Friday, April 17, 2020

Creating Twitch Emotes: The Basics

When you've been streaming for a while and you have at least fifty followers, as well as a few other checkboxes ticked, you'll be able to sign up for the Twitch Affiliate Program. This is a contract you enter into with the Twitch platform which allows you to offer subscriptions for your viewers, along with some other fun features. When a user is subscribed, they have extra privileges on your channel, many of which you're able to set and customize, but my favorite of these is the ability use custom channel emotes.

When you're a Twitch Affiliate or Partner, you can upload a certain number of custom emotes to your channel, which can be used only by your Subscribers. This gives your viewers a way to show their pride for your community, and it also gives you the ability to spread your channel's branding. When someone is subscribed to your channel, they can use your emotes anywhere on Twitch, even in other streams. I've met people who subscribe to certain channels and don't even watch the shows- they just want access to the amazing emotes! So if you make your emotes compelling enough, it could help others really take notice of your shows. In this entry, I'm going to give you some basics tips to create the best channel emotes possible.


Like I mentioned in the previous entry Create Your Own Stream Graphics, I highly recommend you create your channel's emotes yourself- at least at first. You can find more details in that entry about why you'd want to do this before paying for someone to do it for you, but suffice it to say that it's always worth giving something a try before you assume you can't do it. You don't need Adobe Photoshop or any expensive software- there are plenty of free alternatives out there that can serve you just as well. And you don't need to be a trained designer either- you just need to apply yourself.

Make your emotes specific to your channel!
First, remember that making an emote isn't permanent. You can delete any emote and replace it with a new one at any time with no penalty, so there's really no pressure to make it perfect at first. Just execute your idea and put it out there- don't get bogged down by constantly second guessing yourself. Many streamers will end up wasting an extraordinary amount of time just noodling with their design at the eleventh hour because they're nervous that it isn't exactly right, which usually causes them to break down and simply commission someone else to do it for them. Try to limit your emote creation time so this doesn't happen. You don't want to build this task up in your head as something more difficult than it actually is.

As I mentioned, channel emotes are a great way to let your Subscribers show their love for the community. What better way to do this than to incorporate your channel's identity into your emotes? When thinking up emotes to create, try to make them unique to your channel without being such an inside joke that no one else would understand them. Maybe it's the face of a character from your favorite game, maybe it's a funny photo of you, maybe it's a phrase you say often on stream, or maybe it's just your channel logo. Whatever the emote, I recommend choosing ideas that signify what your channel is all about, rather than checking off all the standard boxes that other channels have for emotes. Your emote catalog will be more unique that way!


There are three sizes to keep in mind when designing your emotes, which are squares of 112, 56 and 28 pixels. The one you see in chat most often is the smallest of these, but when you're creating your image you should of course be working at the largest size. The reason for this is simple- if you create your emote at the size of 28 square pixels and then enlarge it to 56 and 112, those sizes will be blurry. Beginning with the biggest version and then saving smaller copies is always the way to go.

Unlike in Katamari, with emotes you want
to start big and get smaller.
What you'll notice pretty quickly about emotes is that the default size of 28x28 is small. Really small. I mean so small that whatever you design at first almost certainly won't be visible. You'll look at other Twitch emotes and wonder how they're so easy to recognize within such tiny screen real estate. This is a major challenge, but not one that you can't overcome. The first order of business is to ensure that your emote design is filling as much of the canvas as possible. It should be touching all four sides of the square bounding box somewhere, or as close as you can make it. Size is going to be your enemy, so make things as large as you can. Similarly, try cutting down on complexity- if there is too much detail at such a small size, things can start to look muddy.

Many emotes include text as well, which is even trickier to make visible in such a small format. There are many factors which dictate whether you can read what an emote has to say. In addition to the text size, things like color, font and positioning of words can also have a significant impact on legibility. Ensure that you're displaying words as simply as possible, and in very high contrast compared to whatever is behind them. Grey words on a black background are going to be much more difficult to read than white words on a black background, for example.


When your channel has its own emotes, it's a good way to bring your most dedicated fans together. There are even some features recently added to Twitch which can allow non-Subscribers to temporarily use your emotes in chat as well! You'll be able to show your brand's personality, while providing a fun feature for people to use whenever they want to, even when they aren't watching your shows. Don't feel pressured to join the Affiliate program just to access the channel emotes feature though- deciding whether to join should be a measured decision and only you will know if it's right for you. But if you do, I hope these tips will help you to create great emotes for your channel!

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