Design covers for Reels/Tik Tok videos - how to create them, why they are needed

Alexandra Maksimova

What are Reels/TikToks?

For those of you not so immersed in the digital and social media space, reels and the so-called TikToks, are forms of short form content. 

Reels are videos on Instagram are anywhere from 15 to 90 seconds long (but this changes regularly, as Instagram continues to experiment with the optimal reel length for its users).

And TikToks are a similar phenomenon - videos anywhere from 15 seconds up to 10 minutes, but posted directly onto TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance.


What are TikTok and Reels thumbnails?

No, these have nothing to do with nails or thumbs. Thumbnails are video covers, and you have probably seen them when you were choosing what to watch on YouTube, Netflix, Instagram or TikTok. These are static images that appear before you even click on the video to watch it.

Why do videos need thumbnails?

The answer is a simple three step process.

  1. The thumbnail catches the viewer's attention as they scroll through videos, choosing what they want to watch
  2. The viewer clicks on the video, hoping to watch a video on the topic promised in the thumbnail
  3. The viewer watches your video!
  4. Bonus: brand consistency! If you are a business and take your social media seriously, you might want to have a unified style across all of your social media and assets, and having covers in the same style can help you do that!

The issue with YouTube's way of showing videos is that the text description of the video is not very prominent, and rarely it is the element that catches the viewer's attention, unlike the thumbnail! The thumbnail, if made correctly, can act as a marketing banner for your content. This simple formula works like a charm. 

So, by now hopefully you are convinced that all of your videos (and content in general!) need covers to stand out in the sea of other content.

How can you create these covers? 

Here are 4 methods:

  1. Do it yourself on resources such as Canva or use a ready template.

Canva is a beautiful tool with thousands of free templates, allowing you to create covers in a few clicks. You simply need to select the correct section on their website (in this case, “Instagram Reels” or “TikTok Videos”) and a huge gallery of options pops up. 


  • Free 
  • Quick and easy to use even for non-designers
  • Thousands of different templates for different categories


  • Some of the better templates are not free
  • This is not a high-end design tool, so it's impossible to make something truly extraordinary

Just check out some of these templates!

  1. Order covers on a freelance website such as Fiverr.

This might be a pricier option, but there are hundreds of creators on freelance platforms such as Freelancer or Fiverr that are ready to take on design of any complexity for your content. The price range depends on the creator, but here is just one example of how that might look for you. 


  • The price depends on the specific designer and their skill
  • Designs are done using different tools (Figma, Photoshop etc) so you can choose what you want
  • You are hiring someone to do the design instead of doing it yourself.


  •  The quality of design and delivery are unpredictable and vary depending on the person you choose to work with. 
  • Some of the best designers on the platform are often very busy or have incredible high prices.

  1. In house designers and Design Agency.

Please note that this option is the best fit for companies who have a big enough pipeline for one or more designers, but this is most definitely a viable option. This will mean either going through a traditional hiring process involving HR and job postings.


  • Designer works only on your project in your brand style, so there is consistency
  • Reliability, that you can’t find with freelance designers 


  • This is only suitable for companies with a big design output, otherwise the employee will have nothing to do
  • Large costs (salary, office, equipment, insurance etc)

  1. Hybrid hiring solution such as GreenPixel

Unlike hiring in house designers, this option is suitable for businesses with any pipeline size - you can hire someone to work for 2h per day, or you can hire three (or more!) designers to work for you full time - the solution is flexible.


  • Designer works only on your project in your brand style
  • Flexibility, ability to increase and scale without committing to hiring anyone in-house


  • Though the solution is much cheaper than hiring in-house designers, it is still quite pricey for small businesses 
  • GreenPixel in essence offers longer term collaborations, so its not suitable for businesses who want to create a one-off design or have a very low number of design requests

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