designed to serve as the thumbnail. Fantastic! All you’ll need to do in order to give it its moment to shine is to click Upload a new image, then choose the file from your computer. We’ll take care of it from there!


Transparent thumbnail images are not currently supported.

Uploading the Right Size Thumbnail

We’ve got lots of tips for picking the perfect thumbnail, but if you’re uploading a custom thumbnail, you might be curious about the right size. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

When uploading your own image for your thumbnails we recommend using an image that shares the same aspect ratio as your video.

What’s an aspect ratio you ask? Great question!

An aspect ratio is the proportional relationship between the width and height of your video. This ratio is represented with 2 numbers separated by a colon. There are a few aspect ratios you may be familiar with:

  • 1:1 is a perfect square

  • 4:3 was the ratio for old television sets

  • 16:9 is the ratio for a majority of the widescreen content you see today

You can determine the aspect ratio of your content from the size of your original video. If you’re unsure about the size of your original video (or you simply forgot), you can check by selecting Download from the menu.


Any of the resolutions listed here will share the same aspect ratio as your content. We recommend matching the highest quality (largest sized) option for your thumbnail images whenever possible. Seeing these different resolutions listed out is also a great way to visualize how differently sized videos can still share the same aspect ratio.

Video Thumbnails

If you’d really like to give your thumbnail some extra panache, a video thumbnail is a great option. There are two different types of video thumbnails — you can select a portion of your video, or another video.

Select a section

Select a short section from your video as the thumbnail. With this, it autoplays on a loop before a viewer presses play. This is great to preview the most exciting part of your video, or just to show a friendly person giving a wave to viewers - and it really grabs the eye of someone scrolling through a page. Here’s an example:


Please note that video thumbnails use more bandwidth than still image thumbnails. You can read more about Bandwidth usage here.

Choose another video

Select another video within your account to play as a looping video thumbnail at the beginning of your video.

So, how do you set a video thumbnail? With the Customize menu open, select “Thumbnail.” From here, set the type to “Video.”

You can select to “Use current video” as the thumbnail, find another video in your account, or set the start and end times for a clip from the video you’re customizing.

Set a video thumbnail in Customize

Optionally add a text overlay, click Save at the top of the menu and you’re good to go!


There are some places where a video thumbnail cannot be shown. Specifically, they won’t appear in the folder listing within your Wistia account, on social media, or on a popover embed. Instead, in those places, the first frame of the section of the video you’ve selected will appear as the thumbnail.

Text Overlay

You’ve picked the perfect frame, or chosen the most eye-catching segment of your video, to use as the thumbnail, but it still needs a little something? A text overlay can take your thumbnail to the next level. Using a text overlay, you can provide context to a prospective viewer and let them know what they’re about to watch …  or just show off the pun-tastic title you thought up for this video. We would never judge you for that.

Text overlays can be added to either still or video thumbnails. All you’ll need to do is check the Include text overlay box and type your text into the field below. You’ll see the text update on the video as you type, so you can adjust your spacing and line breaks to get it looking just right.

Text overlay

Save your changes when you’re ready, and prepare to knock your viewers' socks off.

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