How to design perfect YouTube channel art

BasDesign, Marketing, YouTubeLeave a Comment

When setting up and optimizing your YouTube channel, the channel art (consisting of the channel icon and the cover art) play a major role in the atmosphere for your channel overview. The fact that 50% of all subscriptions for Chillhop came from the channel page hammers this home. In this entry we’re going to discuss the thought process behind determining what your channel art should look like, some technical design information and to finish it off we’re going to go over some examples to showcase what I’ve discussed in practice. The main focus will be on the channel cover, but we will spend a paragraph on the profile picture as well. Let’s get into it!

What’s the goal of channel art?

Simply put, the answer to this question would be “to maximize the click through rate of people landing on your channel” by either subscribing or viewing videos. While subscribers are less important than people think in terms of views (only 20% of views come from subscribers), for me subscribers are the most important as they form the “core audience”, the group of people most loyal to your channel. Subscribers are also a way to boost the views of a new video which will increase the rank of the video from the get go and give it a kick start.

What are the main elements of channel covers?

Now we’ve established what we want to achieve, let’s look at the building blocks for channel covers. The importance of each of these is different per channel, and with the information provided you should be able to determine whether an element is important for your channel.

The background visual

Based on the fact that visual appeal is super important, this should be high up in your list of essential elements. If you’re a travel channel you want to convey awesome locations, if you’re a gaming channel you want to display the game (or type of game) you play and so on. This element is more important for visual entertainment channels (travel, sports) than it is for informational channels (tech tutorials, politics). Because the channel cover size is significant, this is in my opinion (depending on the type of channel) one of the most important elements.

Channel logo & tagline

Apart from the logo appearing in your channel icon, I feel like it’s essential to have your logo / tagline somewhere on the channel cover as well since the channel icon is too small to justify not having it on the cover. You can have a logo, tagline or a combination of these. Usually you will want to have it in the middle since it’s the focus of your channel cover. The tagline can be a slogan or a short channel description, depending on what you think fits the channel.

Channel schedule / shows

A lot of channels adhere to a certain schedule (the reasons for this I’ll address in another post), uploading videos on certain days. Most channels that do this mention the day or days in the channel cover as it’s the easiest way to communicate this through to everyone that views the channel. Apart from this, channels that have several shows or series also often communicate this through the channel cover for the same reasons.

Social links

A lot of channels have their social links in the channel cover. While social profiles are not a bad thing to mention, I don’t think it’s ever really necessary. The reason for this is that you can insert several social links as clickable icons in the corner of your channel art, which is more convenient for users.

Clickable Social Links

Clickable Social Links

Technical design information

Channel Cover

Because YouTube is accessible (and popular) on a lot of different devices that all have different sizes and resolutions, it’s important to create channel art that looks good on each of these devices. While the height is the same on all devices except for TV, width varies a lot per device. To make sure my channel art always looks neat, I use a PSD template which highlights the sizes for each device. You can download the PSD file here or use the enlarged version of the PNG image below. Keep in mind that the maximum file size for the channel cover is 2 MB.

Channel Cover Template

PNG Template for YouUtbe channel cover

Channel Icon (Profile picture)

Channel icons are easier to make: they are either square or round and rendered at 98x  98 pixels. YouTube advices to upload a file of (at least) 800 x 800 pixels. Since profile pictures are reasonably small, I feel like there is only one clear rule for it: make it distinguishable. Surely you can read the text when you design your channel icon at 800 x 800 pixels, but is it still readable when its 98 x 98 pixels? Keep it simple and make sure that a viewer can instantly recognize what is on there when they view it.

Examples

In order to recap what we’ve discussed, here are some examples of good (and bad) channel art.

The Freedom Network

First up is YouTube Multi Channel Network Freedom. I chose this as a first example because their channel art clearly showcases some of the rules and tips I mentioned earlier in this entry. First of all, they have their branding in the middle for you to recognize it’s Freedom, regardless of the fact that it’s also present in the channel icon. Then, they mention their shows in the area that is visible on all devices, highlighting the fact that they are focused on showcasing this. Now what I think is most interesting about this channel art is how they incorporated the view on each device. While the full width desktop view doesn’t look like it “abandons” the space on the side in order to look good on smaller devices, you can clearly distinguish the parts that will get cut off (the Impulse bar, for example) without sacrificing how it will look on whichever device. This is why I think Freedom is a good example of “how to do it right”. Link

Freedom channel art

Freedom Multi Channel Network channel cover

Tasty Music

Next up is Tasty, a rather popular electronic music network. Simple but to the point, their channel art mostly consists of their upload schedule and their logo. They don’t have anything which highlights what they actually do, but seeing it’s a relatively popular channel and music automatically starts playing when you enter the channel, the amount of possible misconceptions is minimal. I must say I’m not a fan of the whole est *insert year number* cliche, but that’s a personal thing. link

Tasty Music Network channel cover

Tasty Music Network channel cover

Chillhop Music

I want to use my own channel as an example as well, mainly to highlight my thought process for the channel art. First of all, we used the background of a city because with our most popular mix series, we create a mellow urban atmosphere. This atmosphere is something I want to highlight for the channel as a whole, so the background seems fitting. I added our branding in the middle, together with a short channel description as Chillhop isn’t self explanatory for a lot of people, and we focus on certain genres. I thought about adding in upload schedules but since it’s something we try to adhere but not a strict rule, we decided to leave it out for now. link

Chillhop Channel Art

Chillhop Channel Art

Bluehost

As a last example, I want to highlight a channel which I think made some mistakes for their channel art. While I think the fact that they make videos to enhance their support is admirable and a good addition to their service, they could certainly have done better when it comes to the channel art. First of all, the focus area of the channel art isn’t in the middle, but to the side. This results in both a part being cut off for mobile devices and tablets, while also having the social links overlapping the information. Additionally, the logo is too close to the edge of the graphic, and the channel art itself doesn’t really say much in terms of what the channel is about. Customers probably know Bluehost, but I would like to know the focus of the channel. This isn’t very clear, and I think highlighting certain series like the WordPress walkthrough guides or a short business description would have certainly been in place. link

BlueHostCover

Bluehost channel art

Recap

Recapping what we’ve discussed, the main points are:

  • Channel art is important: 50% of all subscriptions come from the channel page.
  • What’s needed depends on the channel, but elements like branding are essential.
  • Channel art looks different on every device; use a template to help you adhere to each size.

If you want me to design fitting channel art for your channel (or offer advice), you can always tweet at me @lionnotes or check out the services page. I hope this helps you increase your subscriber growth!

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