A Beginner’s Guide to Streaming on Twitch

by in Entertainment | Oct, 25th 2021

A question often asked is “how to stream on Twitch,” and we’re here to help you out. As someone who has streamed on Twitch for about five years, I’ve had some time on the platform. After you’ve spent time getting a setup, whether desktop, console, or mobile, there are many ways to stream on Twitch, no matter what you want to on Twitch, as long as it’s within the ToS, you can do it. So how do you stream on Twitch? First, before anything else, you need an account on Twitch! So head to Twitch.tv and square that away before anything else.

What Software to Use?

There is a wealth of free software to use to stream on Twitch, so this part of the “how to stream on Twitch” is a little complicated. Twitch has its proprietary, first-party software, Twitch Studio. I know a few people who use it and swear by it. It is incredibly easy to set up and will auto-detect your settings as best as possible. You’ll have to set up overlays for the stream, but it does come with some default ones to get you started. Twitch Studio also has a handy guided setup to help with your game feed, the webcam, and the microphone. So all told, it’s excellent for starters. 

If you want more customization and greater options, you also have Xsplit and Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). I don’t use Xsplit often because you have to pay to get the most out of it. So I recommend OBS – either Streamlabs OBS or OBS Classic (OBS Live). Streamlabs is newer and has greater customization, but OBS Classic is less processor-intensive and easier to set up. I use Streamlabs OBS personally, but I do also have OBS Classic installed – just in case. 

In all of these, you need to sign in to a Twitch account to stream. However, you can also choose to use a stream key instead. You may be streaming from an account that you don’t have login access to – say, if you stream for a website/outlet, you have the stream key provided by the boss. I do not believe you can use just a stream key on Xsplit, though. 

Finding Your Stream Key: On Twitch, head into your settings, click “Stream,” and the first thing on that tab will be “Primary Stream Key.” Cautionary Note: Please do not share this key with anyone. The only time someone should have access to it is if it’s someone you trust implicitly, and they will also be streaming on your channel. Otherwise, this should never be shared.

Using OBS Software

Using OBS and Streamlabs OBS is pretty similar when you get down to it. Streamlabs OBS defaults to showing your Twitch chat, for example, but you can also set that up on OBS Live. You’ll want to install and run your OBS program of choice.

OBS Live

To get the basic setup going, you’ll want to:

  • Click File, Click Settings. 
  • Click Stream Button, Set Service to “Twitch,” Connect to your Twitch account.
  • On the main OBS screen, Click the “+” under “Sources.”
  • Click “Game Capture,” title the Source appropriately.
  • In the new window, click “Mode” and change to “Capture Specific Window.”
  • Under “Window,” find the game you’re going to stream (the game needs to be already launched). You can also remove the Mouse Cursor here if you care to. 
  • If you use a webcam, click the plus, then click add a “Video Capture Device,” select your webcam and adjust the settings appropriately. You can adjust and move the webcam screen on your overlay where you need it.

You can set your Desktop Audio (output into the stream) in File, Settings, Audio tab:

  • Desktop Audio: What you and your stream hear.
  • Mic/Aux Mic: Your microphone and any capture cards you might have.

You can adjust these to what you need as well. No one audio level is going to work for everything. You’ll want to spend some time adjusting window/webcam sizes to have what you’re after. Some games require smaller windows, for example, and you may want an overlay to cover up the black space on your screen. From here, all you have to do is click Start Streaming. Congrats, you’re on Twitch!

Streamlabs OBS

Streamlabs OBS is a bit easier, to be honest. It does feature an “Auto Optimize” as well to configure your settings for streaming easily. It’s similar in a lot of ways, though. Instead of clicking “File,” you click a gear at the bottom of the screen, which pulls up your general settings:

  • Click the gear in the bottom left of the screen.
  • Click Stream, log into Twitch.
  • On the main OBS screen, click the “+” next to “Sources.”
  • Click “Game Capture,” title appropriately.
  • In the new window, click “Mode” and change to “Capture Specific Window.”
  • Under “Window,” find the game you’re going to stream and select it.
  • You can also do this for your webcam/capture card by selecting “Video Capture Device.” 

Streamlabs OBS is essentially the same. It’s the streaming software I use the most. It’s easy to use, has a lot of options to customize the experience exactly how you want it, and having the stream chat in my capture device eliminates a need for one more window on my computer. So when being asked how to stream on Twitch, this is the program I recommend.

Setting Up XSplit

Xsplit is pretty easy to use as well, but remember, to get the most out of it, you’ll need to pay a subscription fee. However, once you’ve loaded XSplit, here’s what you do:

  • Click the “Broadcast” tab, then pick “Twitch.”
  • Log into your Twitch account as normal.
  • Click “Finish.” Xsplit will optimize your settings.
  • Edit your Stream Properties, click OK.
  • On the Bottom Left of your Xsplit, click “Add,” then “Game Capture.”
  • Pick the game you’re going to be streaming.
  • You can use “Add” again to add your webcam or any other visual sources.
  • Resize as necessary to make your screen look the way you’d like.
  • Click “Broadcast.”

Setting Up Streaming on PlayStation/Xbox

You might be asking, though, “How to stream on Twitch” if you are a console player. It’s even easier there! If you have a PlayStation 4 or 5, click the “Share Button” on your controller. You’ll select “Twitch” after clicking “Broadcast Gameplay,” and you can go live, just like that! However, you will probably want a decent mic hooked up to your controller. The PlayStation 5 controller mic is not exceptional. The same goes for Xbox One/Xbox Series X|S.

If you’re on the Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S, you download the Twitch app on the Xbox Store. You log into your Twitch account, load your game, and then open the Twitch app. Select “Broadcast,” and you’re good to go. Thankfully, on console streaming, you can always see your chat on the screen. You can’t customize it like you can on a PC, but it’s a great way to get started. 

If you have a capture card, you can run that to your PC and have the best of both worlds. Now that we know how to get the basics done, you also need to set up alerts, layouts, and more. 

Customizing Your Stream

You can do so much to make your stream look and feel exactly the way you want. For example, you can go to Stream Elements and use it to design your overlays (or pick from pre-created overlays). An Overlay on Twitch is a graphical overlay that goes over your screen. It can have pertinent information, art that matches the game you’re playing, or simply a border to fill in space on your screen. If you’re playing retro games, they tend to have lower resolution. So you have a lot of space going on. 

Not everyone is a graphics designer, and that’s fine. If you have friends in your life, you can commission to make overlays to the exact detail you need. It’s also common to go on Twitter and commission someone to make them for you. This will seldom (if ever) be free. Be kind to people who make overlays and assets. It takes work and effort to put this stuff together. 

The Streamlabs website is also invaluable when it comes to setting up alerts and notifications. You’ll sign in here to your Twitch account. It will also let you test these – but you’ll need to have an Alert Box already set up. You can click the “Alert Box” icon on the left side of Streamlabs OBS to select a popup widget that will work for you. Another way to get notifications is to go to your sources in your stream software.

After you add a source (via the Plus/Add button), add a Browser Source. The URL for this will be the “Widget URL.” You’ll find this on the Streamlabs site, under the Alertbox tab on the left side. There’s a “Widget URL” link you can click to show or copy. Then put it into that URL slot on the Browser Source. Set the Width and Height to what you need for your stream. I use 800×600. You can also use custom CSS for it to change background colors, etc. I have mine set up this way to remove the color from the alertbox:

“body { background-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0); margin: 0px auto; overflow: hidden; }”

Once you have an aesthetic that works for you, you can set yours up. Under this portion of Alertbox, you can set specific gifs and sounds for when people follow, subscribe, donate, host, raid, drop bits, et cetera. There are some incredible ways to customize these on your stream, to hype people up, make them laugh, or even as a jumpscare. Streamlabs is incredibly easy to use and is worth investing time in. 

Another useful website to be aware of is Nightbot. It’s another site where you login via your Twitch and set up a variety of useful commands to help you out. Through Nightbot, you can set up Spam Protection, see who your most active, regular viewers are, run giveaways, or set up custom commands and timers. You can also connect your Discord to use your Nightbot commands on your Discord as well.

Making custom commands is very easy for Twitch. They’ll be triggered via an exclamation mark followed by a word. A few examples of some I use on my channel:

  • !discord – Hang out in our Discord channel! https://discord.gg/s3jAgXv
  • !randomizer – Whatever randomizer we’re streaming at this point in time
  • !uptime – $(twitch $(channel) “{{displayName}} has been live for {{uptimeLength}}”)

These are a great way to get information to your viewers, especially when you don’t have time to do it yourself. You can leave these in the information of your stream or make a timer to advertise this stuff. Under Timers, you can set chat messages to be shown in your chat, based on real-time periodically or on how many lines are in your chat (how frequent people are chatting). My stream uses this to advertise the YouTube channel, Discord, or anything interesting I’ve written at the time. You can also use this to remind people to do/not do things or pertinent stream info. 

You can also use it as a form of moderation by blacklisting words and phrases, preventing excessive caps/emotes if you want, and preventing people from dropping links in the chat. 

Final Thoughts on How to Stream on Twitch

It’s not too hard to stream on Twitch. You might look like you have a basic stream at the start, or you might decide to put tons of effort into the look and sound of it before you ever touch it. Either approach is fine. If you’re an experienced streamer and someone asks you how to stream on Twitch, hopefully, you’ll pass along the knowledge you’ve picked up along the way. There are many highs and lows on the platform, and there are zero guarantees of success. 

Once you’ve spent some time on Twitch, you’ll probably hear about being an “Affiliate.” You can start monetizing things at that point. I’ll keep the requirements brief:

  • At least 500 total minutes broadcast in the last 30 days
  • At least seven unique broadcast days in the last 30 days
  • An average of three concurrent viewers or more over the last 30 days
  • At least 50 followers

The next step is Partner, and that’s much harder. From here, after you’ve set up your software, picked some games, and have a schedule, all that’s left is to get out there and do it! From here, all you can do is stream and have fun with it. There’s always something to learn and new things you can do to improve your stream. Have fun, and we’ll see you out there! Then you can apply for it on Twitch.


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