What is a YouTube intro?
YouTube video intros are short, snappy, often templatized sequences that precede the main video content across most (if not all) of a given YouTube channel’s library. A competent and compelling intro video can help a YouTube channel create a unique identity, find a better footing on the platform, and potentially achieve audience growth–because an intro video is one of the main opportunities to project a channel’s brand.
How to make a YouTube video intro
There’s no one right way to make an effective YouTube video opening for your channel, but you essentially have two options for creating your own: making your own from scratch or modifying a template.
- DIY. Putting together an intro from nothing may sound daunting, but remember that your intro should be super short. If you have some compelling footage of your own or access to some awesome B-roll, you can drag it into the timeline of a new Descript project along with an appropriate music track, superimpose a title on it all, cut it down to a few seconds, and voilà—you have a YouTube intro.
- Template. If you don’t have any footage of your own or feel out of your depth with creating a DIY YouTube intro, you can also customize a premade template from a service like Canva or Biteable. These services offer animations and B-roll specifically designed to be turned into a YouTube intro. You can personalize these templates with images, by changing the fonts and colors, and adding logos or your own copy.
Regardless of which method you choose, there are some goals you’ll want to consider as you create your intro:
- Use distinct imagery. Your intro should set your channel apart and make it clear what you’re offering. So even if you take inspiration from a similar channel or brand, your sequence should be different enough that viewers associate it with you and only you. Try thinking about what makes your presentation or style uniquely yours and extrapolating that to guide your design choices. You can take inspiration from other channels but play around with images, fonts, and graphics until you find something that feels right to you.
- Write simple, effective copy. Don’t overload your intro with a long title or explanation. Remember, the point is to communicate what you and your channel are all about quickly and clearly. If your intro is too text-heavy, your audience might miss your other branding cues or mentally clock out.
- Include fitting music. When you add music (or whatever other sonic enhancements that scream “you”) to your intro, it’s a good idea to think thoroughly about the tone it projects. For example, if your channel is about meditation, you probably don’t want to use thrash metal in your intro—unless your channel is about the meditative qualities of Slayer.
- Put it in motion. There are no hard-and-fast rules, but this is video, so including some moving element in your intro, whether it’s an animation or quick B-roll, will make it much more engaging than a static image. Plus, it projects an air of professionalism, letting the viewer know that the content to come will be just as smoothly-edited as the intro.
- Keep it short. The name of the game here is concision, so your intro should be as short as you can make it—definitely no longer than ten seconds, but preferably closer to five (or less!).
Once you’ve created your intro, YouTube gives you the option of applying it to all of your videos in the branding section of your channel. Keep in mind, however, that YouTube’s intro feature limits intros to three seconds and doesn’t allow for multiple intros. If you have a few different intros for different verticals of content on your channel, you will have to stitch the intros into your videos individually.
4 tips for a better intro YouTube video
Cory Bruce is a professional video editor with over 15 years of experience, working on YouTube content for brands like Google, MTV, and Comedy Central. He shared some of the wisdom he’s gleaned from his experience about what makes for a worthwhile intro on YouTube.
- Invest in a logo. Bruce recommends including “a cool, easily understood logo, even if it’s low-res and very small, [because] branding is crucial.” The logo could exist as the centerpiece of your intro or simply be a bug that you stick in the corner of your videos. What’s important is that you have a visual signature, not that it’s intricate or complex.
- Tease your best content first. “The cold open really is king on YouTube,” Bruce says. “You need the cold open.” Even if you have one of the best YouTube intros around, you should still consider teasing your most compelling footage right at the top and then cutting to your intro. That way, even if new viewers are unfamiliar with your brand, they’ll be drawn in by the content itself.
- Don’t overdo it. People respond more to authenticity than they do to bells and whistles. Bruce thinks “one of the reasons the intro works [is] because it doesn’t feel slick”—or worse, like an ad. An overproduced or overly corporate-seeming presentation might make people lose interest in your content very quickly. Spend your time honing the clearest version of your brand rather than coming up with the fanciest way to show it off.
- When you find a winning formula, stick with it. “The people that I think of on YouTube that are iconic have a very consistent voice,” Bruce says. It’s OK (and even encouraged) to play around with your branding early on, but once you hit your stride, you should let your branding go to work for you. To gain traction and build an audience, people need to have a firm sense of what your channel is and who you are as a YouTuber.
There’s no magic formula to achieve virality or trend across social media, but starting with some time-tested strategies like a unique YouTube intro for your channel will put you on the right track to start your slow-and-steady rise. Make sure not to rush it: It’s tempting to think of solidifying a clear brand as an afterthought, but a clear and cohesive vision will make both your channel as a whole and your individual pieces of content stronger.