How to Generate a Youtube Thumbnail

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Is it possible to generate a thumbnail for a Youtube video? Yes! It’s useful to display thumbnails with links in sidebars, or to replace the Youtube embed code with a video within your RSS feed or email. This is already a feature of some email platforms, like WordPress Newsletter Plugin. Attempting to write your own Youtube thumbnail generator could be quite a task.

The good news is that you don’t have to generate a thumbnail, Youtube has several waiting for you.

Here’s a video URL – notice the video id?

Here are the images in a couple sizes and frames, note the video id is embedded in the URL:


An easy way to embed the thumbnails in your sidebar would be to enter the image URL manually as a custom field, then customize your theme to display the custom field if it exists.


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    Doug, I’m not sure I’m clear on what you are saying here. I could really use thie feature. Are you saying you can just take your YouTube video URL and append /0.jpg to it to get a thumbnail? Is this a dynamic image?

    Your example goes up to /2.jpg. Is that frame 2? What does the 0, 1 or 2 represent? How high can you go?

    Sorry for all of the questions but this really piqued my interest. Thanks!

  2. 2

    Hi Patric,

    No, you can’t just append a /0.jpg – notice the subdomain and the path are a bit different. No, the image is not dynamic, it’s static. I’m not sure what the number represents but 0 is a large image, 1 and 2 appear to be smaller images that are from different frames.


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