How to Edit YouTube Videos

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No matter how good your material is, a video without proper editing is just a recording. It can turn your viewers away and muddle your message. Simply uploading raw footage to YouTube just doesn’t cut it. 

While video editing can be a time-consuming and costly process, the low-cost, easy-to-use YouTube Studio means that everyone from content creators to brands and video marketers can have what they need at their fingertips. 

Read on to learn how to edit YouTube videos using YouTube Studio, how to edit videos for YouTube to increase views and engagement, and excellent alternatives to YouTube’s editor.


What is YouTube Studio?

YouTube StudioPostmodern Studio/Shutterstock

YouTube is one of the world’s largest, most popular online platforms and has been instrumental in launching the careers of some of today’s biggest personalities. It also has its own free video editor, called YouTube Studio.

YouTube Studio is a creator’s hub. It’s where content creators, publishers, and marketers— anyone who creates and posts content on YouTube—manage their channel and videos, connect with viewers, and monetize content. It’s also where you can find controls for functions such as changing your screen’s theme, monitoring analytics, creating playlists, adding subtitles, and replying to viewers’ comments. 

How to edit YouTube videos in YouTube Studio

YouTube logo on a phoneSzabó Viktor/Pexels

YouTube Studio makes editing videos for YouTube a breeze with no need for complicated equipment or programs by letting you do the following:

Add creative, engaging thumbnails

Thumbnails serve as an invitation of sorts, piquing your viewers’ curiosity and encouraging them to watch your video. A good thumbnail should have the following characteristics:

  • 1280 pixels by 720 pixels resolution 
  • 640 pixels wide
  • Uploaded as JPG, GIF, or PNG
  • Under 2MB
  • A 16:9 aspect ratio

To catch your viewers’ attention, make sure that you include a title text—use it to add context to your video. Make sure you’re consistent when it comes to font styles and try to use relevant, high-quality images. 

Trim and cut

In the editor, select Trim & Cut and a blue box will appear around your video. Drag the sides to alter the length of your beginning and end. If you select New Cut, a red box will appear around your video; you can use this to delete sections from the middle of your video. 

The length of your videos will depend on your content. If you want to give your audience quick tips, aim for around five to eight minutes. If you truly have 20 minutes of content, shoot for that. Use the Google Analytics tool to measure how long your audience is sticking around and where they might be dropping out. Trim the fluff accordingly. 

Provide captions

Adding captions to your video, especially different versions in a few languages, will make your videos more accessible to a wider audience. YouTube Studio lets you add captions to your video. You can add them during the upload process or you can do the following:

  • Select Subtitles and click on the video you want to add subtitles to.
  • Click Add Language and choose the language you want to use.
  • Click Add to complete the process.

Add music

The YouTube editor allows you to add music directly from the site’s audio library. Rest assured that anything you add from here is licensed and usable in monetized content. 

Insert info cards and end screens

Adding links during and after your video is a great way to keep people on your page. Use an end screen as your call to action—it’s where you can send viewers to additional videos, your playlists, and homepage to subscribe. 

Consider what goes on behind the scenes

This includes lighting, sound quality, and background noise. Check out our guide to finding an affordable microphone and setting up your home studio for optimal sound—nothing ruins a video like inaudible dialogue. Optimizing your lighting will also make your footage look more professional and require less tweaking in postproduction. Learn the basics of softboxes and ring lights.  

How to edit YouTube videos with free software

Using video editing softwareNubelson Fernandes/Unsplash

If you want to take your viewership and engagement to the next level, you’ll want to add a few effects not available in YouTube Studio. (Don’t worry, we’ve got some free alternatives in the next section.) 

Here are some video editing tips for YouTube:

Use transitions and cuts

Aside from giving your audience valuable content, you also want to keep them engaged visually. Some of the more common transitions and effects include:

You will need to use a separate video editor to add effects. YouTube’s video editor only has basic editing functionalities such as the Trim & Cut, Blur, Audio, End Screen, and Info Cards. 

Deploy B-roll

Additional footage can add context to your video and provide flexibility during the editing process. If you notice a section of your video is underlit, for example, cut to B-roll during that section. Plan for some establishing shots, incorporate different angles, and shoot extra footage to give yourself more to work with.

Are there other low-cost, easy-to-use video editing options?

Man using iMovie video editing softwareShotmedia/Shutterstock

If you want more advanced video editing capabilities, there are several accessible video editing solutions worth trying out:

  • Lightworks: This free, powerful video editing software is used by everyone from big studio productions to YouTubers.
  • iMovie: A free software available for macOS and iOS. This lets you use Storyboards, rearrange or delete clips, add transitions and music, and use filters.
  • OpenShot: This open-source video editing software lets you trim video, add animation and video effects, and add unlimited tracks—plus, it’s free. 
  • Blender: Aside from being used for 3D animation, Blender also comes with a built-in video sequence editor that lets you adjust layers, add images and effects, and mix audio.
  • Shotcut: This free cross-platform video editor offers 1080p and 4K resolution support. You can use ShotCut to edit without importing videos.