It’s 2020. There’s a global health crisis going on. We’re all stuck at home. And Instagram is still being a bi*** with their IGTV cover photo.
IGTV is great for tapping into the Instagram audience and sharing videos longer than 1 minute.
But imagine this all-too-familiar scenario:
After creating your video, you’re ready to upload it to IGTV. You choose a cover photo, make sure everything looks good, and publish it. Job well done, you’re ready to call it a da- Wait, why does your IGTV thumbnail look like that?!
And if you’ve never uploaded to IGTV before, and see this potential mess you’re getting into, don’t give up and close this window just yet!
There is a way to master this IGTV cover photo problem, even if you’re a beginner or have no experience in design.
This IGTV thumbnail guide + free template will let you design with an ease of mind. You’ll know where the thumbnail title-safe region is, and also how your thumbnail looks like when previewed in your Instagram profile.
Watch the full tutorial below:
Why are IGTV thumbnails so confusing?
By the way, IGTV thumbnail = IGTV cover photo. For this blog, we’ll be mostly using the term “thumbnail”.
The thing is, in 2019, Instagram announced that IGTV now supports horizontal videos. Before that, you could only upload vertical videos. The workaround was exporting your horizontal videos in the vertical format, resulting in IGTV videos appearing sideways- an abomination to user experience and torture to creators.
Back then, IGTV thumbnails were understandably vertical. But now that you can upload horizontal IGTV videos, what about the thumbnail?
The thumbnail is still vertical.
And not only that. To upload a video to IGTV, your video can have the following size:
Horizontal IGTV videos can have an aspect ratio of 16:9. Any other video size uploaded will be cropped in to 16:9.
Vertical IGTV videos can have an aspect ratio of 9:16. Any other video size uploaded will be cropped in to 9:16.
Perhaps you were thinking, since IGTV thumbnails need to be vertical, it should be 9:16 right?
If it were that straightforward, then we wouldn’t all be here, reading my cynical ramblings that you find a waste of your time. Okay, okay I get it, I’ll try to speed it up below.
So according to Instagram, IGTV thumbnails need to have an aspect ratio of … 1:1.55, or 420px by 654px.
You’re not the only one. This unusual aspect ratio has given creators (like you and us) additional problems, on top of having to redesign the thumbnail you’ve already created for YouTube or Facebook.
Of course you can simply use a single frame from your IGTV video as the thumbnail. But creating your own thumbnail can help get more eyes on your IGTV video, and a thumbnail title gives your audience a better expectation of the video before they even start watching.
If you’re planning to start designing your thumbnail already, hold your horses!
Your IGTV thumbnail gets shown to viewers in various “locations”. The thumbnail will get cropped differently, or be subjected to different kinds of text overlay and graphical elements from Instagram or IGTV’s app.
Where do IGTV videos get shown?
1. Instagram profile > IGTV (for both desktop and app)
2. Instagram app > Explore page > IGTV
3. IGTV app
4. Instagram profile > Posts (If preview of IGTV video is shared to feed)
Different phones especially iOS and Android devices may have some differences in their cropping and overlays too. The above screenshots are taken on our Huawei Nova 5T (Android) phone.
The solution to all the IGTV cropping and overlays
After some trial and error, we have created a free IGTV thumbnail template for you with a title-safe area, to make sure your thumbnail design looks flawless regardless of where it is previewed.
There are two types of templates you can choose from:
👉 For the non-photoshop user, download the .ZIP file containing 3 image template (png) that you can use ANYWHERE straightaway!
👉 Photoshop users, download the .PSD template with layers and ruler guides
If you put your thumbnail title in this title safe area (teal area), it should be safe from getting blocked by any other text overlay or getting cropped out.
If you also plan to post a preview of your IGTV video to your Instagram feed, you can preview how your thumbnail will look when cropped to a square (orange area).
Step-By-Step guide to create the perfect IGTV thumbnail
You can use any editing software, or we recommend using Canva which is free! (sign up for an account via this link and get free Canva credits!*).
For our example below, we’ll also be using Canva.
Create a new design with custom dimensions of 1260px by 1962px. Choose a photo for your thumbnail. With Canva, you can use their built-in stock photos to find the perfect background image. Scale the photo to the size that you like, and import all 3 files found inside the .ZIP folder.
(If you have yet to download the template, do so here!)
Use Template 1, and resize it to fit your entire canvas. Or if you find Template 1 a bit too messy to edit in, you can remove that use Template 2 instead.
Important: Make sure you align Template 2 to the bottom of your canvas instead of the top. Resize Template 2 so that it fits the width of your canvas.
Add your thumbnail title, and make sure that the text is within the inner box of the template (teal).
Once you’re happy with the design, the last step is to check that your square preview of your thumbnail looks good. Delete Template 2, and import Template 3, and align it to your entire canvas.
If that looks good to you, delete all the template guides, and download your final thumbnail.
You’re done! All that’s left is to upload your IGTV video with your awesome, title-safe thumbnail.
Level up your IGTV game
If you couldn’t figure out your IGTV thumbnail before, use the free template to level up your IGTV game even further!
* If you sign up for a Canva account using our referral link, both parties will receive 1 free Canva credit, which you can use to redeem premium Canva images for your designs