There are two Smash Bros. Melee weekly tournaments near me that I watch routinely. Both of the streams are ready to go in my bookmarks. They’re both on different days, so there isn’t really any viewership competition. The stream quality is pretty even and the commentators are nice, and the players are mostly the same in skill level. So why do I enjoy watching one much more than the other? The answer is pretty simple, and something you probably recognize but don’t think about:
One of the stream overlays is pleasant to look at, and the other is horrendous and distracting. I don’t really enjoy opening up a stream overlay that takes up half the screen and is hard to edit in real-time, often times causing me to miss matches I wanted to see.
If you’re planning on running a stream, consider putting a lot of effort into a professional-looking and memorable overlay. You might think you’re good with a sub button and a high quality camcorder, but if you don’t have that extra flair, potential viewers might pick someone else’s stream over yours.
Here are some services that offer paid stream overlays that will up your viewership, as well as a small guide on how to make your own overlay.
Strexm overlays is a perfect place to go if you’re looking for something super professional. You’ve probably seen a lot of streamers with high viewership actually using overlays from Strexm.tv. If you go to the website, a lot of the examples might seem familiar.
There are a few great perks this website offers that are especially attractive for beginners. You can select overlays that are made for specific games; their “shop” screen is separated by League of Legends, CS:GO, Dota 2, etc. They tout the fact that their overlays are “completely modular.” This is great for experimenting with what you want out of your stream, because you can essentially click elements on or off—if you don’t want to use your webcam today, you can turn it off instead of fiddling with it for thirty minutes before the stream starts.
Plus, they’ve got alerts built-in. This is really attractive for some people, but if you’re just starting out with your stream, I wouldn’t worry about them. New subs get happy when their name pops up on screen, though.
Instead of being paid, they require that you connect your stream to their service; they get their revenue by using you and your stream to plug their service. All in all, it isn’t really a bad deal. If you’re like me, though, you might want to keep your stream personal to you and not have it connected to a separate company.
You may have come across this website simply by googling “twitch overlays.” Without pulling any punches, the website is gaudy, unorganized, and unprofessional. As soon as I went here, I figured I should run a virus scan…just to be safe, you know? You can never be too careful around gaming websites that seem Eastern European in nature.
The scan ran clean, the site is legit—just messy. The whole website looks like a flash game. Check out the metallic sheen effects on everything.
If you don’t mind a lot of neon colors and Web 1.0 graphics, this website should be fine. I personally cannot recommend it, because if you’re paying any kind of money for a Twitch overlay, it better look better than something my 10-year-old brother can whip up in fifteen minutes.
Out of all the websites I’ve been to for the purpose of shopping for stream overlays, this one absolutely has the best homepage. I’m easily impressed by their designs and backgrounds from the get-go—check it out, you might be too.
One thing I like about this website is that the prices are incredibly explicit. An ‘80s aesthetic stream overlay they show on the homepage, “Digital Desert,” is $13.99. Seems simple enough. If you want a stream overlay, just purchase it and put it on your OBS or Xsplit.
One of the downsides of going for a website like this is that the overlays are so specific. You might lose viewers if they see your stream and think, “huh, this looks exactly like the other stream I saw today.”
If you’re like me, you’ll be off-put by this site’s landing page attempting to look exactly like the normal Twitch.tv. It’s pretty uncreative to use “twitch” in the name of your website and then use the color scheme too, but hey, it’s pretty much the only thing they’re selling.
Unlike Streamplaygraphics, this website separates their buyable elements into a few categories: panels, overlay, facecam, alerts, waiting/intermission, and alerts.
This might make it seem more “customizable” than the other options, but it’s likely you’ll just be buying a bundle either way. If you choose not to buy a bundle, you might end up paying more for a lot of individual elements that a different website would just give you packaged together with a more upfront cost.
They do have a freebies section, but it is just banners of game art from WoW and LoL arranged in a different way. Plus, there’s a sentence in broken English at the top alongside a “༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ”emote. If you value professionalism, don’t go here.
A lot of the elements on their website seem geared toward the CS:GO, CoD and Battlefield crowd. They don’t have a lot of elements that would be fitting for MOBAs, MMOs, or smaller games (like speedrunning).
Just because there’s plenty of websites specialized for this doesn’t mean you have to use them. You can get an overlay from an individual instead, and it will likely be more unique. If you’re someone who likes to deal with people one-on-one to get the exact kind of outcome you want, try going the freelance route.
Fiverr.com is a pretty popular website for Twitch overlays specifically. It’s very noncommittal—if you’re unaware of the platform, freelancers will post “gigs” at a minimum of five dollars, and people who want work from them can place an order. It uses a review system to “rank” freelancers, and freelancers with tons of high reviews will show up in your lists first. You can have direct messaging with someone to figure out what exactly you want and need from your overlay.
If you have experience with Twitch, you probably have experience with sites like Reddit. Reddit is a great place to find graphic designers of all skill ranges and pay grades. I have found work making stream overlays for people (and even other effects, like twitch emotes) on r/slavelabour and r/forhire. Yes, “slavelabour” is a terribly menacing name for a subreddit, but it’s just a place where you can get quick tasks done for cheap—and do quick tasks for others, if you’re so inclined.
If you’d rather go to a more traditional “job board,” Upwork is great for this. It’s hard to set up an individual professional gig (especially if you never plan on using this site ever again), but it’s worth it if you want something done by an expert. You’ll be a client to a real freelance graphic designer and they’ll treat you appropriately with professional language; it’s also easy to impose a deadline if you need something urgently.
Especially in the summertime, it is very easy to find someone to do this work for you; people are typically falling over each other trying to find clients (even for something as small-scale as this). You certainly wouldn’t have to make a posting and then wait a long time for a response.
Now, I don’t mean the websites that allow you to “build” a stream overlay by selecting individual elements and changing their color and position. Websites like Streamdesigns.me are all fine and good, but an actual homemade stream overlay can go a long way.
Obviously, this will be the hardest way to get a quality stream overlay if you have no experience with graphic design or programs like Photoshop. It can be easier to just get five or so bucks and pay for a decent overlay, be it from a website selling them or from a freelancer. However, if you put in the effort to make a completely unique and interesting overlay that’s specific to you and your stream, the payoff can be immense.
For my purposes, I like to use Adobe Photoshop. If you do not have a license or cannot attain one, you can always try a free alternative like GIMP. You can easily create a high-quality stream overlay using one of the “lookalike” programs.
You can start off by taking a screenshot of gameplay of your game of choice. From there, look at the empty areas on screen—that’s where you’ll be placing elements like your webcam, a unique design, the name of your stream, etc. For MOBAS, a cheeky thing I like to do is replace my character portrait with my own webcam. Use transparent layers for the webcam and gradient, shape, and text tools for anything else you’d like to add (like social media links). Don’t be afraid to “copy the greats” here.
When you’re done, you can just export the file as a picture and place it as an image in your streaming program. This is easy to do with programs like OBS and Xsplit; just insert it as a layer over your game window and you’re done!