Do stream graphics matter? Of course! Graphics work for your stream in several ways, including getting people to click on your stream in the first place. Visual elements also support brand recognition, communicate your call to action (CTA), and get viewers to subscribe. When you use graphics, your stream looks more polished and professional – giving you a better chance of scoring sponsor deals.
Stream graphics are important, but if you’re just starting out, they can feel overwhelming. How do you create graphics? What kinds of visual elements can you add to a live stream? And what the heck is a lower third?
Consider this your crash course in live streaming lower-third graphics. You’ll learn why lower thirds are one of the most important visual elements of your live stream and how to make them.
Which types of visual elements can you add to a live stream?
When it comes to stream graphics, you have several choices. The elements you choose will depend on the type of stream you’re doing and your style. The most popular choices include:
- Overlays: Overlays are graphics you place over your stream footage, such as the name of your interview guest, a webcam frame, or a chat box.
- Logo: Your logo captures your whole brand in one image. You can display it just before, after, or even during your stream.
- Panels: Panels are used on Twitch, and they appear below your live stream on your Twitch profile. Your Twitch panel can be an “about” section, guidelines for your community, links to merch, a donation center, a survey, and more.
- Stream screens: Stream screens are transitional graphics that take up the entire screen. An example would be a Be Right Back (BRB) screen, an Offline screen, or a Stream Will Start Soon screen.
- Channel banner: On Twitch, you can display a banner on the top of your page, like a cover photo. The channel banner is a great place to express who you are, what you offer, and what you stream about.
- Custom transitions: Stream graphics don’t always have to be static. Transitions from one part of your stream to the next can be more engaging than a stream screen and make your live stream feel more professional.
- Countdown timers: Countdown timers appear at the start of your live stream. Rather than abruptly starting, you can set a countdown to give your viewers a few seconds to get ready.
- More advanced graphics: The visual elements listed above are some of the basics and are great graphics to start with as you’re building up your stream community. If you want to get more advanced, you can create things like alerts, badges, merch designs, social media callouts, and widgets.
What is a lower third in live video?
The lower third is a type of graphic overlay that takes up what’s known as the “title-safe” lower area of the screen. It doesn’t always have to fill the bottom one-third of the screen as the name suggests.
Lower thirds provide information and context for what’s happening on-screen. They might communicate who’s speaking and their title, a location, a time, or other relevant information that isn’t readily apparent from watching the stream or video.
You’ve most likely seen a broadcast or video using lower thirds. News media organizations use lower thirds all the time, placing a graphic with the name of the person speaking or the location they’re in at the bottom of the screen. Documentary films use lower thirds to announce who’s speaking. Sports broadcasts will display the score and other information during a game or match.
On our Friday Lives show, we use Restream Studio to create lower-third overlays with the names of our host, Anya, and her guest. We also use lower thirds to display viewer questions and comments during the stream. Lower thirds are also perfect for adding a website or social handle, like we did on our special live session with Neil Patel.
Tips for making a good lower third
How do you make a lower third? Audiences are used to seeing lower thirds with certain placements and styles, and they expect any graphics that appear on-screen to be consistent – both with each other and with overall branding. When you start designing your live stream’s lower-third graphic, keep these tips in mind.
Make it readable
Lower thirds almost always contain text. This text should be readable. Choose a good font, place the lower third in the best spot, and provide enough contrast between the video and the graphic. If your footage is mostly dark, choose a lighter-colored lower-third graphic to offset it.
Choose the right font
Your font choice should be consistent with the rest of your branding, so if you already use a font for your other graphics, then stick with that. In most cases, a sans-serif font works best for a lower-third graphic.
Although it’s called a “lower” third, you don’t have to put it in the lower third of the screen. The reason this particular placement is so common is because it’s ideal for footage of someone speaking on camera. If you follow the rule of thirds, then you know your subject’s eyeline should be in the upper third. Placing a text-graphic visual in the lower third adds balance. But if your footage isn’t of someone speaking or isn’t a close-up shot, you can play around with where you put your graphic. Just make sure you don’t place it too close to the screen’s edge.
Use your brand colors and style
Keep visual elements across streaming and social media platforms consistent. If you don’t have a brand color or style yet, then take the time to choose these features before you start designing a lower-third graphic. Choose branding that’s relevant to your audience and your category of streaming.
Complement your content
The lower-third graphic should enhance your content, not be your content. Don’t let your lower third take up too much of the screen, and don’t make it so complex that it draws attention to itself. The lower-third graphic provides context, but it isn’t the star of your show. When deciding on a design, remember: simple is always better.
Choose a creation method
If you’re new to live stream graphics or don’t want to design them yourself, you’ll be happy to know there are several options for lower thirds.
- Hire a designer: If you really don’t trust your design skills, want your graphics to look professional, and don’t mind investing a little, then you can hire a freelance graphic designer from Fiverr or Upwork to make you a logo, overlays, and more. Fiverr has a subcategory of freelancers dedicated to graphics for live streaming, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a talented designer to create your lower-third graphics.
- Pre-made packages: If you want a package of graphics ready to go and don’t mind fewer customization options, you can purchase pre-made stream graphics packages from providers like Nerd or Die, StreamElements, or Placeit.
- Design yourself: If you're comfortable using programs like Adobe Photoshop or After Effects, you can design your lower thirds yourself. If you don’t have access to Adobe products but still want to create your own designs, you can use web-based design tools like Canva or Crello.
- Online design tools: Many of the companies that sell pre-made packages also sell templates, which you can edit yourself to make them consistent with your style. These logo and overlay builders are a happy medium between buying graphics already made and designing them yourself.
Use cases for lower thirds in live streaming
You may understand why lower thirds are important to your live stream and what makes a good lower-third graphic in theory. But knowing the theory and putting it into practice are separate things. Below are some common use cases for lower thirds in live streaming, followed by the tools you need to add engaging lower-third graphics to your live stream.
Introducing a guest
If you’re hosting a guest on your live show for an interview or as a guest host, you can have them introduce themselves at the start so the audience knows who they are. But adding a lower third with their name and title will make it much easier for viewers to remember their name or know how to spell it if they want to research that person later.
Lower-third graphics are perfect for an on-screen CTA. Add your website or blog URL, your social handles, or link to buy merch. You can say the name of your URL out loud, but adding a lower-third graphic with your URL at the same time you’re saying it reinforces the message for viewers.
If you want to feature comments, questions, or quotes from your live chat, you can display them as a lower-third graphic. With Restream Studio, you can show any message from the chat on-screen by going to the Chat tab on your Live Studio dashboard. You’ll see messages coming in from all the channels you’re streaming to in the chat window. To show one of these messages on-screen, hover over it, then click Show. The message will appear as an overlay, along with the username of the person who sent it.
Live streaming church services
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, virtual church services have become increasingly popular. But a church service without context is hard for viewers to follow. Lower thirds can display the name of the pastor when he’s speaking, along with the theme of his sermon. When the pastor or speaker references a specific Bible verse, you can display it on-screen so viewers watching at home can look it up.
If you’re showing copyrighted clips or footage that doesn’t belong to you, you can add a lower third to credit the owner of the content.
What tools do you need to create lower thirds?
There are a lot of great tools to create professional-looking lower thirds for your live stream, but we’ll focus on two main tools here: Adobe Photoshop and Canva.
If you use Adobe Photoshop to create your lower thirds, you can start completely from scratch or import a template. When you’re ready to save and upload it into your live streaming software or tool, you should save the file as a PNG. Whenever saving image files for use as a lower third on your live stream, always select PNG instead of JPEG. PNG files have a transparent background; JPEG files do not. If you upload your image as a JPEG, the image you saved on Photoshop will fill your entire screen – you only want it to fill the lower third section.
With Canva, you can either start with a blank slate or import templates for your own customization. To use a template that someone else created, they need to share the Canva link with you. When you’re done customizing, you can download your designs. When you download your creation and save it to your computer, select PNG as the file type and select a transparent background.
Tools for live streaming with lower thirds
Once you’ve created your lower-third graphics, how do you add them to your live streaming software or platform? Let’s look at how to incorporate lower thirds with Restream Studio and OBS Studio.
Importing your graphics is a simple, two-step process with our browser-based live streaming tool, Restream Studio. On your dashboard, under the Graphics tab, you’ll see all your uploaded logo and overlay designs. If you don’t have any designs uploaded yet, you’ll just see a plus sign.
To add new image files for your logo or overlay, click the plus sign and upload a PNG file from your computer. Once you’ve added your lower-third graphic, you can toggle the Hide/Show button underneath your block of overlay images. This button allows you to flash the graphic on and off so you only display it when you need it.
If you don’t want to create and upload your own designs, you can use the premade captions in Restream Studio as your lower thirds and stream directly from your browser.
If you’re using OBS Studio, it’s possible to add overlays and lower thirds as well, but it requires a few more steps than with Restream. First, you need to create a new Scene in OBS. Then, you add your overlay image file as a Source. If your overlay is animated, you select Media Source; if it’s not animated, select Image. When you add it, give it a name (such as Lower Third Title), then hit OK. You’ll then need to select a file from your computer to upload. If you’re uploading an animated graphic, you need to select Loop before hitting OK, so your graphic doesn’t disappear after two to three seconds.
When you upload your graphic, it might not fit the screen properly. You may need to resize it so it fits on the screen where you want it. In the case of a lower-third graphic, you’d want to size and position it so it appears near the bottom of your screen.
Let’s wrap up
You don’t have to be a graphic designer or a live streaming expert to have professional-looking lower thirds. You can easily add stunning graphics to your live stream to make it more engaging and reinforce your branding. Creating and adding lower thirds to your live stream is easier than ever with so many great tools out there to help you.
For your next live stream, try playing around with graphics and lower thirds to see how it looks. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll never want to stream without lower thirds again!