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Cleanup.png This page or section may require cleanup, updating, spellchecking, reformatting and/or updated images. Please improve this page if you can. The discussion page may contain suggestions.

Editor note: Here's the idea for the future of this page:
  • The page itself will be a landing page for all topics about artwork:
    • Move most of this to a "how to make your own artwork" page.
    • A guide for using Add-on:Artwork Downloader, which can be its own page or on the existing add-on page for Artwork downloader.
    • A better how to guide on using advancedsettings.xml to change artwork size.
  • consolidate and reorganize the following pages along with this page:

An impressive feature of XBMC is its ability to display custom thumbnails (also known as an "icon") on most items displayed. You can assign thumbnails to folders, programs, music, videos, bookmarks, and of course pictures. You can choose to let XBMC automatically download thumbnails for music-albums and video/movies from the internet or you can create your very own custom thumbnails. You can also download custom thumbnails that others have created.

When talking about movies the terms "Cover Art", "Posters" (term used on TheTVDB) and "Folder Image" are all used to refer to the same thing we are talking about here. In the XBMC world Thumbnail is the generic term that encompasses all of those things, so don't get confused.

Note: Despite what the term Thumbnail implies, thumbnails in XBMC are NOT necessarily small images in terms of resolution or size on disk. A Thumbnail in XBMC can be a 800 x 1200 pixel image with a file size of over 300 Kilobytes for example, but typically thumbnails are restricted to smaller sizes than that due to performance concerns.


1 Custom Thumbnails

You can easily create your very own user-defined thumbnails on your computer with image tools like Adobe Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, Paint.NET or even Paint in Windows.
You can alternatively download thumbnails that others have created on the internet. Then you simply have to rename those thumbnails and transfer/copy them to the right location and XBMC will display them. Use JPG or PNG (with transparency) image-format, and size of the picture to anything from 128x128 to 256x256 in pixel size, (the larger the image is the better it will look on a good display but at the same time large thumbnails loads slower). On a non-HDTV displays a image that is approx 100x140 is recommended for video/movies thumbnails (which is the size that is most common on IMDb), and approx 75x75 for music-albums (which is the default size on allmusic.com). For 720p/1080i HDTV displays a size of approx 182x256 for video/movies thumbnails, and approx 200x200 for music-albums (such music-albums can be found on allmusic.com).

1.1 Thumbnail Cache

see also: ThumbnailCache for a thorough description of the thumbnail cache

XBMC will cache all thumbnails to userdata\Thumbnails\ using the CRC of the path of the file or folder as a filename. That is the first location XBMC will generally look for a thumbnail for a given item.

In order for your custom thumbnail to show, you may have to delete the cached thumbnail.

When thumbnails are cached they may be scaled down from the source image. How much they are scaled down depends on a setting that you can control using the <imageres> tag in advancedsettings.xml.

If you are running XBMC on a very high resolution display and you have Movie cover art, for example, that is displayed as a very large image onscreen with the skin and layout that you are using, then you may want to adjust the <imageres> tag to increase the display quality of your thumbnails.

Be aware, however, that increasing the size of cached thumbnails obviously carries an implied disk space usage, and possible XBMC performance penalty, with it.

2 Wide banner icons

Wide view for TV shows

Some of the most visually appealing forms of thumbnails are wide banner icons. They are an integral part of the XBMC look and feel and are used for the TV shows library.
With different adjustments to the skin XML files, you may disable title names or stack one icon on top of another.
To show wide banner icons switch to Wide or 'Media info 2' view. XBMC will remember what view you have for each folder. Thus you can keep your TV shows in Wide and your Movies in Fanart.

3 Thumbnails for individual items in a single directory

Name the icon file the same as the file you would like it to display for with a -poster.jpg or -poster.png extension ie: Transformers.avi, Transformers-poster.jpg. This is particularly useful for using custom thumbnails for movies.



4 Folder Thumbnails

If you store each of your media files in separate subfolders to keep things organized, you can also make the folder have a custom thumbnail image. To do this you either need to save your JPG/PNG thumbnail as folder.jpg and place it inside your movie/album folder, or you can save it as <foldername>deprecated and place it at the same level as the folder in the directory tree.

  • Remember, XBMC first checks for <foldername>.jpg before checking for folder.jpg.
  • Some documentation suggests that folder.jpg can be used. In general folder.jpg is superior as it is detected during a scan, i.e. XBMC will correctly use folder.jpg but not folder.jpg.
  • Note that folder.jpg must be named .jpg, even if it is a .png format image.





Now your media folder will have a lovely custom thumbnail-image.

You can via advancedsettings.xml change the default filename of the image that XBMC uses for music folders. See the <musicthumbs> tag. for more information.


5 Program Thumbnails

In order to display the image displayed for a game, emulator or application, simply rename the desired image default.jpg and place it in the folder where the corresponding default.XBE is located.

6 Music Thumbnails

Music Thumbnails are assigned as part of a multi-tier process. First, the Tag Reader runs and caches any embedded art using the album name and album artist (or song artist, if that is all that is available). If the album name or artist is unavailable, it is cached using the path name of the song. This assumes, of course, that you have tag reading enabled.
You can also use "Get Thumb" to download the album thumbnail from allmusic.com (AMG) for a specific album/folder or do a scan of all your music files in all shares.
Thumbnails also get downloaded when you rip AudioCD's to your XBMC device (which is described in the Ripping CDs section).
Recommended is that you store each of your music-albums or artists in a separate subfolder to keep things organized. You can also of course make the folder have a custom thumbnail image.

Note: Running a scan automatically enables 'tag reading' so everything can be cached. Once a scan is run, all your files and their associated thumbnails are stored in the database.
The Album Information dialog (available from the context menu) will allow you to choose between the cover art available for download from allmusic.com and any user-defined thumbnail you may have.
Press the "Get Thumb" button to bring up a choice of the local thumbnails you have, the currently assigned thumbnail and the allmusic.com thumbnail.

The code which assigns thumbnails to files runs and assigns thumbnails in the following order:

1) Cached Album Thumbnail
This is all the embedded album art read by the tag reader and cached using the album name and album artist.
2) Cached filename.jpg
This includes an embedded thumbnail cached with the fully qualified name.
3) Remote filename.jpg
This is a filename.jpg on a remote share/folder which is then cached.
4) Cached folder.jpg
This is a folder.jpg which is cached based off the folder path.
5) Remote folder.jpg
This is a folder.jpg on a remote share/folder which is then cached.
6) Remote foldername.jpg
This is a foldername.jpg on a remote share/folder which is then cached.


In this example audiofilename.mp3 will use audiofilename.jpg as thumbnail:


The same goes for playlists, cue-sheets, SHOUTcast, and internet-stream files, example:

Music fanart

7 Video Thumbnails


You can either use your own custom thumbnails or XBMC can retrieve video thumbnails from the internet via scrapers and cache them locally.

XBMC applies thumbnails to video files in the following order:

1) Cached Thumbnail

Thumbnails are cached to UserData\Thumbnails\Video using the CRC of the path of the file or folder.

2) User-Defined Thumbnail

For files:

XBMC looks for <filename>-poster.(jpg/png) in the folder containing the media files and uses that as the thumbnail. Note: <filename>.jpg will supersede <filename>-poster.(jpg/png) (result of Eden backward compatibility)

The thumbnail is cached the first time it is read.

Deprecated: If movie.jpg is in the same folder it will override any other thumbnail and will be used as the thumbnail for all movie files in that folder.

For folders:

XBMC checks inside the movie folder for the following files in this order:

  • <filename>-poster.(jpg/png)
  • poster.(jpg/png)
  • folder.jpg
Deprecated: XBMC first checks for <foldername>.jpg in the parent folder of the movie folder being processed. If no <foldername>.jpg exists in the parent folder XBMC then checks inside the movie folder for folder.jpg (by default) or any other thumbnail source file names you've specified in the <dvdthumbs> tag in AdvancedSettings.xml.

For TV series specifically:

Deprecated: The thumbnail image can be either a Poster type image OR a Banner type image. A Poster is longer than it is wide in aspect and a Banner is much wider than it is long in aspect.

The same rules apply regarding file naming conventions and by default XBMC will look for folder.jpg for BOTH Posters AND Banners despite the fact that the naming convention might seem counter intuitive in the case of Banners.

Note: Deprecated as of Frodo <dvdthumbs> is no longer part of advancedsettings.xml - Again, you can use the <dvdthumbs> element in advancedsettings.xml to override the default thumbnail file name that XBMC looks for to make things more meaningful for TV series. If, for example, you prefer to use Banners you would probably want to set the <dvdthumbs> element in advancedsettings.xml to remove folder.jpg from the search filter and add banner.jpg to the search filter as follows:

Note: TV series:

There is a special case with TV Series where, if you choose to use Banners as your primary thumbnails, you also need Posters in some areas of the UI depending on which skin you are using.

The Aeon Nox skin, which is extremely popular, has a very nice View mode called BannerPlex for example. If you are using that View as your TV Series View, your primary thumbnails for your TV series will be Banners BUT there are still places where you need to supply a Poster, like the "TV show information" screen that is accessible from the context menu for a Series. In that screen you need a Poster image for the big area on the left that takes up a third of the screen. By default the Banner thumbnail that XBMC imported will be stretched vertically to fill that area and it looks horrible.

As of Frodo, XBMC will import Banners and Posters.

Deprecated: Fortunately there is a special exception to this rule for TV Series where XBMC will also recognise and import a file called poster.jpg over and above the default thumbnail image.

For this reason you should NEVER name your primary thumbnail images poster.jpg and you should NEVER modify the <dvdthumbs> element in advancedsettings.xml to make it search for variants of poster.jpg.

Effectively, you should consider the file name poster.jpg to be a reserved file name in XBMC that is used specifically to solve the Banner / Poster combo issue as described further below.

Certain skins, like Aeon Nox, typically provide an option in the settings for the View itself that allows you to explicitly stipulate that a poster file should be used for those areas where a Poster type image is applicable.

In Aeon Nox, the setting is on the slide out menu on the left of the screen when you are viewing your series. If you have the BannerPlex view activated and you slide out that menu, then go to "Viewtype settings", then look under "GENERAL OPTIONS", you will find an option labelled "Use 'poster.jpg' for poster style viewtypes". If you turn that on, then any poster.jpg that you have in your folders when you import your media from disk will be used where a poster type image is appropriate.

Note: However, that regardless of any settings, poster.jpg will NOT be used as the All Seasons image. For that you MUST provide a season-all.(jpg/png) file. A quick workaround to this problem is to copy an existing poster.jpg file and rename it to season-all.(jpg/png). That will actually work and import fine.

7.1 Examples for User-Defined Video Thumbnails

Single Video File

The following example "videofilename.avi" will now use the thumbnail "videofilename-poster.(jpg/png)".


Note that videofilename.jpg is old Eden terminology, but WILL supersede videofilename-poster.(jpg/png) which is the standard for Frodo and later versions of XBMC.

Multi Part (Stacked) Video Files

This may not be Frodo terminology, but should still work You can either use the filename of the first file in the stack or the name of the stack, so for:


Either of the below would work:

Movies in Folders
Deprecated: If content has been set to Movies, movie.jpg will override any other thumbs for media in that folder.

In the following example "videofilename.avi" will now use the thumbnail "poster.(jpg/png)".


Note that movie.jpg will supersede poster.jpg due to Eden backward compatibility

TV Shows
Deprecated: {{{2}}}

TV Show Season Thumbnails

As of Frodo, XBMC can use either posters OR banners as the Season thumbnail. In the following example, the thumbnail will be used for the appropriate season in the Video Library season node. Where xx is 01, 02 etc.

TV Show Specials
For the all seasons item

Movies in Folders:


TV Series:


TV Season:


TV Season All:


TV Specials:

Extra Fanart Page
Movies\path\VIDEO_TS\extrafanart\fanart1.jpg *Special case if using DVD Video structure

The concept of extra fanart exists in XBMC for some skins whereby you can have more than one fanart image for a movie or TV show. If you have more than one fanart image any fanart image after the main one (fanart.jpg) must be named using sequential numbering.

e.g. fanart1.jpg, fanart2.jpg and so on.

Extra fanart must be put into a sub-folder of the movie or TV show folder called extrafanart.

For those skins that support extra fanart you must turn on the "Enable Extrafanart" option and then you will see the different fanart images display as a repeating slideshow with a 10 second delay between each image.

Playlist and internet-stream file examples
Actor thumbnails

You can add actor thumbnails to any movie or TV show by adding an '.actors' folder in the corresponding movie / TV show / Episode directory. You may need to use the command line to create this directory in Windows.
The folder can then contain actor images using the following naming convention:

Videos\path\.actors\actor_name.jpg (spaces replaced with underscores)
Movies\Movie1\.actors\actor_name.jpg (spaces replaced with underscores)
Movies\Movie1\VIDEO_TS\.actors\actor_name.jpg (spaces replaced with underscores) *Special case if using DVD Video structure
TV Shows\TV Show 1\.actors\actor_name.jpg (spaces replaced with underscores)

8 Picture Thumbnails

XBMC applies thumbnails to picture files in the following order:

1) Cached Thumbnail
Thumbnails are cached to UserData\Thumbnails\Pictures using the CRC of the path of the file or folder.
2) Images
EXIF thumbnail in JPEG images are then read. If no EXIF thumbnail is available, XBMC will load the image and generate a thumbnail from the image. These are then cached.
3) Folders
<MyHolidayPictures>\folder.jpg is checked first. If that file doesn't exist, XBMC will generate a thumbnail from up to 4 random images inside that folder.

9 Thumbnails for Sources

You can change the thumbnail displayed for a source by editing UserData\sources.xml.

Note: Source thumbnails have to be in a folder on the local XBMC device harddrive!
Simply modify your source as shown

10 Auto switch to icon Mode

XBMC tries to automatically switch to Large Icon view when the View Mode is set to Auto in the Settings. It first checks if the skin has Large Icon view, failing that switches to Icon view. If neither is available it goes for List View.
The rules are as follows:

10.1 Programs

Auto switches to Icon view when 50% of all the items (files and folder) have thumbs.

10.2 Pictures

Auto switches to Thumbs view when the list contains more than 25% files. (In the case of Pictures, all items have thumbs as they are generated upon entering the folder.)

10.3 Videos

Auto switches to Thumb view when 50% of all the items (files and folder) have thumbs.

10.4 Music

Auto switches to Thumb view when the list contains at least 75% folders and at least 50% of them have thumbs. (Remember that playlist files like m3u, pls, etc, are treated as folders by default)

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