Have your favorite Twitch gamers inspired you to start a channel of your own? Playing popular games online is a great way to make friends and interact with people who have similar interests, but the tricky part is setting it up for the first time. 

Unfortunately, streaming on Twitch can require a little bit of effort, and you’ll need to make sure you have all the right software and equipment before you begin. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to stream on a PS4, a Windows PC, Xbox One, and how to stream on Nintendo Switch.

Creating a Twitch account

Before you begin streaming your gameplay, you’re going to have to create a Twitch account. Navigate to Twitch’s official website, click the purple Sign Up link in the upper-right corner, and enter your desired login credentials before clicking the purple Sign Up button at the bottom. Afterward, click your username in the top-right corner.

Before you start streaming, head over to the Twitch community guidelines page to read up on rule violations. These include promoting racist, homophobic, and ageist views, as well as making disparaging remarks about military veterans and those with disabilities. Nudity on stream is also forbidden, and you are expected to do your best to prevent your viewers from engaging in hateful speech and harassment, as well.


Streaming from Windows or MacOS

Streaming games from your PC or Mac is trickier than streaming from an Xbox One or PS4, as most systems don’t come with any sort of built-in software to get you started. There are subscription-based products like XSplit if you want control over every aspect of your broadcast, but if you’re just learning the basics of streaming, we recommend downloading Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). The software is completely free, usable with both Windows and MacOS, and endorsed by Twitch. If you’re just wanting to get started streaming with the least amount of setup, then the Twitch Studio app is another great choice. However, this application is still in beta and is only available on Windows.

For the purpose of this guide, we’ll be focusing on how to stream to Twitch from Windows and MacOS using OBS, as it offers an easy way to stream without a bunch of extra fluff.

Step 1: Download OBS

Downloading OBS couldn’t be simpler. To begin, click on your username in the main Twitch interface and hit the Creator Dashboard link. An update to Twitch changed how things work, so you’ll find yourself staring at a page that looks like this:

Go ahead and locate the three bars in the top-left corner of the screen. Click this drop-down menu to show a list of other options you can choose from. You’ll want to click on the Streaming Tools option. This will take you to a page with several download links to various streaming applications like OBS. Find OBS in the list and click download, or head to the official website here. Once on the OBS website, choose the version of OBS that you want to download. You can choose from Windows, Mac, and Linux.

How to download OBS

Step 2: Setting up to stream

There are all kinds of guides out there about how to get the most out of OBS, however, there are only a few things you’ll need to worry about if you’re just getting started. The only options you really need to focus on are your video bit rate, audio bit rate, and your encoder.

Click on the Output tab after clicking on Settings in OBS, and ensure that your video bit rate is set to about 2,500. This should allow you to stream content at 720p, but you can increase this number if you want to broadcast at a higher resolution. If you want to stream at 720p at 60FPS, then it’s probably worth it to go ahead and bump your bit rate up to at least 3,500. Audio bit rate should be set at 128 regardless of your resolution, though you can also lower this if your internet speeds are less than ideal. If you’re running a Nvidia graphics card from the past couple of years, you can make use of the built-in NVENC encoder. Otherwise, you’ll want to stick with OBS’ default software x264 encoder. Make sure you hit Apply to confirm the changes.

How to set stream settings in OBS

Step 3: Enter your stream key

Return to Twitch’s website and go back to the creator dashboard. Click on Preferences and then select the Channel option from the drop-down menu. This will take you to a page with your Primary Stream Key, as well as other options. Find the stream key area, and then press the copy button next to it. If your stream key gets shared somewhere it shouldn’t, you can always reset it here, too. Go ahead and enter your stream key into OBS by clicking Settings in the bottom right, followed by Stream, and you’ll see where to enter the key. Be sure to click Apply to make the changes.

How to find Stream Key on Twitch

Step 4: Plug in your microphone and set up your game

Now it’s time to set up the audio devices for your stream. Take a look at the Audio Mixer area in OBS. It should already have at least the volume bar set up for your desktop. If it doesn’t, you can add it manually following the same instructions you’re going to use to add your microphone. In OBS, locate the Settings button in the bottom-right area of the application.

Clicking this will open up your settings window. Go ahead and navigate down to the Audio tab. Here you can add or remove audio devices as needed. Make sure that Desktop Audio is set to the correct piece of hardware and then locate the Mic/Aux audio options. You can set your microphone here. When you’ve selected your mic and desktop audio, return to the main OBS window and you should see your audio coming through in the mixer on the bottom.

How to add audio devices to OBS

Originally, OBS didn’t offer native support for Mac desktop audio. This issue has been resolved with updates, though.

Next, open the game you want to stream and take a look at the Sources menu towards the bottom of OBS. Find the + button at the bottom of the Sources area and press it. It should pull up a list of items. The easiest way to capture gameplay is to use the Display Capture option. This allows you to capture an entire desktop screen. However, it also means that any sensitive information on that screen could be shared, so be careful when using this option. If you want to just capture the game, you can select the Game Capture option. It should be noted, though, that some games — especially those running on Vulkan — won’t work correctly with OBS’ built-in game capture system.

How to add a source to OBS

Step 5: Stream!

That’s all there is to it! Hit the Start Streaming button in the main OBS screen and you’ll instantly begin broadcasting from your Twitch account. When you’re done, just hit Stop Streaming.

Streaming from a PlayStation 4

PlayStation 4 Pro review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The process for streaming to Twitch from a PS4 console is simple. You don’t have to use any outside software, and you can even use a PlayStation camera as a microphone and “facecam” for your broadcasts!

If you have a PlayStation Camera and want to use it, consider plugging it in. Just ensure your camera’s microphone isn’t muted from the quick-menu on your console, otherwise, you won’t be able to use it with your stream.

Step 1: Play a game

Unlike with Windows and MacOS, you should open whatever game you plan on streaming before changing any broadcast settings. Once you’ve launched the game, press the Share button next to the touchpad on your PS4 controller to open up your broadcast settings.

Step 2: Change settings and start streaming!

From here, select broadcast gameplay and you’ll be given an option to stream via three different streaming services. Select Twitch, and the service will provide you with a streaming key. Then, go to twitch.tv/activate and enter the key. Your PS4 will be ready to start streaming in a few moments, but let’s change a few more settings first.

From the broadcast gameplay menu, you can change the title of your stream, the quality, and whether you want to use your camera and/or microphone. Once you’re satisfied with your settings, hit start broadcasting and show your skills to the world!

Streaming from an Xbox One

Xbox One S
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Streaming from an Xbox One

Streaming with Twitch on an Xbox One is just about as easy as it is on a PS4. There are a few technical issues that require you to have one additional piece of equipment.

If you want to have a “facecam,” legacy Xbox One owners can use the Xbox Kinect. (Technically, the Xbox One supports all USB webcams, but only the Kinect is compatible with the Xbox One’s Twitch app). If you use Xbox Kinect to do this, make sure to pair it with a headset to record your voice. The Kinect’s microphone tends to cut out intermittently when streaming via Twitch. This can be easily remedied by having a headset plugged in. Then the stream will use that mic instead of the one on the Kinect. Unfortunately, the camera and its associated adapter have are no longer made. So if you do not have a Kinect, you’ll have to stick to voice only.

Step 1: Play a game

Just like you would with your PS4, load up a game on your Xbox One prior to starting your stream. Twitch will immediately detect the game when it starts the stream, which will make it more discoverable for potential audience members. 

After this, install and open the Twitch app and sign in with your credentials. Once you finish this step, you’ll receive a unique stream key to gain access. Before you can get in, you have to activate this key at twitch.tv/activate on either your mobile device or computer.

Step 2: Change settings and start streaming!

You can easily edit your stream’s title and quality level before you go live if you’re using an Xbox One. It’s also possible to move your Kinect’s camera display to one of the corners of the screen. Although you won’t see this much on a regular TV, your viewers will still be able to see it. 

Finally, select Start Broadcast to start streaming your gameplay to your viewers. There will be a ticker at the bottom of your screen that displays how many viewers are watching. Once you start using the Xbox One’s Snap feature, you can access Twitch at any time by keeping it on the side of your screen. This feature also lets you watch your fans interact in real-time.

Remember that the majority of games will not allow you to mute yourself while in the game without muting everything. A simple thing you can do to avoid this is to assemble an Xbox Live party of one (just you as the sole member). Doing so will stop players from hearing what you say. Party chats stream in real-time, so it’s crucial to inform players if you want them to be part of a stream.

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