Quick Tip: How To Grab YouTube Thumbnail Images

The other day, when I was editing the weekly viral video roundup post, it occurred to me that it would be nice to display a thumbnail image for the post, taken from one of the videos in his review.  I thought I'd write a short post to show you how to easily pull thumbnail images for a YouTube video AND, I've added a quick tool for you to grab the images from a YouTube video ID.

  • Public or unlisted only (private videos won't work):
    E.G. http://youtube.com/watch?v=VIDEO_ID_HERE&feature=blahblahblah
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

How To Download A Thumbnail Image From YouTube

There are a few different ways that you can get thumbnails from a YouTube video, one of which is to use YouTube's Video API to extract the thumbnail. YouTube API responses may contain multiple thumbnail images for a video, each of which is identified by a <media:thumbnail> tag.  Creating a call to YouTube to get the video and thumbnail information can take some time and when you are like me and don't know a think about writing code, then the API is relatively useless.  For me, I needed a simple way to pull down a thumbnail and thankfully, there is a simple way to do this.

Below is the YouTube URL format that you will need in order to view and download a thumbnail from a YouTube video... where for the video example is VIDEO_ID=bQVoAWSP7k4 and # (1,2, or 3) corresponds to one of the 3 thumbnails that YouTube automatically generates.

#2, is the default thumbnail, or the one that the owner ends up choosing for their video.

Using this convention, below are the URLs and the thumbnails that I was able to pull off of YouTube for the "wedding proposal" video from Jeremy's post.

1st Thumbnail Image, Small (120x90)


Quick Tip: How To Grab YouTube Thumbnail Images 1

3rd Thumbnail Image, Small (120x90)


Quick Tip: How To Grab YouTube Thumbnail Images 3

2nd | Default Thumbnail Image, Small (120x90)


Quick Tip: How To Grab YouTube Thumbnail Images 2

Default Thumbnail Image, Full-Size (480x360)


Quick Tip: How To Grab YouTube Thumbnail Images 0

I hope helps.

  • samratsaha

    A Very Simple but very essential tut. . .AWESOME 1+

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ reelseo

       @samratsaha Thanks samratsaha

  • elellextech


  • NgonHua

    @every1, is it possible to retrieve the information of the video? is there an API out there for that?

  • AndreyViana


  • samratsaha

    A Very Simple but very essential tut. . .AWESOME 1+

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ reelseo

       @samratsaha Thanks samratsaha

  • elellextech


  • NgonHua

    @every1, is it possible to retrieve the information of the video? is there an API out there for that?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000060726638 Samuel Monday

    thanks x 5.

  • https://onlybooks.org/ rishi

    Helped me replace my video image . Thnx ....

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=906550710 Simon Shehata

    that's awesome, thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=691522770 張志傑

    wow so nice it's what I want. Thanks

  • Shreyas Kapur

    thank you

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001902977598 Khiem Nguyen

    its great, thanks.

  • Banisa Brown

    Awesome, Thanks...

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=820250213 Bilal Gümüş

    Thanks a lot..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001134337844 Диего Поп

    Thanks REELSEO :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=567344595 Lucas Leão Brasil

    is there a way of getting medium size images? or custom with better resolution? tnx

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=567344595 Lucas Leão Brasil

      I got it.. simply used the full size images and resized the html code.. tnx for the info

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000555260638 Peter Leijenhorst

    Thanx dude! Awesome :)

  • Thein Than

    The exact thing I've been looking for. Thanks.

  • Paul Burlando


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001408309218 Muhammad Ayyaz Zafar

    great, It works thanks :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=560179824 Chkheidze Rezo

    good job, thank you, it works....

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1177363116 Mark Robertson


  • http://www.onlineinvestingai.com/blog/ George

    All 3 are small for me.

  • http://www.onlineinvestingai.com/blog/ George

    You know what this site is missing? Advertising.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      Do you think there is too much? I'd value your clarification. Thanks
      in advance

      • http://www.onlineinvestingai.com/blog/ George

        Yah, for me. It is very intrusive. I think it might be better with all the advertising in one place (like on the right) and of consistent size and shape (like squares). Also, it slows my computer down because so much is happening.

        Congrats on the great site!

        By the way, file 0.jpg is large and worked. Thanks!

        • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

          Is it the ad within the post that is the most annoying or the ones on
          the right? Tots to make money to keep it going but also don't want to
          loose good engaged folks like you :)

          Sent from my ReelPad

        • http://www.onlineinvestingai.com/blog/ George

          I don't see an ad within the post. I think it might have been there yesterday...?

          What's a tots?

          I guess what is most annoying is that there are shapes of every different size in every different place throughout the page. And not just advertising. The social promotion stuff and the YouTube icon thing related to the post have no consistency and do not line up with anything else. It looks like something exploded and each piece of debris is something on the page.

          I think the problogger blog used to have a long list of square ads on the right. That looked really nice because they were all the same size and they are colorful. Now there are just 2...that site has a similar problem (to me). Some things line up but some don't because of padding on the inside. I think it would look much nicer if everything lined up. But that's just me...

          You have really great traffic on your blog. I am going to learn some things from you to increase traffic to my blog...

  • http://www.marhaonline.com Khalid

    Honestly, this is a lot easier that playing around with the API!

    Many thanks for sharing!

  • Jay

    This works great for CMS I build for clients who are best off not trying to create their own thumbs!

  • https://mobile.twitter.com/thexebolud Federico Lescano

    Thank you so much. It really help me. I'm replacing a video with an image of it in order to send the resultant html by e-mail :)

  • Ann Totten

    Good info... I found your post while searching for a way to get a thumbnail (any thumbnail ) along with the youtube video when it comes up in a google search. Do you know how to do that?
    Thanks, Ann Totten

  • Annamaria Llupi

    Gli Artificiali

  • Meesoo

    thanks for this great topic,

    but how could i do it as a rollover rotator on the same video thumbnail, for example like clipshare do,

    if i hover it'll keep changing till i remove the mouse from it !

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      you mean like an animated gif of the video? Check out

  • http://www.VideoLeadsOnline.com/ Ronnie Bincer

    At first I thought you were telling us an Easy way to make the YouTube Thumbnail Image be what you want it to be! Instead, you are helping us pull the graphic thumbnail images that YouTube chooses to represent our uploaded videos.

    Those familiar with one of my passions will know that I have a pursuit of discovering the secret formula for non-partners to be able to select what they want as their thumbnail image in YouTube - I document my efforts on my web site and push a particular phrase: "Video Thumbnail Trick" as part of this pursuit.

    Old methods (pre-12/08) don't work any more. But have no fear, I'll keep digging.

    Re. your article, Since I rarely find the thumbnail YouTube chooses to my liking, I tend to play the video and do a screen capture of the image I prefer, then pull it into Photoshop and build my own thumbnail image which I use where I wish on my web site.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      i figured youd comment on this one...;-) Yes, Im very well aware of your passion with the "secret formula." ;-) Im hoping you figure it out but honestly, I dont think it can be cracked.

      I completely agree that when you own the video, it is best to just create a thumbnail that best represents your video as opposed to 1 of the 3 that YouTube gives as choices.

  • http://gingertech.net/ Silvia Pfeiffer

    Note that YouTube sometimes change their url scheme, so you are better off with asking the API, unless you want to update the scheme from now to then. :-)

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      Great point Silvia. I dont mind updating it from time to time and to be honest, this particular convention has worked ok now for a year for me. I started to include some others just in case but I figure Ill hear about it when it breaks ;-) Just in case, here is another one that works for now...


  • Russ_Somers

    Useful, thank you! I needed to do this for my personal blog the other day & got stymied. I'll use this one.