Have you ever stopped watching a YouTube video because the intro is too bad or too long? This can be prevented with a great intro. Here are some considerations, guidelines and examples on how to create a YouTube intro.

Timing is key

The length of your YouTube intro, and in many cases the style of the intro, should be dependent on the runtime of your video. The golden rule for intro runtime is pretty simple: it should be somewhere between 1% to 3.33% of the total runtime of the content, with the ideal being 2.5. Runtime is so important that we have broken down our recommendations based on this.

Video runtimes less than 10 minutes

Keep the intro under 15 seconds. Greeting the audience, welcoming them to the channel and letting them know what the video is about is very important. However, the most important part of a short intro will be your logo/title card. Make sure it looks good! Do a simple logo or graphic move/reveal. If you have the budget, do an animation in or out, but nothing beyond your logo or the name of your channel. If you are looking to go the extra mile, consider a lower third after the title card at the beginning of the video.

A great example is the intro for Adam Savage’s Tested which is 5 seconds long. The graphics animate on and off the screen while Adam Savage greets the audience and lets them know what he’s doing today. It’s flashy, fast and hits the target audience. Punished Props also has a well-designed intro. It combines a nice little jingle with pretty graphics, smooth animation, and that extra lower third. 

10 minutes to 20 minutes

Try to keep your intro under 30 seconds. You’ll still want to greet and welcome your audience. Because your intro is longer, having sound effects or music with your graphic intro is also important. Do a hook style intro with a graphic build-up to your title card or logo. Add a nice bit of motion graphics and animation to this if you have the budget.

The hook type of intro is a very popular style for videos with these runtimes. The composition is pretty simple: use a phrase or a few sentences to catch someone’s attention. Follow this with a graphic sequence leading to the logo of the channel or series. Sometimes the hook is simply an explanation of what the video will be about. Remember, letting your audience know what the video is about is still essential.

Good hooks don’t necessarily require impressive graphics. Examine this YouTube intro for World War 2. The hook leads directly into footage with a musical score that culminates in a logo. However, the intro doesn’t actually end there. Indy Neidell, the host, continues with, “I’m Indy Neidell, this is World War 2”. His well done, short intros usually never take more than 30 seconds of a 10 minute or longer episode.

Using a catchphrase as a constant part of the introduction is commonplace on YouTube especially for creators with channels. The Magic Historian does this using the catchphrase hook, “Greetings owners of fine luxury cardboard rectangles.” Combined with his motion graphics, it’s a memorable YouTube intro. It’s important to note that if your catchphrase is good and/or unique, you may even be able to market it on merchandise.

In addition to getting people to watch your video, a hook can be used to entice new viewers to subscribe to your channel. Black Magic Craft achieves this by leading with a hook and offering a giveaway to encourage subscribing.

Finally, some creators with videos within this runtime opt out of the hook by using an animated title card with a logo reveal. Theme Park Crazy effectively employs this method.

20 minutes or longer

At this runtime, having your YouTube intro as only a title card doesn’t quite cut it, coming off like a lack of budget rather than a creative choice. You have a lot more flexibility with this timeframe. Consider getting inspiration from old TV intros like Cheers and The Rifleman, to name two great ones. Using a parody of the Game of Thrones opening, Real Terrain Hobbies has an over-the-top graphic intro that is pretty impressive; it works very well for the target audience of the channel.

Graphic essentials

The look of your logo and/or title card to your YouTube intro is very important. People will judge your video content based on this. You may want to hire a graphic artist, animator or motion graphic artist to design something for you. If you have a channel and/or plan to host an ongoing series, this could be a good investment. If you are a creator with a very limited budget, there are a number of free programs that can help such as Blender, Gimp and Resolve. Remember to utilize design principles like color theory when creating your graphics. Additionally, you can get some inspiration by looking at film intros.

Add some music

Amazing sites like Zapsplat.com offer free licensed content to use if you follow their TOS.  This can be great if you need cinematic “whooshing” sound effects or a quick musical jingle.

Keep it original

Be creative! Some series create a brand new opening for each episode. This opener can be completely fresh, or it can alter specific elements, like the ones you see in animated shows like The Simpsons or Animaniacs. You can even achieve this on a low budget. For example, in recent seasons, Defunctland has done this with a brand new opening sequence for each episode.

Final thoughts

You don’t need high-end graphic skills to create a good YouTube intro. Just keep in mind your target audience and match the intro to their expectations. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to have an awesome intro sequence right off the bat. You can always spice up your intro as you get the skills or increase the budget. Now to start the best part, start creating!