Overlay Meaning: What is a Stream Overlay?

The number of streamers and gamers have grown at an exponential rate, so it is important to ensure that your channel stands out from the others visually and content-wise. It’s likely that you already have a streamer that you watch or follow, and one of the elements of their stream sets them apart from all the other streamers is the effort that they have put into their channel’s visual presentation.

It’s not just about what game you play or how you play the game, you need to add a personal touch that is unique to you, and one of the ways to achieve this is through the usage of an original overlay design.

What is a Stream Overlay?

A stream overlay is a design consisting of a variety of graphics that appear with your gameplay footage during a broadcast. Examples are webcam frames, stream screens, steam alerts, and more. Normally, a stream overlay is a transparent image (PNG) that is “overlaid” on top of a livestream content. These graphics are positioned around the screen so that the center of the screen is unobstructed to highlight the content and gameplay. The exact positioning of the overlay will depend on the stream’s particular layout and the type of game that you are playing.

Good overlays feature design elements that are unique to the channel or stream branding. These are customizations that add to the stream’s personal touch. This may include a unique color scheme, logo, stream information (subscribers, donators, music currently playing, etc.)

An overlay is an important feature of every stream that significantly enhances the visual appeal of the broadcast as well as the stream’s engagement with the audience. Visualize your ideal broadcast before designing your overlay so that they fit nicely into the game that you are playing.

Types of Overlay

  • Informational Overlay – Informational overlays are either static or animated images that provide written or visual information to the viewers. Informational overlays are usually used for announcements, stream rules, social plugs, and other general information that a streamer wants their viewers to see.
Sample Overlay from NerdOrDie.
  • Sponsored Overlay – Sponsored overlays are meant to advertise your sponsors. These are usually images (often an icon) shared by your sponsor for you to post on your stream. 
Sample Overlay from NerdOrDie
  • Game Overlay – Game overlay are designed usually for a specific game. It may cover certain areas of the screen to prevent stream snipers from taking advantage of the broadcast, or just a design to enhance the overall look of the game for the viewers.
Sample Overlay from NerdOrDie
  • Webcam Overlay – Webcam overlays fits around your webcam (or below, if you are using a green screen). This overlay helps separate your camera screen from the rest of your content to create visual interest for the stream.
Sample Overlay from NerdOrDie
  • Talking Screen / Chat Overlay – Talking screen or chat overlays are designed to display your chat on your screen. These overlays are useful when you want your chat to be seen on your content.
Screenshot taken from Quantum Fizzics’s Stream.
  • Stream Label Overlay – Stream label overlays display certain info about your channel, such as top donator, donation goals, win rate for the day, or your most recent follower. These overlays are meant to encourage engagement with the viewers as well as to keep track of the current broadcast.
Sample Overlay from NerdOrDie.

Tournament Overlays

Tournament Broadcasts have a lot more elements to it than you think. It is not as simple as usual day-to-day streaming as the tournament organizers are responsible in making sure that the audience are engaged throughout the competition and that all relevant information about the tournament is available during the stream. Information like scoreboards, match schedule, teams playing, sponsors, brackets, etc. Here are some tournament overlays for aspiring tournament organizers:

  • Bracket Overlay
Bracket Overlay from BEAT Invitational.
  • Thank You Overlay
Thank You Overlay from BEAT Invitational.
  • Next Match Overlay
Next Match Overlay from BEAT Invitational.
  • Sponsor Static Overlay –
  • Scoreboard Overlay
Screenshot taken from BEAT Invitational’s Stream.
  • Waiting Screen / Video –
Waiting Screen Video from BEAT Invitational.
  • Stinger
Video from BEAT Invitaitional.

The Lower Third

One of the necessary elements of a good stream is a lower third. It gives your audience relevant information without it being a distraction. It’s supposed to be visible without taking the attention off the actual broadcast. Now, what is it exactly? It can be a combination of text and graphics positioned in the lower area of the screen to provide more information to the viewers. It doesn’t have to be exactly positioned in the lower third, that’s just where it got its name. This might seem irrelevant but the advantages that it poses is quite obvious when used properly. 

A lower third is especially helpful when you’re broadcasting and the audience has to keep track of several key information such as kill death ratio of the day, win rate of the day, goals for the day, among others. A lower third can also add to the aesthetics of the broadcast, so it should always be designed to work together with the actual stream and other overlays being used, as to not be distracting for the viewers.

Possible elements of a lower thirds are: typography, logos, animations, shapes, and other designs to boost the aesthetics of the stream.

Here’s a quick video providing 15 free lower thirds for anyone to use and how to use them by Shutterstock Tutorials

Why Streamers Need an Overlay

Stream overlays improve the stream presentation and make the channel unique. If two streamers create the same kind of content at the same level of talent and engaging personality, viewers will most likely lean towards the one with the more visually appealing stream presentation.

Overlays also indicate the streamer’s professional commitment to their channel and community. It provides for a more promising and enjoyable viewing. Over time, if the streamer develops a following, a personalized overlay becomes familiar to the audience and provides a certain level of comfort, adding to what pulls them back to the stream. The overlay becomes an extension of the streamer.

Overall, streamers are more likely to stand out from other streamers and get more attention from viewers when they actually invest time into their channel’s visual presentation and commit to their personal brand.

Read our guide on How to Test Stream on Twitch!

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