Twitch has become synonymous with video game live streaming. You can say it’s where the entertainment medium started achieving mainstream and commercial success. YouTube caught the scent of Twitch’s accomplishments and launched its own gaming arm.

YouTube Gaming is a hit, with an average concurrent viewership of 760,000. Years later, Facebook got in on the action with Facebook Gaming. It had a rocky start but has since found its footing in the live streaming space, with 370,000 viewers on average.

Both figures definitely impress, but they pale in comparison to Twitch’s 2.15 million average concurrent viewers. Yes, despite YouTube and Facebook’s literal billions of active users, people still flock to Twitch for their live gaming content fix. It’s no wonder most hopefuls prefer to set up shop on the platform to begin their live streaming careers.

Like how Twitch is to live streaming, OBS Studio is the live streaming software for many content creators. The open-source program offers a lot by way of customization. It seems rather barebones at first glance, but it packs a punch when you see what’s under the hood. And, perhaps, the best part of all of this is OBS is 100% free!

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to meld these two live streaming icons for a starter live streaming setup. We won’t just teach you the fundamentals of using OBS to stream to Twitch, we’ll give you a few tips and tricks for creating an engaging broadcast experience as well.

How To Live Stream with OBS on Twitch

OBS Studio is a live streaming program. It’s the software that encodes your audio and video inputs and then sends them to your preferred platform, which is, in this case, Twitch. It’s compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux. We’ll also teach you how to link OBS to Twitch so you can use more platform-specific features on your live stream. Let’s get started.

  1. Create a Twitch account if you don’t have one, and set up your profile.
  2. Download and install OBS Studio.
  3. Allow OBS administrator access on Windows by right-clicking on its shortcut or .exe file in the installation directory, going to the “Compatibility” tab, and checking “Run this program as administrator.” Click “Apply” then “Ok”. Doing this will minimize performance and connection issues between OBS and your operating system.
  4. Run OBS.
  5. In the Auto-Configuration Wizard, tick “Optimize for streaming, recording is secondary”, then click “Next”.
  6. In the “Video Settings”, select 1920 x 1080 as your base resolution. For “FPS”, select “Either 60 or 30, but prefer 60 when possible”. Click “Next”.
  7. The next part lets you choose your streaming platform. Choose Twitch. Bind OBS to your Twitch account. This requires logging your Twitch credentials into OBS.
  8. After logging in, check “Prefer hardware encoding”. This will set OBS to use your dedicated GPU (Nvidia, AMD) as the encoder as opposed to your CPU.
  9. Check “Estimate bitrate with bandwidth test”, then hit “Next”. OBS will perform a bandwidth test and set the bitrate based on your internet connection speed. It will also detect your computer’s hardware and set other streaming parameters accordingly.
  10. After the test, OBS will show a summary of the recommended settings. Click “Apply Settings”. This will fully launch OBS Studio with several Twitch docks already in view.
  11. If you want to manually set up OBS, cancel the setup wizard when running it up for the first time, and then go to settings from the lower-right corner of the dashboard.
  12. Go to “Output” and select “Advanced” under “Output Mode”.
    • On the “Streaming” tab, select your dedicated GPU (Nvidia, AMD) for the encoder. Do this so your CPU won’t get overworked.
    • Set the bitrate anywhere from 4500 to 6000 Kbps. This is the optimum bitrate range for streaming at 1080p 60fps on Twitch. Your internet upload has to sustain a speed of at least 7 Mbps.
    • You can go beyond these recommended bitrates, but don’t go higher than half of your internet connection upload speed.
    • Hit “Apply”.
  13. Go to “Audio”. Select your microphone from the “Mic/Auxiliary Audio” dropdown menu. Click “Apply”.
  14. Stream, then select Twitch from “Service”. Connect OBS to your Twitch account. This will automatically input your Twitch account’s unique stream key on OBS. Click “Apply” then “OK”.
  15. This is how to use OBS to stream on Twitch through the manual input method.
    • Click “Use Stream Key” instead of linking your account. Then click “Get stream key”.
    • If you’re logged in to Twitch on a browser, OBS will redirect you to your Twitch creator dashboard.
    • Copy your primary stream key. Then go back to OBS, and paste your stream key.
    • Note that manually putting in your key will not link Twitch to the software, and you won’t get the Twitch add-ons. We strongly recommend connecting your account to OBS to get more of the platform’s functionalities.
  16. The instructions from here on apply to the linked account method. On the OBS Studio main interface, close the Twitch stream information dock.
  17. On the menu bar, click “View”, then “Docks”. Select “Twitch Activity Feed”.
  18. The activity feed dock will appear on the main interface. Drag it and the Twitch chat dock to either side of the scene preview display. They’ll snap into place. These docks enable additional functionalities as you stream to Twitch with OBS.
  19. Let’s leave the Twitch docks for now and start laying out our main scene.
    • On the Scene box, in the lower-left corner, rename the pre-loaded scene to whatever you like. This will be your main game and facecam scene, so name it appropriately to minimize confusion when you add more scenes. Do this through the right-click menu while highlighting the scene.
  20. Run the game you want to stream.
  21. On the “Sources” box, click the plus (+) sign then select “Game Capture”.
    • In properties, select “Capture any fullscreen application” from “Mode” then “OK”.
    • OBS should detect the game as a fullscreen program automatically. You should see the feed in the preview box. Be sure that the game is the only fullscreen program that’s running.
    • If OBS fails to detect a fullscreen program, double-click “Game Capture” on the “Sources” panel. Select “Capture specific window” from “Mode”. Select your game’s window from the “Window” dropdown. Then hit “OK”.
  22. Now let’s add a facecam. Connect your camera to your computer. Add another source for your gameplay scene. Select “Video Capture Device”. From the “Device” dropdown, select your webcam.
    • On the “Sources” box, drag “Video Capture Device” up so that it comes before “Game Capture” on the list.
    • Alternatively, highlight your webcam then click the up or down arrow. Do this so your facecam will stay over your gameplay input.
  23. Resize your facecam by clicking and dragging the red border. Crop it by holding down the ‘alt’ key as you drag.
    • Drag your facecam to wherever you want it on the screen.
    • The position and size of your facecam will depend on the game’s HUD. Make sure it doesn’t block important HUD elements that your viewers may want to see.
  24. Add a placeholder or intermission scene by creating a new scene and using whatever display source you want.
    • Your intermission scene may be your facecam on fullscreen, an animated GIF, a video on loop, or still images. They take the place of your main scene for various reasons, like if you have to take a break or when you want to talk to your audience without the gameplay feed in the background.
  25. Audio from all inputs should appear on the “Audio Mixer” panel, which is where you control each audio output’s volume levels, next to “Sources”. We recommend disabling your OS’s system sounds, so you don’t get audio alerts, which can distract from your live stream.
    • Your microphone should also appear on the mixer box.
    • Muting your camera’s built-in microphone from either OBS’s audio mixer or your operating system’s sound control panel. A dedicated, high-quality microphone is a good investment if you want to put out a good live stream.
  26. Once your audiovisual sources are set on OBS, bring up Twitch’s “Stream Information” again from the menu bar. Input all your stream details and click “Done”.
  27. Prepare your game. Bring it to a point where you want to have it streamed.
  28. When everything is locked in, click “Start Streaming” from the “Controls” panel on the main interface. Your stream should begin on Twitch after a little while. Expect a few seconds of delay from your side to Twitch’s broadcast side.

Twitch docks on OBS

Using OBS with Twitch gives you access to docks, which are add-ons that give additional stream features right within OBS.

  • Twitch Activity Feed. This lists the general activity in your channel, such as new followers or subs, as well as activity specific to your current live stream. This includes donations, bits, raids, etc. And it’s all in real-time.
  • Twitch Stats. This dock shows figures relating to the current number of viewers, your session’s runtime, clips created, as well as the global number of views on your channel.
  • Stream Information. You set your stream’s title, category, Go Live notification, game title, and tags from this dock.
  • Chat. Twitch’s Stream Chat dock on OBS has all the features of the browser chat client, including all the customizations and badges for your chat identity settings.

How to Improve Engagement on Twitch

Your audience is the keystone to success on Twitch. Attracting and retaining viewers while keeping them happy involve positive interactions. Here are a few tips on how to get your viewers to stay and keep them coming back.

1. Put effort into your live stream.

This covers a lot of ground. Your physical stream setup, like your background, lighting, and camera angles add value to your shows. Your appearance also factors into this. Good aesthetics indicate that you care about quality, putting in a good amount of work into how your stream looks.

2. Keep things interesting.

Set challenges, polls, and other things that will spice up your broadcasts. They don’t necessarily have to be about gaming. It can be something as simple as bringing your pet up to the camera or just general tomfoolery. Always keep it safe.

3. Know what people like about you and your live streams.

When you’re new to live streaming, it can be difficult to find your light—to know what your best side is, so to speak. You shouldn’t fault yourself for throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. It can be your sense of humor, your proficiency at playing certain game genres, or a combination of several traits. When you do discover what inherent qualities of yours make viewers tick, enrich them without exploiting them to the ground. Asking for feedback also never hurts.

4. Be sincere.

The draw of live-streamed content is people get to watch performers who are, by and large, “real” people. Live streamers are just any other Joe or Jane you might meet at the bus stop. They give off a grounded air that audiences just wouldn’t get from cookie-cutter celebrities.

So it’s best to maintain an earnest voice. Talk to your viewers as if they’re new friends who want to get to know you IRL. And address longtime fans like good pals who come over to hang out. Thank people without sounding patronizing. Greet people back. Answer questions. And don’t hesitate to call out bad behavior.

5. Acknowledge the quiet ones.

You’ll always have “lurkers”, or viewers who like to watch in silence while superfans and mods dominate the chat. Now and then, it’s nice to give a shoutout to these wordless wonders. Pick a casual lurker from your viewer list, and give them a holler. Who knows? Maybe that random recognition will make someone’s day.

Takeaway

Keeping your audience engaged throughout your live stream sessions is by no means an easy feat. You’ll be juggling the tasks of playing the game, keeping an eye on the technical backend, and accosting your viewers. It’s challenging but doable, and a skillset worth learning definitely.