Never underestimate the importance of your live stream’s visual appearance. That’s the first lesson you need to learn if you want to be a successful live streamer. Bad stream layouts can drive viewers away. Invest time and effort in your overlays and other design elements.

If you’re new to streaming, you’re probably scratching your head right now and asking what overlays are. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Stick around. We’ll explain everything to you. We’ll also teach you how to make your stream look good.

What are Stream Overlays?

Overlays are the graphics your viewers see on their screen when they tune in to your live broadcast. They are positioned on top of your video stream. Their primary purpose is to enhance your stream’s visual aspect, so it doesn’t look plain and bland. The graphic elements you add to your stream help improve your audiences’ viewing experience.

Overlays are great. They help you create a unique image. Plus, they show your commitment and dedication to your viewers. As a result, you’ll attract more viewers. But people will hardly remember your stream if you only have basic overlays.

Other design elements of a live stream should include:

  • Panels. This the most information about you and your live stream. It contains your stream rules, schedule, social media links, and sponsors.
  • Banners. A live stream banner (cover image) is what your viewers will see when you’re offline. This contains vital information about your stream. This includes your live stream schedule, partnerships, and overall content info.
  • Alerts. Alerts are used for highlighting new followers, donations, tips, and subscriptions. Streamlabs has some free animated pop-ups. But you can also create your own.
  • Watermark. Watermarks are used to copyright your content. It helps viewers identify your stream channel. It also prevents people from stealing your video and claiming it as their own.
  • Logo. Creating a unique logo can help differentiate your channel from other streamers. It’s the most straightforward way to brand yourself. Make sure your logo is visually appealing, relevant, and appropriate.

What to include in your overlay?

There are no standard rules on what you should include on your overlay. But there are common elements to add, such as the following:

  • Your webcam (not mandatory, but it’s usually preferred)
  • Webcam border
  • Latest events, such as hosts, followers, and donations
  • Sponsorships
  • Pop-up alerts
  • Follower/subscriber/donation goals
  • Your logo

Should you use a green screen?

Green screens are great for changing live stream backgrounds. But they’re not always necessary. This is especially true if you’re more interested in showing sponsorship logos and your products in the background. But if you want to change your background, then go ahead and use it on your live stream.

How to Make Your Own Stream Overlay

There are plenty of free overlay templates on the Internet. But if you’re naturally creative and want to create unique graphics for your stream, here are some apps that can help you make your own overlay.

Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop is the go-to photo editing tool for professional graphic designers. It’s a very powerful image editing software. You can use it for nearly anything, from photo editing to graphics design. It remains one of the best ways to create a completely customized overlay. But it has a steep learning curve, and it’s a bit pricey.

Gimp

Gimp is a free online alternative to Photoshop. It’s an excellent choice if you’re creative but don’t want to cough up the dollars for Photoshop. Although you can’t expect it to have all the features Photoshop has. It’s free, after all.

Canva

Canva has a pretty neat collection of free, ready-to-use templates for logos and banners. Designer skills are not required since everything is already done for you. You only need to add texts and images on the provided slots. It’s basically drag and drop. It’s so easy, you wouldn’t even break a sweat. Unfortunately, you’ll have to invest in the paid version if you want to create custom designs.

Placeit

Placeit, just like Canva, has a cool collection of banner templates. It can also help you create the logo of your dreams. But only the paid version lets you use the logo and banner maker. Placeit and Restream recently became partners, so Restream users get exclusive perks and deals.

Snappa

Snappa has an enormous collection of images and banner templates. It also has some of the most popular banner dimension sizes. With the help of this tool, you can easily repurpose any of your banners. Also, its free version is enough to make memorable and unique banners.

Crello

Crello’s templates are designed for Twitch, Facebook, YouTube, and other popular streaming platforms. This tool puts diversity and professionalism in one sentence. Free users get access to over 30,000 amazing banner templates and a massive 140-million image library. You can also upload your own fonts and pictures.

Adobe Spark

This iconic brand has done it again. Adobe managed to bring another high-quality product to life. You can use Adobe Spark to create unique banners and overlays. Unfortunately, free users are restricted to limited features. There are no premium templates and unique designs on its free version. Plus, all banners created with Adobe Spark will have a watermark. There’s no use trying to find a hack or workaround to remove it. The only way to remove the watermark is to buy the paid version.

Best Practices for a Custom Stream Overlays

Keep these five best practices in mind when personalizing your stream overlay.

1. Focus on your niche

What’s your niche? What’s the focus of your live stream? Is it for entertainment or gameplay? Design your overlay in such a way that it emphasizes the most important elements of your stream.

If you’re streaming for entertainment, it’s okay to make your webcam feed bigger. But if you’re a game streamer, you may want to maximize your game screen on your overlay. After all, your viewers are more interested in your gameplay than you.

2. Keep your ratios right

There’s no universal rule that applies to everyone when it comes to ratios. You can put any information you think is relevant to your stream on your overlay. But avoid overcrowding your stream. Doing so will take your viewers’ attention away from your stream content.

This is especially true if you’re a gamer. People will hardly stay and watch if all they see is your webcam feed and other overlay elements. They came to see your gameplay. Don’t take that away from them. Bigger isn’t always better. Make sure your webcam, fonts, images, and game feeds maintain proper ratios. Don’t stretch them out just to fit your overlay’s design.

3. Check your color palette

This is an important part of designing your overlay. Unfortunately, most people can’t get this right. We’ve seen so many overlays abusing bright colors that they almost hurt our eyes. Can you imagine staring at an overlay with lots of neon green and hot pink for 10 hours straight? We can’t! And we don’t want to!

We’re not saying that you shouldn’t use bright colors. But use them sparingly. Instead, you can use cool colors as your main color and accent it with hot or bright colors. This way, your overlay still gets that pop of color but doesn’t hurt the eyes.

4. Keep it simple

Ask a graphic designer for advice, and they’ll tell you the same thing. Keep it simple. Don’t go crazy with fonts. We know there are lots of cool fonts on the Internet. But restrain yourself. One or two fonts should be enough. Any more than that, you risk making your overlay look like a circus of fonts. If you want variety, you can bold or italicize certain words.

5. Logos and icons placement

Your goal as a live streamer should be to attract as many viewers as possible and convince them to stay on your channel. Your stream design is the first thing they’ll see. So that’s a huge selling point or turn off for them. That’s why your overlay design should grab their attention and not the other way around.

Keep your logos, sponsors, social buttons, and other icons neatly grouped. The more organized your overlay looks, the more people will want to stay on your channel. Again, avoid distracting your viewers from what they came for.

Wrapping Up

Overlays are not just for show. They have a very important role. They help enhance your stream channel’s design and appeal.

Now that you know the importance of overlays, it’s now time to create one of your own. You can download ready-to-use overlays on the Internet. Or you can use one of the tools we’ve shared to create a custom overlay. But before designing your DIY overlay, make sure to visualize your preferred style and how it will fit in your live stream content.