The world of online live streaming is growing more and more each year. The number of streamers on various platforms such as Twitch, YouTube, Instagram and more are constantly growing and with them, so is the number of potential viewers/followers. But with the ever-growing competition, those who are new to the world of live streaming need to hit the ground running with assets and elements that make them stand out — or at least fit in with the pros! One way to make your stream look more polished is with the use of stream overlays.
Commonly-used stream overlays
A stream overlay is an asset employed by many streamers to help give their live streams a professional and high-quality look. Basically, an overlay is a graphical image that is placed over the main content of the stream to provide the viewer with additional information or a more engaging experience. Let’s take a look at a few different types of overlays. Then, we’ll go over the best places to look for these elements so that you can add them to your own stream.
The full border
Many streamers use the full border overlay to frame the main content of their stream. It can be used to highlight information like your username or top donor contributions. There are many different types of full overlays. Some choose a solid color design that matches their stream style, while others use more elaborate overlays in tune with the specific topic of their stream. Whether it’s a certain game or a product being reviewed, the overlay should match the content — not distract from it. Streamers will often use an overlay for both their own webcam footage as well as screen captures.
Be on the alert!
Another form of graphical overlay is the alert. Since streamers on sites like Twitch and YouTube rely on new subscribers and donations to keep their streams going, they need a way to acknowledge these contributions from the audience. Stream alerts provide a way to reward viewers who support the stream while encouraging other viewers to contribute as well.
There are many different types of alerts that streamers can choose from. For instance, they can show up as small boxes that appear with the name of the new subscriber or the amount donated. However, some streamers also choose to have animated images or characters that even jump around their screen. The type of alert used simply depends on the streamer. There’s no single correct way to use alerts in your stream. Streaming sites also allow their users the flexibility to place and size their alerts as they wish, which gives their stream a more personal feel that can be more appealing to audiences.
Panels lead to prosperity
One set of elements that are found on virtually any live stream are panels. By using panels on their stream, the streamer can give their viewers an easy way to donate, subscribe or find them on social media. This provides an easy and streamlined way for viewers to connect with their favorite streamers.
Panels, just like alerts and full overlays, are graphical elements that can be dropped on top of the live stream. This category of overlay is very diverse in the way it can be customized and adapted. Like the other overlays mentioned, panels can be completely customized to fit the style and theme of the streamer’s broadcast.
Many streamers will have their social media links as panels so that viewers don’t need to sleuth through profiles and bios in order to find them. This way, the viewer’s attention is still focused on the live stream even as they connect with the streamer on other platforms.
How else can you use overlays
The most important aspect of any stream is the audience. Therefore, being able to keep them connected is crucial to making them feel like part of a community. This is why overlays have become such a large part of live streaming; they allow streamers to communicate with viewers more clearly and creatively.
The above-mentioned uses of overlays are the most commonly seen, but there are other ways that streamers might make use of overlays. For chatty or talk-show style live streams, streams could use overlays to highlight the current theme or topic of conversation. This way, viewers who tune in at different points during the stream will immediately understand what the stream is about. For this application, some streamers have ready-to-edit overlays that they can update as they go along. Whenever a new topic is brought up that the streamer feels is noteworthy, they can create a new panel on the fly and put it up on their stream for their viewers to see.
Some streamers will also set a goal or an achievement to strive for in each of their streams. It might be to reach a certain level in a game or to reach a certain milestone in a creative project. In this case, customized overlay panels can be used to display the goal and keep new viewers informed on what that current live stream will be aiming for.
Another form of overlay that seems to be popular with recurring streamers is the schedule overlay. Streamers with a solid broadcast schedule will often have it posted on top of their broadcast. This lets your audience track when that streamer will be online. It also tells them what to expect from your streams on any given day. Schedule overlays work best for someone who streams frequently and consistently.
Stream overlays for those on a budget
So we know how overlays can be used to enhance your stream, but how do you get an overlay in the first place? With most popular streamers already having a well-established following and career, they can afford to have high end professionally created overlays for them to use during their streams. This helps them maintain the high standard and polished look to what they put out.
However, having overlays isn’t just limited to professional streamers, there are many options for those who are just starting off in the live streaming world or who might be operating with a lower budget. Let’s take a look at several sites that offer many different free templates for overlays that can easily be applied to any streaming platform.
Visuals by Impulse
The first website that has templates on offer is Visuals by Impulse. This site offers hundreds of streaming overlays, alerts, packages and resources, all for free. Apart from animated streaming packages, Impulse also offers the ability to make your own panels for free! That means you can design a custom stream panel that best reflects your content.
Another great source of free assets is Twitch Overlay, with a massive library of free to use stream overlay templated, screens, alerts and panels for Twitch, this is one of the best options for those who want to start their streaming career with a professional look. Not only do they offer a lot of free options, but the assets are compatible with OBS, xSplit & Streamlabs and can be used on Mixer, YouTube and Facebook live. This gives you great options for free without limiting you to just one platform or one type of broadcasting software.
Many sites online will make the claim that they are the “largest site for sources” on the internet. However, this might just be the case with wdflat.com. Their site offers users an incredibly large selection of overlays that range in color schemes as well as individual design elements. With wdflat, users can choose from an array of different panels, alerts and overlay designs. They even offer facecam borders and logo boxes that allow streamers to add their own personal touch to a broadcast by including their logo somewhere on the screen.
Nerd or Die
A great source for more themed overlays is Nerd Or Die. This site has compiled together a list of free themed stream overlays — the theme being video games. They have on offer several overlays that are based around popular video games, which is great if a streamer happens to be playing one of those games. But this shouldn’t discourage non-gamers; they also offer a wide range of overlay designs from sci-fi to modern/textured overlays. But if that doesn’t meet your fancy you can always use their easy and free overlay maker, a perfect choice for those who want to add a bit of a personal touch to their stream. If that wasn’t reason enough, Nerd Or Die has made their overlays compatible with pretty much any streaming platform out there.
Our last site is one that was already mentioned in this list, and that is Streamlabs. Streamlabs is a slightly more unique case. It isn’t so much a site for free overlays as a free streaming application that contains hundreds of free themes and design elements. These give you more control over your elements, all the way from the color scheme to static or animated themes. This really is a great option for streamers because it gives them the hands on approach to live streaming and lets them feel more in control about the overlays they use for their broadcast. It even offers built-in “Stream Starting” or “Be Right Back” screens that block out the whole screen.
D.I.Y Stream overlays
With so many sources for free templates being available for streamers, you might wonder whether or not someone can completely go unique and create their own original overlay design. Without the use of free website builders of course. Luckily the answer to that question is YES! The awesome guys at Light Stream have created an incredibly detailed step by step guide to creating your very own custom live stream overlay. Not only do they go into detail on creating an overlay, but they also have animated examples on the page to show you exactly what steps you need to follow in order to get your own overlay design going.
It’s your stream
To summarize all of this, overlays are an important part of any live stream. Having a good set of overlays to fit your live stream will help give your broadcast a polished and professional look. If you are a streamer who is new to the world of online broadcasting, you have many different options and sources for free templated designs. Or create your own versions of these designs. Once you find the right overlays for you, get out there and start streaming!