Channel Art is one way you can do this. Channel Art which looks great across desktop, mobile and TV devices is definitely going to leave a long-lasting impression, and get people coming back to your Channel for more.
This Instructable will teach you how to make Channel Art.
> An advanced image editing program: Gimp, Photoshop, Pixelmator, Paint .Net etc.
> Some time.
Step 1: The Channel Art Template
The Channel Art template is a .PSD, so you’ll need Photoshop, but I often use Pixelmator for Mac to do image editing, which is really the same thing. If you’re looking for a free program to do this editing, look into Paint .Net or Gimp. The interfaces of all image editing programs are fairly similar.
Open up the template and study it for a minute. If you're new to image editing programs, play around with a few controls, particularly the ones which have to do with hiding/showing and adding/deleting layers.
Step 2: Create a Background
Then, find the control which lets you create new layers and create a new, empty/transparent layer. You'll see it added to the Layer tab of your program. Since we're going to be using this layer as a background, you should drag the layer all the way to the bottom underneath all the other layers, so the above layers are imposed on top of the background instead of being obscured by it.
Then, hide the other layers, so only the new, empty one can be worked with. In Pixelmator, a checkbox lets you hide layers, in Photoshop it's an 'eye' icon. Now, you need to create a background.
When it comes to backgrounds, you have a few options. You can create a nice smooth gradient with the Gradient tool, or you can paste in a high-res picture, or paste in some nice, pre-made backgrounds. The picture with the orange background was created with the gradient tool. The other picture with the soft, huey background came from this link.
If you're pasting in an image as a background, look for an option that lets you paste it as a New Layer, that'll save you a lot of fuss in resizing the layer to your picture size. You can then resize the layer itself to meet the requirements of the Channel Art.
Lastly, the template comes with a layer called 'Your Art here'. Feel free to delete that, or replace your background image into that layer if you wish to keep it, it's up to you.
Step 3: Add in Some Graphics
If you don't have a logo, but would like to make one, then try Logo Ease's logos, but I wouldn't say they're actually any good. You can actually make a better impression using a really nice font instead, and instead of a new logo layer, you can add in a text layer. The second picture in this step shows a nice font being used as a logo substitute. It's called 'Capitals'. Other nice fonts are 'Open Sans', 'Segoe UI' and 'Zaguatica'. These are quite clean and simple, so if you're looking for more playful fonts, then you'd be better off searching the vast collection at DaFont.
When it comes to the placement of your logo, I'd recommend dead centre, unless you have some other things you'd like to communicate in your Channel Art. For instance, if you have T-Shirts to sell, or want to say what kind of things you make videos about, then you can shift your logo around to make space for adding the rest of the details in. See the third picture to get an idea of what I'm talking about. Just make sure you stay within the specified safe area for desktops and mobile, because most of the people viewing your Channel will be computer and mobile users. You'd also want to avoid moving your text/logo too much to the left, because your profile picture can obscure these. Take a look at iJustine's Channel Art to get an idea of what I'm talking about. Her profile picture is obscuring the Channel Art (may be fixed in the future).
There's also a whole bunch of other stuff you can do.
> You can make a button over at the Da Button Factory and make it say something like 'Visit my website' or 'Donate now'. You can then add it in as an image layer. YouTube allows you to overlay your Channel Art with a link, so the button actually functions as a 'call to action' button.
> You can also try putting some nice arrows pointing to your 'Subscribe' button and draw attention there. Find some nice arrows at FindIcons or IconFinder. I prefer the latter.
> You can add in graphics for device specific areas. For instance, in the small space separating mobile from tablet areas, or in TV exclusive areas. Check out the 4th and 5th pictures to get an idea of what I'm talking about.
Step 4: Uploading to Your YouTube Channel
YouTube allows you to upload your Channel Art as a PNG, JPEG, or GIF. I'd always recommend PNG. It's high quality and good looking. The only problem is the size, which will usually be more than the specified 2 MB.
That is why I'd recommend you look into PNG compression software. For Macs, ImageAlpha is brilliant. You can cut down on size by as much as 70%, and still have good image quality. ImageAlpha is based on PNGquant, which also has a Windows GUI by the name of PNGoo available on its website.
After you compress your image, go to your YouTube Channel, and click on 'Add Channel Art'. Upload the compressed image. After it's done uploading you will see some options letting you adjust the crop or auto-enhancing the image, but those aren't really necessary. The auto-enhance isn't great and you can't adjust the crop because you already built your image to specification.
Now click on 'Select' and you're Channel Art should show up in all it's glory.