YouTube video size: Tips to hit the perfect aspect ratio, resolution, and dimensions

Couple of friends filming themselves dancing

One of the ways to increase how often your YouTube videos are viewed and shared is by ensuring that they’re set to the right resolution and format. 

Choppy, grainy, or otherwise hard-to-watch videos tend to drive away viewers—and without their attention, the YouTube algorithm may leave you behind. Sometimes, the wrong format can even prevent you from uploading your video to your YouTube channel.

Understanding a bit more about YouTube video dimensions, resolutions, and formats can help you optimize the quality of your video content and grow your audience as a creator. This guide explains how to do just that.

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What are the best video dimensions and resolutions for YouTube?

Let’s start with the basics: Pixels are the tiny blocks behind your screen that make up all the digital images you see; the resolution refers to the size of these pixels. The larger the pixels, the fewer you can fit on the screen, resulting in blocky, low-quality, or low-resolution images. 

A higher resolution image has more pixel density, resulting in clearer, sharper video quality. The smaller the pixels, the more you can fit together to create a more detailed image. 

Not happy with your video quality? Use Descript to export the video in a higher resolution so that when it’s uploaded to YouTube, viewers get a high-quality viewing experience. 

Screenshot of user using Descript to improve YouTube video quality

The dimensions of a video refers to how many pixels comprise an image length- and width-wise. For example, a low-quality image at 240 pixels (resolution) is usually 426 by 240 pixels (dimensions). 

Changing the size of your dimensions can also alter how the resolution displays. For instance, increasing the dimensions spreads the pixels farther apart, reducing video playback quality. 

Uploading your YouTube video in the right dimensions and resolution ensures it looks its best. Here are a few common YouTube video dimensions and resolutions:

  • 426 x 240 pixels (240p): This dimension and resolution is the lowest accepted quality for YouTube uploads and works best for slower internet connections.
  • 640 x 360 pixels (360p): This is considered the basic resolution for video viewing on smartphones, and is generally used for embedded videos on websites.
  • 854 x 480 pixels (480p): Standard definition, as it’s known, is the general playback resolution for YouTube videos streamed over cellular data. 
  • 1280 x 720 pixels (720p): This is the minimum resolution required for high definition (HD) playback. A full 16:9 aspect ratio is recommended for videos at this resolution. 720p is the recommended resolution for watching HD videos on a slower internet connection.
  • 1920 x 1080 pixels (1080p): Full HD resolution happens at 1080p. This is a top-tier resolution if you want to upload high quality videos for advanced playback devices.
  • 2560 x 1440 pixels (1440p): For an even more detailed viewing experience, you can upload videos in 1440p, also known as 2K.
  • 3840 x 2160 pixels (2160p): Ultra HD or 4K resolutions are the best for large screens if you want a sharp, defined image.
  • 7680 x 4320 pixels (4320p): Also known as Full Ultra HD (FUHD) or 8K resolution. YouTube now accepts videos in this gargantuan resolution, though there are very few benefits to uploading a video of this quality, mainly because most viewers don’t have the means to support this level of resolution on their devices.

What aspect ratio is best for YouTube?

The aspect ratio describes the relationship between the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the video frame. In other words, it determines the shape of the video playback screen. 

For instance, an image at 1080 x 1080 pixels has a 1:1 aspect ratio, meaning for every pixel long, it’s also one pixel wide, producing a square playback frame. This also makes the resolution 1080p.

The aspect ratio and the resolution of a YouTube video are codependent—that is, when you change to a different aspect ratio, you also change the resolution, and vice versa. For example, a video meant to be played in a 4:3 aspect ratio would appear stretched and distorted if converted to 16:9.

You can edit your YouTube video’s standard aspect ratio in camera before you start recording, or change it in post-production with a video editing tool like Descript

Changing aspect ratio for YouTube video in Descript

Here are the three most common YouTube video aspect ratios:

  • 1:1: Your video frame appears as a perfect square at this aspect ratio. The YouTube app adjusts your video frame for mobile playback to fit any aspect ratio. However, when viewed on desktop, YouTube adds black bars around a 1:1 video to fill in the rest of the open frame.
  • 4:3: The traditional TV display standard, a 4:3 aspect ratio, means the video frame is 4 units of width for every 3 units of height. A 4:3 aspect ratio means you’ll have black bars filling the exposed space on desktop, though your mobile playback will adapt to fit.
  • 16:9: This is the recommended aspect ratio for YouTube. At 16:9, your videos are widescreen and occupy the entire YouTube video frame on both desktop and mobile.

Although the YouTube app adjusts the aspect ratio for video playback on mobile, your default thumbnail will contain a blurred, magnified background behind the actual video to fill the 16:9 frame.

Which video format is best for YouTube?

For a high-quality image and small video file size, YouTube recommends uploading your videos in MP4 format with a 16:9 aspect ratio and H.264 video codec and AAC audio codec (types of compression software that transfer image and sound). 

However, you can choose from any of the following YouTube video formats:

  • MP4: The most recommended file format for YouTube, this extension represents video files in the MPEG-4 format. All videos edited in Descript are exported as an MP4 file. 
  • MOV: The .mov extension is an Apple QuickTime video file format, compatible with Mac and PC.
  • MPEG PS: While accepted as an online video format, MPEG PS is specifically for HD DVDs.
  • AVI: Invented by Microsoft in 1992, the Audio-Video Interleaved (AVI) format is used for audio and video storage and playback.
  • WMV: The Windows Media Video (.wmv) format provides good compression and small file sizes, making it a popular option for video streaming online.
  • FLV: Used by Adobe Flash Player, this extension has a small file size and is a good choice for online video streaming.
  • WEBM: Developed by Google, this open-source video format is intended for HTML5 streaming, allowing different devices like tablets, iPhones, computers, or smart TVs to play videos online.
  • HEVC: High-Efficiency Video Coding is a high-compression video format and one of the newer types of video formatting that more devices, including the iPhone, have adopted. It allows videos to maintain their quality with less bitrate.
  • 3GPP: 3GPP stands for “3rd Generation Partnership Project,” and was created for multimedia recording, sharing, and playback on 3G cell phones.

What is the best YouTube image size?

YouTube is a video-sharing platform, but that doesn't mean there aren't images involved at all. There are a few image sizes to keep in mind as you create, promote, and optimize your YouTube channel and videos.

  • Profile photo: Your profile photo should be a 1:1 aspect ratio with dimensions of 800 x 800 pixels.
  • YouTube channel art: Your channel art, or the YouTube banner/header that sits at the top of your channel, should be 2560 x 1440 pixels.
  • YouTube video thumbnails: Each of your videos should have a unique and eye-catching YouTube thumbnail. This appears in search results and within your channel videos and can help users decide whether or not to click on a video. The dimensions for your video thumbnails should be 1280 x 720 pixels with an aspect ratio of 16:9.

Creator Patricia Bright, for example, uses the correct YouTube cover art ratio for The Break’s profile banner.

The Break YouTube channel using proper channel art

How can you change YouTube video sizes?

Your video recording might not be the proper size or resolution originally. This means you'll want to change or adjust it to fit YouTube's best practices. 

To adjust your video size, follow these quick steps:

  1. Use video editing software. The right video editor can help you choose the right size and resolution to export your video into. 
  2. Import your video. Start by importing your video into your new editing software from wherever you saved or recorded it. Some video editing laptops come with slots for micro SD cards, making it easy to import your recorded videos.
  3. Create a new project. Open a new project within your software to start working on your video.
  4. Resize the video. Choose which dimensions you want to use based on the ones mentioned in this article and YouTube’s best practices.
  5. Maintain aspect ratio.  Don't reconfigure your aspect ratio. It can stretch and skew your video and ruin the viewing experience.
  6. Preview and export. Make sure everything looks good, then export your video in your chosen size. You can then upload it to your YouTube channel.

Videos already uploaded to YouTube can also change their size/resolution based on the viewer's connection or preferences. The video will start playing on its automated settings, but there are ways to adjust this.

On desktop, click the gear icon for Settings then select Quality. From here, you’ll see a list of the different quality options appear:

Image of YouTube video quality options

On mobile, the process is pretty much the same. Tap the video to view the options, then select the gear icon in the top right corner. You’ll again see the Quality option with a few playback options. 

Instead of selecting specific resolutions, the mobile app will choose one based on your preferences—higher picture quality or saving data. You can circumvent that by tapping Advanced to choose your preferred resolution.

Image of YouTube video quality options on mobile

YouTube video tips and tricks

Regardless of video size, master your YouTube video creation process with these tips and tricks:

  • Know YouTube's recommended video resolution. While video trailers and more detailed projects may want to use 4K or 8K, the recommended video resolution is 1920 x 1080 pixels or full HD.
  • Create custom thumbnails with proper dimensions. Make eye-catching YouTube thumbnails that match the proper dimensions (1920 x 1080 pixels). Each video should have its custom thumbnail to help it stand out.
  • Optimize videos for different devices. Ensure your video content can easily be viewed on small and large screens. Don’t use small text for title screens, zoom in appropriately, etc.
  • Avoid letterboxing or pillarboxing. Letterboxing occurs when your video has a wider aspect ratio than the screen, while pillarboxing occurs when your video has a narrower aspect ratio than the screen. You can avoid this by using the recommended 16:9 aspect ratio. If your video was recorded in a different size, add a black background to the side to make it fit better.

Essential YouTube guidelines to consider

To make publishing your media go as seamlessly as possible, here are a few things to know before uploading videos.

  • Watch your video length. The maximum length of a YouTube video is a plentiful 12 hours. You probably won’t hit that, but just in case, make sure your video fits within the time limit.
  • Check the file size. The maximum file size for YouTube videos is 256GB. If your video exceeds that, you can use YouTube video editing software to make your video smaller. Try changing the aspect ratio or reducing the resolution.
  • Use the right frame rate. YouTube supports frame rates, measured in frames per second or FPS, between 24 and 60. A higher frame rate is recommended for videos that require more movement or action, e.g., sports or gaming footage. 60 FPS usually means HD—at least 720p—and is much more effective at motion blur than lower frame rates.
  • Avoid violating the terms of service. YouTube may remove videos from its platform if they contain hate speech, vulgar or sensitive images, or infringe on copyrights. Check that your video doesn't contain any content that could result in its removal.

Improve YouTube videos with Descript

Let Descript help you create the best quality YouTube videos. Join thousands of creators who get access to pro features that make video editing a quick and easy process — and get you more YouTube views

With Descript, you can:

  • Export video files in a range of aspect ratios and resolutions
  • Get studio-quality audio—without expensive microphones—using Studio Sound
  • Edit videos from the automatically generated transcription
  • Clone your voice to fix mistakes using Overdub
  • Add image and text overlays to your YouTube videos

Take a product tour today and see the power of Descript for yourself.

YouTube video size FAQs

What happens if I record a video with my phone? 

You can upload mobile videos through the YouTube app as long as they fall within the size and format limitations. If you record and upload vertical videos, YouTube plays it on mobile in its original aspect ratio. However, on your desktop, it plays at 9:16 and includes black bars on the edges.

Why does YouTube take so long to upload my video?

The bigger the file, the longer it takes to upload. A video upload may also take longer if you have a poor internet connection or if too many other users are trying to upload at the same time.

Why does my video resolution look low-quality?

Using a bad compressor or converting to the incorrect format can lower the quality of your video. If your video uploaded with no issues but it still doesn’t look right, check the streaming settings by clicking the settings icon on the YouTube player and selecting a better resolution, like 720p or 1080p.

How many MB does a video take?

The MB (megabyte) size of a video varies depending on the file size and upload quality. But generally speaking, a one-minute video at 480p can take up about 24MB, while an HD video of the same length can take up about 88MB.

Are YouTube videos 1920 x 1080?

Yes, 1920 x 1080p is one of the most popular YouTube video resolutions. This is full HD resolution, so you should use it, if possible, when uploading your video.

Is 1280 x 720 good for YouTube?

1280 x 720 is another one of the most popular video resolutions for YouTube. This is the minimum resolution required to be HD, and works well over a slower internet connection.

What is the aspect ratio of 1280x720?

The recommended aspect ratio of 1280 x 720 is 16:9. This ensures the best viewing experience for your videos.

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