While recognizing that you need to update your banner image is certainly the first step—almost anything’s better than the gray default banner—there are a lot of challenges involved in making your image look great. Its prominent place on your channel makes that absolutely vital to optimizing your YouTube channel. Here’s what you need to know.
YouTube channel art requirements
Your starting point for your YouTube Channel art is the optimal banner image size of 2560 x 1440 pixels. That’s a large image file, and you may not have an appropriate image that is big enough at your disposal. Another design challenge is that your YouTube channel icon will appear on the upper left, obscuring parts of the image you upload. Most organizations select a stripped down version of their logo for the icon, which comes in from your Google Plus profile. If there’s something crucial you’re used to articulating in your full logo that’s missing from the stripped-down version, you have to find a way to incorporate that content in your banner without being redundant with the icon.
The other very important factor in creating your YouTube Channel Art is that YouTube will use different portions of your image in different formats.
This is why you want such a huge image–the “TV” format (available on AppleTV, some TiVo video recorders that have a built-in YouTube channel, the Boxee Box, and Google TV devices, and to anyone with the right hookup) is just enormous, and you don’t want your image to look pixillated or washed out. Further, as you can see in the image at the left, different portions of your YouTube channel art show in different formats, so you are going to need to watch what—or who–might end up getting cropped in any of the formats. (The above sample, with no people or words to get in the way, is from one of YouTube’s stock channel art images, which is certainly better than the gray diamonds you have if you don’t select anything.)
Making your YouTube channel art look terrific
Make sure that the middle stands alone. Once you upload your image and click on “edit,” you’ll notice that the image can only be cropped around the center point.
Be careful in where you place organization names, logos, and people. Cutting off part of one of those things in your YouTube Channel art is going to hinder your branding and marketing goals. Images like the one SOS Children’s Villages used, above, where the outer edges are all graphic, or patterns, can be fairly forgiving.
If you don’t have an ideal larger image, follow the lead of JSSA, or SOS Children’s Villages above and build your banner by combining multiple images in a program like Photoshop. Start by setting the size of your image to 2560 x 1440, and build the image from the middle out.
Use a downloadable template. YouTube provides one that’s compatible with the Adobe products, Photoshop and Fireworks. Here’s one a social media consultant provides that’s compatible with Photoshop and GIMP. Here’s another recommended by a blogger named Groovy Videos that works with Photoshop and PixIr. This can help you see what you’re doing before you upload the image, which saves a lot of time.
Maybe YouTube’s next iteration will allow users to upload separate images for different formats. Until then, YouTube Channel Art will be a tricky issue, and you might want to consider getting the help of a consultant like MiniMatters to sort this out and do other things to help you get the most from your YouTube Channel. The banner is a big part of your channel’s first impression.