A Beginner's Guide to Twitch Streaming With OBS Studio

How to add images, alerts, and a webcam to your Twitch stream with OBS Studio

Man wearing glasses playing a video game on his PC
Taking your video game streaming to the next level is easier than you think.

Yuri_Arcurs / DigitalVision

OBS Studio is a popular video streaming program that offers a wide range of features. Many of these features are not found in the basic Twitch apps for video game consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. They include support for alerts, the creation of "Starting Soon" or intermission bumpers, a variety of audio and video sources, and layout graphics. If you've watched a Twitch stream with a colorful design or frequent new follower notifications, you've likely watched one that was streamed via OBS Studio.

In this guide, we'll cover how to get started with OBS Studio, how to set up a stream with source layers, and how to start your first Twitch stream.

How to Install OBS Studio

OBS Studio is available for Windows PC, Mac, and Linux and can be downloaded for free from the official website.

  1. Visit the OBS Studio website and select Download.

  2. Select the download option that matches your operating system: Windows, Mac, or Linux.

    OBS Studio is a desktop application and not available for iOS or Android devices.

  3. Your computer will prompt you to either save the installation file or run it immediately. Select Run if you're on a PC or open the download file on a Mac and proceed through the installation instructions.

  4. After OBS Studio is installed, it will be discoverable in your list of installed programs. Shortcuts may also be added to your desktop. When ready, open OBS Studio.

  5. Once open, select Profile from the top menu bar and select New. Enter a name for your profile. This name will not be shared with anyone else. It's simply the name of the streaming setup that you are about to create.

How to Connect Your Twitch Account and Set up OBS Studio

To broadcast to the Twitch network under your Twitch username, you will need to link OBS Studio to your Twitch account.

  1. Go to the official Twitch website. From the drop-down menu in the top-right, select Dashboard. On the next page, select Settings from the menu on the left.

  2. Select the Stream Key.

  3. Select the purple Show Key button.

  4. Confirm the warning message and then copy your stream key (the long row of random letters and numbers) to your clipboard by highlighting it with your mouse, right-clicking the highlighted text, and then selecting Copy.

  5. In OBS Studio, open Settings either from File in the top menu or the Settings button in the bottom-right corner of the screen.

  6. From the menu on the left side of the Settings box, select Streaming.

  7. In the pulldown menu next to Service, select Twitch.

  8. For Server, select a location geographically close to where you are now. The closer you are to the location you choose, the better quality your stream will be.

  9. In the Stream Key field, paste your Twitch stream key either by pressing Ctrl and V on your keyboard or right-clicking the mouse and selecting Paste.

Understanding Media Sources in OBS Studio

Everything you see in your OBS Studio workspace is what your viewers will see when you start streaming. It should be completely black when you begin a new profile. Content can be added from a variety of sources to make the stream more engaging.

Examples of media sources that you can add to OBS Studio could be your video game console (for example you can stream from Xbox One or Nintendo Switch), an open program or game on your computer, your webcam, a microphone, a media player (for background music), or image files (for visuals).

Each source is added to your OBS Studio layout as its own individual layer. This is so media sources can be placed on top of or beneath others to show or hide specific content. For example, a webcam is usually placed on top of a background image so the viewer can see the webcam.

Sources can have their layer order changed by using the Sources box on the bottom of the screen. To move a source up a layer, click and drag it higher up the list. To conceal it behind other sources, drag it down. Selecting the eye icon next to its name will make it completely invisible.

How to Create a Basic Twitch Stream Layout in OBS Studio

There are numerous media types and plugins that can be added to a Twitch layout and a near-infinite number of ways to display them. Here's a basic introduction to the four most popular items to add to a layout.

If you're looking to create a more visually complicated layout or overlay, Photoshop can be used with OBS to create a more customized Twitch layout.

Add a Background Image or Graphic

  1. In OBS Studio, go to Settings > Video and change both the Base and Output resolutions to 1920 x 1080. Select Okay. This will resize your workspace to the correct aspect ratio for broadcasting.

  2. Right-click on your black workspace and select Add and then Image.

  3. Name your image layer something descriptive such as "background." Select Okay.

  4. Select the Browse button and locate the image you want to use for your background on your computer. Select Okay.

  5. Your background image should now appear in OBS Studio. If your image is not 1920 x 1080 pixels in size, you can resize it and move it with your mouse.

  6. Remember to keep your eye on the Sources box at the bottom of your screen and make sure that your background image layer is always at the bottom of the list. Due to its size, it will cover all other media placed beneath it.

Other images (of any size) can be added to your layout by repeating Step 2 onwards.

Adding Gameplay Footage to Your Stream

To stream video game footage from a console, you'll need a capture card connected to your chosen console. The Elgato HD60 is a popular capture card with new and experienced streamers because of its price, simplicity, and high-quality video and audio.

  1. Unplug your console's HDMI cable from your TV and plug it into your capture card. Connect the capture card's USB cable to your computer.

  2. Turn your console on.

  3. Right-click on your OBS Studio workspace and select Add > Video Capture Device.

  4. Name your new layer something descriptive, such as "game capture" or "video game."

  5. Select the name of your capture card or device from the dropdown menu, then select Okay.

  6. A window showing live footage from your console should appear in OBS Studio. Resize it with your mouse and make sure it is placed above your background layer in the Sources window.

How to Add a Webcam to OBS Studio

The process of adding a webcam to an OBS Studio is done the same way as adding gameplay footage. Make sure your webcam is turned on and select it from the same dropdown menu in Video Capture Device. Remember to name it something you'll remember like "webcam," and make sure it's placed above your background.

If your computer has a built-in webcam, OBS Studio will automatically detect it.

A Word About Twitch Alerts (Or Notifications)

Alerts are special notifications that appear during Twitch streams to celebrate special events such as a new follower or subscriber, or a donation. They work differently than adding local media as the alerts are powered by third-party services such as StreamLabs and must be linked to as a URL or website address.

Here's how to add StreamLabs notifications to your stream layout in OBS Studio. This method is similar for other alert services.

  1. Go to the official StreamLabs website and log into your account.

  2. Expand the Widgets menu on the left side of the screen and select Alertbox.

  3. Select the box that says Click to Show Widget URL and copy the revealed web address to your clipboard.

  4. In OBS Studio, right-click on your layout and select Add, then select BrowserSource.

  5. Name your new source something unique, such as "Alerts." Select Okay.

  6. A new box will pop up. In the URL field, replace the default address with your copied URL from StreamLabs. Select Okay.

  7. Make sure this layer is at the top of the list in the Sources box so that all of your alerts appear over all of the other media sources.

If you haven't already, head back to StreamLabs in your web browser and customize all of your alerts. Your alert settings in OBS Studio don't have to be updated if changes are made to StreamLabs.

How to Start a Twitch Stream in OBS Studio

Now that the basic settings are dealt with, you are ready to stream on Twitch with your new OBS Studio-powered layout. Simply select the Start Streaming button in the bottom-right corner of OBS Studio, wait for the connection to the Twitch servers to be made, and you're live.

During your first Twitch stream, audio levels from different sources may be too loud or too quiet. You can ask for feedback from viewers and adjust the levels for each source via the Mixer settings in the lower-middle corner of OBS Studio.