Ultimate Guide to Twitch Streaming

Today, Twitch is one of the most popular streaming platforms and a go-to site for many beginners. With over 15 million daily views and some of the biggest streamers on Twitch earning over 30,000 dollars in a month, it is easy to see why. The earning and reach potential is increasing and now is the perfect time to get started.

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Becoming a professional streamer is not easy, but its not rocket science either. You have computer specs to consider, which streaming / broadcasting software to use (see XSplit vs OBS article), what settings are the best, having good overlays, making your viewer communications fun and interesting, its all pretty basic but important. 

If you are new to twitch streaming, it may take you a lot of time to find out all the little nooks and crannies. The reason I made this how-to guide is to speed up this process.

This guide will be very detailed and you may find something new even if you’ve been using Twitch as your streaming platform for quite a while. Here is everything you need to know about Twitch. Buckle up!

How to Choose Good Hardware For Streaming

Before getting into Twitch, we need to talk a bit about our computer hardware. If you are aiming for a real professional stream, the top gaming streamers use 2 computers.

A computer for streaming and a dedicated PC for streaming, ensuring that your gameplay doesn’t lag, and will make streaming a much smoother experience. If you are a gaming streamer you don’t want anything to lag, if your gameplay lags, then you might lose a match, and if your stream lags then your views get irritated and watch someone else. 

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If you can’t justify paying for 2 PC streaming setups, 1 PC will be enough.

Graphics card considerations

It will greatly help you if you have a graphics card that supports hardware encoding. Although quality may suffer a bit, this will take a big chunk of load out of your CPU. Nvidia’s cards, specifically, have an excellent encoder called NVENC, which many claim to be the best hardware encoder currently on the market. It is also greatly optimized for OBS, but more on that later.

Casual PC Build for Streaming on Twitch

This build is best for less taxing and well optimized games (think Apex Legends). You will be able to run a decent 720p Twitch stream on most modern games without any problems. 

Gaming PC Build for Streaming on Twitch

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This build will be ideal for most streamers. With it, you will easily stream most modern games on high settings, with 1080p resolution. Think of it as a today’s standard for streaming on Twitch.

Extreme Build for Streaming on Twitch

That’s it! You decided to go all-in and make an ultimate gaming and streaming PC. Similar specifications are being used by top of the food chain streamers like Tfue, and Shroud (we also have articles on their specific setup, if you want to go deeper. See Tfue Setup & Shroud Setup). You will be able to play and stream in 4k without any problems, from a single PC. Computers like this cost a lot, but they are well worth it.

Additionally, you will need HDD or a dedicated PC for streaming. If you want to record all your streams in 1080p or 4K for later editing, you will need about 1 or 2 TB of space.

Which Streaming Software to Use

XSplit Interface

Before you start streaming on Twitch, you will also need to choose which software to use. You cannot stream without them, as there is no way for your signal to reach Twitch. Currently, the most popular programs used for streaming are OBS Studio and XSplit.

OBS Studio is an open source (free) software that is loved by many. XSplit is here if you want to take it to a professional level, as it is a paid product. XSplit is a bit more intuitive and easier to set up as well. For an in-depth review of all the pros and cons, you can look at our OBS vs XSplit comparison.

StreamLabs OBS (SLOBS)

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This is a special version of OBS that many people view in high regard. I personally haven’t tried it, but they claim your stream will be set up faster than with the Studio version. SLOBS also comes with useful plugins for donations, alerts and StreamLabs chatbot. If you are interested, check out this video tutorial.

 In this guide, I will be focusing on OBS Studio, as it is free and most people use it. But, no matter which of these 2 programs you choose, setting up is very similar. Starting up your stream consists of the following steps: choosing a scene, setting up sources, syncing with Twitch account, and then finally, going live.

Brief Overview of OBS Studio

Basically, the user interface in OBS consist of the following parts:  stream preview, scenes, sources, mixer, and settings.

OBS Starting Screen

Stream preview let you see exactly how your stream will look like on Twitch, which is incredibly useful. Scenes are something you will use to announce your stream, during intermissions (BRB sign, etc.) or when you are having technical difficulties. If you want to seamlessly switch from one scene to another, there is a scene transition option further on the left.

The sources window is where we will spend the majority of our time when setting up. Everything that you see on screen while streaming on Twitch is a source.

You have a plus icon on the bottom with which you will add all the fancy stuff, like microphone, webcam, game you want to capture, etc. It can also be a source (pun intended) of frustration as you are trying to figure out why the damn thing doesn’t work as it should. A bit of a love-hate relationship.

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The mixer is where you will do all of your audio setup. If you go deeper in settings, you will see that you can choose to put some filters on the mic, which you should definitely do.

This will require some experimenting to get the best sound. All in all, the mixer has the power of making you sound really professional or show what a complete amateur you are, so treat it with respect.

In the bottom right corner, there is a display which shows you CPU and GPU usage, how long you have been streaming, and similar useful stuff.

Next, I will briefly go about setting up. If you desire a more in-depth look I suggest that you check our guide on OBS Studio.

Setting up OBS

How to Make Your Profile

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The first time you start OBS Studio, your profile will be set to Untitled. To change it, click on profile and choose rename. For ease of convenience, you should use your Twitch name.

OBS Studio allows you to have many streaming profiles, all with different scenes and settings. This is quite convenient if you are trying out various games, or maybe doing a podcast.

How to Capture Your Game

To see a preview of your stream in OBS, select Game Capture in sources window. There are 3 options to choose from: fullscreen, specific window, and foreground window.

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Fullscreen is an ideal mode, and you should select it if you have two screens. Otherwise, select the foreground window. Voila, now you should be seeing the preview of your stream. You can use the same process for adding your webcam, as well.

If you are having some troubles with this step, there are various solutions listed in this guide.

How to Setup Your Microphone

You just got yourself a solid microphone for streaming, and now what? To get that professional sound that everyone is yearning for in OBS, you will need to put some filters on your voice. To do that, go to your Mixer, click a little wrench next to the microphone, and then click the plus sign. There are 4 filters you will need to master.

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  1. Noise suppression will drown out all low-frequency buzzing, vent sounds, etc.
  2. Noise gate works by turning your mic off when your voice drops under a certain threshold. It is very useful, but don’t set it too low or your voice will sound muffled.
  3. The compressor works by lowering your mic volume in case you pass a threshold. It is a good idea to use it if you are overly enthusiastic and can’t help but celebrate your win with a victory shriek. Your followers will be glad if you use it.
  4. Lastly, we have gain. Its function is simply to boost or reduce the overall volume.

Expect that you will need to experiment for a few days to find the best sound, but it will be worth it.

Next, you will need some overlays.

What are Overlays?

If you watched somebody’s stream, you noticed they display their logo, donations, webcam, and chat. This is all shown with the help of different overlays. A good overlay will make your Twitch stream stand out and look more professional. There are plenty of free options to choose from, and, if you are handy with Photoshop, you can make them yourself.

How to Add Text to Overlay

Adding text to your Overlay on OBS

Adding text to make a logo for your Twitch stream is pretty easy. Go to your sources window in OBS, right click and select text. Properties window contains a lot of different customization options, so go wild. Keep in mind not to resize your text by dragging the overlay box, because this will make your letters look cheap and pixelated.

If you want to go in-depth, I suggest that you watch this guide from another VloggingHero called Pete. 

What Kind of Overlay to Choose?

Other than just presenting your personality, you should also take into account what kind of games you are streaming. If you stream a flawless walkthrough of Resident Evil 2, you maybe don’t want to put overlay with the pink layout. Take a look at what your favourite streamers use to get some ideas. Minimalistic style is quite popular these days.

How to Choose Your Stream Quality

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This is the last step we will need to do before we can start streaming on Twitch. I should note that it can be hard to find your ideal settings when you are just starting out.

Today, more and more people are streaming in 1080p 60 FPS quality, but it is not really necessary. A 720p 30 FPS stream can still be enough, especially when you are just beginning, and don’t have a monster configuration. Twitch and OBS are both pretty forgiving.

Based on Hardware

The first step is to run the Auto-configuration wizard in your OBS. It will give you estimates of base resolution and frame-rate, which are an excellent way to start.

These settings are not set in stone, and you will probably still need to do some tweaks while streaming, but they are good enough. There are many aspects that determine your stream quality, so there is no simple formula.

OBS Auto Configuration Wizard

Based on Internet

Aside from your hardware, you will need to have a good internet connection to provide a stable stream. If you don’t know your internet speed, you can check it on this site. Next, go to Twitch’s excellent broadcasting guide, and based on you upload speed see which stream your internet can support.

To change your bitrate, simply go to Settings > Output > Streaming. If you are still experiencing problems, go read our article on best OBS settings.

If you set your streaming quality higher than your internet speed allows, you will experience constant lag spikes, and your stream will become muddy and unwatchable. You should always stream with cable connection. If you stream with Wi-Fi your connection can easily get interrupted, which can crash your stream. Nobody wants that.

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Testing Streams

At this point, you should do some test streams to see if everything is working smoothly. It might be a good idea to invite your friends to watch you play to get good feedback. Look at how your frame-rate is holding on. Is your voice set too low or too high? It’s time to polish your stream.

Ok, now you know have all the tools you need to start streaming. It is time to go live on Twitch!

Getting Started on Twitch

How to Select a Good Name

Take some time when you are starting out on Twitch to think of a good username for yourself, as it’s a bit tricky to change it later on. Your name should be easy to remember, and also unique, so let your imagination run wild. Changing name, later on, may cause you to lose some followers, and why would you want to take that risk?

We have a Twitch name Generator, Edward (Vhero Founder)  literally spent a day with a bunch of oil workers thinking up 700 funny twitch names, check out our Twitch Name Generator.

How to Sign Up

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Joining to Twitch is free and easy to do. This how-to video guide shows you this process in detail as well as some basic orientation on the page. I suggest that you immediately add a custom avatar and an interesting description, so you will immediately stand out from other Twitch members. You can set this up in the top right corner.

Another good thing to do before you start streaming is to make your broadcasts temporarily archived so they can be viewed again later. This will really improve your views and follower count. To do this simply go to Settings > Channel & Videos > Archive Broadcasts. Great, now let’s select our streaming software.

How to Get Your Twitch Stream Key

To sync your streaming software with Twitch you will need to get your Stream key. You can get it here. Don’t ever, under any circumstances give somebody your Twitch key. That is all they will need to enter your account. If you have shared it before, I advise you to change it immediately.

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After you get your stream key from Twitch, go to Settings > Stream and copy it there. Make sure that your service is set to Twitch and click apply.

How do I become Successful on Twitch?

After you finally start streaming on Twitch.tv you will soon realize that you are like a fish in an ocean. Your competition is measured in thousands, and that can be overwhelming. Maybe you’ve been live for a few months and are still wondering “Just what do I need to do to get noticed?”.

We all know that if you do succeed you will get tons of benefits. For one, Twitch might offer you a partnership, which means you will get a cut from broadcast revenue! This section of the guide will give you tips on how to make this happen.

The best way to study this is to come here often and see which aspect of streaming you need to work on. Find your niche, separate yourself from the rest of the heard, and become a popular streamer.

Be Entertaining and Interactive

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Not everyone streaming on Twitch has incredible skills that will leave everyone’s jaw dropped in awe, and that is okay. Skill is not something that will be enough on its own, unless you are Asian.

Most popular streamers have a warm and inviting personality. They like interacting with their fans, and fans want to reciprocate.

So, install that OBS plugin and start talking to your fans asap. The most attractive quality you can have is to be genuine. Spamming people with your Twitch link will only make you seem annoying.

Do not forget, you can do whatever you want! Let your imagination run wild, and love your followers. They will return it tenfold.

Communicate

Personally, there is nothing more boring than a silent stream. It’s like watching television without sound. I realize that some people get anxious at the thought about communicating with hundreds of viewers, but you will get accustomed to it, don’t worry.

This video will give you some ideas on how to talk to yourself while streaming on Twitch. This is one of the most important aspects of streaming, so I recommend that you focus on it. This is a quite useful skill you can easily translate to your daily life.

Use a Webcam

Logitech Background Removal

There have been a lot of debates about this one, but, for me, it’s really simple. The webcam will humanize your stream, which will make your Twitch following grow much faster. With it, people can easily see your reactions and that is important for this relationship to work. See our article on webcams for streaming

Also, not having a webcam will make the marketing aspect more difficult and time-consuming. There are some pretty good cheap webcams on the market that are good enough for streaming. You can check the article we have on best vlogging cameras under 300 dollars.

Concentrate on a Niche

What would Shakespeare do if he was streaming? Can pirates thrive on Twitch? The answer to the latter is yes, just ask Burke Black.

His whole Twitch stream is filled with sailor’s antics and mannerisms, and I can imagine how much fun he is having. He went a step further and bout the whole outfit, you know, just for the sake of authenticity. Tens of thousands of followers were just icing on the cake. He is a good example that you just need to go for your own thing.

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You can translate this philosophy on games as well, and start streaming some old school classics. Who really wants to look at another Fortnite stream anyway?

There are so many people streaming, and your name will be so low in the search bar that many people simply won’t notice you. I suggest that you stray from the most popular games until you gain a few thousand followers. So, be unique. Worst that can happen is that you have some fun (god forbid).

This excellent site will tell you which games you should stream, and at what time!

Be Disciplined and Promote Yourself

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As a popular saying says, “Tfue’s following wasn’t built in a day”. Streaming requires patience and consistency. People live by routine, and you want to become a part of that. So, you should stream at the same time every day. Live countdown tool is really useful here. To set it up, watch this guide.

If you already didn’t, put your streaming schedule on your Twitch page and other social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. Create a Discord channel where your followers can gather, and talk with them there from time to time. Aim to promote yourself on 3 different platforms. Additionally, you should put some of your streaming content on YouTube as well.

Not knowing how to market yourself is usually detrimental to your success. Watch a few videos (Video A, Video B) to get the hang of it.

Constantly Improve

You are probably already playing a decent amount of hours per day, but this is just one aspect of streaming. There are many great players that just aren’t famous. Always think about how you can improve your content and experiment. Set one week aside to do something completely different than usual. The sky is the limit.

Make Your Twitch Channel Look Professional

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Guess what’s the first thing people will do if they want to know more about you? They will go to your Twitch streaming channel. There are plenty of things you can put here: about me section, your PC setup, gaming schedule, some social media links, etc. I suggest that you customize your channel by adding panels or banners to stand out more easily.

Work With Others

What if you stop thinking about other streamers as merely annoying competition? We need to remember that streaming on Twitch is not a zero-sum game.

With 15 million views per day, there is enough for everybody. One of the good examples is streamer Sonja Reid, better known to her Twitch followers as “OMGitsfirefoxx”, which has over 630,000 followers.

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Her rise to fame was accompanied by a daily Minecraft series, which she did with other popular streamers like AshleyMariee, IIJERIICHOII, and others. That’s Cat started by being quite active in the Twitch community. By the time she started her first stream she already had 500 followers, which is a good start.

I suggest that you find a few streamers you really like watching and hang in their chat. Don’t use it to just blatantly promote yourself, but to open the lines of communication. Send some positivity, and people will help you back in return.

Use a Twitch Bot

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Twitch bots are useful in many ways. They will help you promote your streams, while also removing trolls and spam links from your chat. It is very easy to set up, as well. Nightbot is one of the most popular Twitch bots I gladly recommend to everyone.

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end! You’re now armed with the knowledge to become a successful streamer. Hope you enjoyed this article and good luck in your streaming adventures.

See our other twitch guides:

See more of our great content of what equipment top streamers and YouTubers use, also our marketing and money guides for broadcasters. Go back to home and have a look around. 

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