057. An Intro to Creative Streaming on Twitch

Going along with my Sunday Twitch Story days, I'll occasionally mix in some advice for those who are interested in starting (or growing) a stream on Twitch in the Creative Community!

First, what is the Creative Community?

I've discussed this in my other Sunday posts, but I'll do a quick recap here (if you want to read them, search for "Twitch" in the little search box on this page).

Twitch Creative is a flourishing community of artists who have found a unique platform for sharing their creative process on the popular streaming website known as Twitch.tv
Twitch (which used to be Justin.tv) is primarily a website on which people broadcast themselves playing video games. Anyone can watch, and interact in a chat box with the streamer and other viewers. Streams are categorized by game, so you can quickly find what you're looking for.

Between late 2014 and early 2015, some broadcasters started streaming themselves making video game themed artwork (like painting characters or landscapes from a game). This attracted hundreds and then thousands of viewers, and more and more creative people started streaming artwork. Twitch realized this was a growing trend and wanted to support this community. In the fall of 2015, Twitch officially launched the Creative community, with the support of Adobe and in conjunction with Bob Ross's 73rd birthday in which his past episodes were aired 24/7 for an entire week.

Now, you can find artists (myself included) streaming everything from painting and drawing to sculpture and music! Viewers are able to interact directly with the artist through the chat box, to ask questions or just chit chat.

The Basics:

  • Channel/Stream: an individual page on Twitch that you can watch (either video games or Creative). At any given time there are thousands of people live-broadcasting through their individual channels.
  • Broadcaster/Streamer: The person who controls the channel. The artist. The gamer. The one you are watching.
  • Chat/Viewers: Each channel has a built-in chat system. If you have a username (signing up is free) on Twitch, you can chat in the stream. This is how a viewer interacts with the streamer.
  • Follows: Much like twitter and instagram, users can "follow" a stream by clicking a special button on the channel, and at any time open their "Following" page to view all the live broadcasters that they follow.
  • Host: Any user can "host" one channel at a time. When you host a channel, anyone that follows you will see the hosted channel on their Following page (under "live hosts).
  • Creative is organized by "Communities." A live stream can join one community, usually relevant to what they are streaming. If they are painting, most likely they will join the Painting community. If they switch to drawing, they'll change their community to Drawing. 
  • Partners/Subscribers: Some streamers are "Partnered" with Twitch - meaning Twitch provides them with a special "Subscribe" button which viewers can click and pay $4.99-5.99 per month in order to support the channel. Subscribers get special access to emotes, ad-free viewing, and more by supporting a channel. Note: the streamer receives 50% of this as income. Twitch keeps the rest.

 

So, you're interested in trying it out. Now what??

First thing you'll want to do is go watch other Creative broadcasters. Observe how they set up their stream, how they interact with viewers, and get a feel for the system.
You'll quickly learn that a successful stream is not based solely on the artwork that is created, or even just the streamer themselves. It's also the community.
The Creative community is now vast, with upwards of a thousand streamers (not all at once, but scattered across timezones), and even more viewers. Many of the viewership watch multiple artists every day. If you hop into a few different Creative streams, you're bound to run into the same people in chat. 

This is similar to the gaming streams, however it's more noticeable in the Creative community because it's smaller. Many of the streamers started out as viewers, and built up relationships with existing streamers before they started their own channel. 
This is a great way to build relationships and get your name out there before you start your stream.

Ok, so you've hung out and built relationships with lots of streamers and viewers, and you're ready to start your own stream. Where to begin??

Next, you will need to learn the software and technology involved in streaming.
Most streamers use software called OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) or XSplit. Each offers their own benefits and features, so it's up to you to decide which one you'll use based on what you need.
There are TONS of tutorials on Youtube with detailed explanations about how to use these programs.
I learned by watching these tutorials while I slowly set up my OBS (I chose OBS because it's free and powerful).

Here are some useful tutorials:
How To Use OBS To Stream To Twitch - Full Tutorial
How to set up OBS Studio
How To: Setup Donation/Follow/Subscribe Alerts in OBS

Once you get the basic software set up, you'll want to make (or hire someone to make you) some kind of overlay or graphics for your stream. It's not required, but it really helps give your stream a more professional appearance. It is also useful for displaying pertinent information (like current projects, stream goals, currently playing music, etc).

You can also use third-party add-ons like Streamlabs and Muxy to accept tips (people can send you money through PayPal or other forms). When someone sends you money, you can use these add-ons to have a little graphic/sound pop up on your stream to celebrate their gift!  

Lastly, you will probably want to setup a bot to help with monitoring your chat. This is a third-party program that you link your channel to and in doing so, it can help automatically police your chat based on your preferences. It can also help viewers get information in chat instantly like a link to your website and shop. Do some research to find which bot suits you. Most are free. Some are super simple and others are robust with tons of features. I use Ankhbot and love it. I started out with Nightbot because it was really easy to use as a beginner.

Now you're ready to broadcast!

Hitting the "start broadcast" button can be scary - I still get nervous once in a while. Will anyone show up? Will they like what I do? What if I mess up?

Most of your viewers will be people who are already familiar with you, who you've built relationships with. The more you stream, you'll realize that your regulars (those who continually watch you day-to-day), will watch regardless of what you're doing. Most of them are there for you and the micro community of your channel. Each streamer attracts different types of people. Some channels are great for lurking (watching but not chatting). Others are high-energy where the chat moves fast! Some are a nice combination of the two. 
Remember, it's YOUR domain. You can set the atmosphere and tone of your stream. You'll attract like-minded people. 

Tips for Success

  • Don't pretend to be something your not. Not only will this be exhausting to keep up with in the long run, you'll most likely end up miserable because you aren't going to attract the right kind of audience. The world is big enough for you to be YOU!
  • Hosting: It's really beneficial to your channel's growth if you host other streamers. Doing this as often as possible is better - so use Auto Host (find this in your settings under 'Channel & Videos'). Hosting is just a kind way to share your viewership. As I mentioned, there is a lot of cross-over within the Creative community. Hosting is mutually beneficial to all parties! Most people who you host will host you back.
  • Raiding: By the time you end your stream for the day, you'll have some viewers (maybe a lot!). Rather than just end and have everyone dissipate, use it as an opportunity to build support and awareness of your fellow streamers! Immediately after you end your stream, find another Live stream and host them. Send your viewers there with a "raid call" - a short phrase or sentence that unites your viewers - and make sure everyone pastes it in chat at the same time. This is like a barrage of activity and love - it notifies the streamer that you are there and bringing all your viewers to watch! It is a fun and sort of silly way to hype up your host.
  • Utilize social media! Twitter is the primary platform for Twitch users to share information, stay connected to each other, and spread awareness about the community. A common practice is to tweet out your channel link and a little preview image of what you'll be working on when you go Live. After the stream, tweeting out what you worked on along with other things like "we raided/hosted so-and-so" or "thanks for the support!" or whatever is relevant!
  • Consistency is the key to growth. If possible, make a streaming schedule that you stick to. When viewers can rely on your stream to be live, they are more likely to become regulars. I notice drastic differences in my viewer numbers and follows when I have a schedule vs. when I don't stick to a schedule.
  • Don't self-advertise in other people's streams, unless the streamer directly asks for your information. Sure, people are supportive of each other, but showing up in a chat and blasting all your portfolio/social media links is considered very rude. The same goes for saying "hey, I'm about to start my stream." or something similar, which is considered rude across Twitch.
  • Fill your "info" section on your stream with relevant information and links to your portfolio, social media, and shop. Make it as easy as possible for your viewers to find your artwork & shop online!
  • Use free statistic services like Loots.com to track your channel's stats. This is helpful in discovering what times of day your stream has the most viewers, which days of the week are most popular, and much more! It may help you determine your schedule and be helpful during your growth.
  • Don't stress about the numbers. It will take time for your channel to grow. When I first started, there were months of under 10 viewers. Success on Twitch is not instant (unless you come to Twitch with an established following elsewhere - like over 100K followers on Youtube or Instagram). Just let your channel grow organically and stick with it, if you enjoy it!

Most importantly, make sure you maintain a balance in your life. While streaming for the last two years, I have suffered from occasional burn out and even times where I thought I should quit streaming. I learned the hard way that taking time off is necessary to re-energize. Streaming creative work can be mentally exhausting (and sometimes emotionally). I now stream every-other day, which works perfectly for me. I'm able to be productive in my days off so I don't get behind and stressed during my streams.
Yes, consistency is important, but your mental and physical health is more so. If you are unhealthy or unhappy, it will show on your stream. Life is too short to let your stream rule your life!

I hope this helps those of you who are interested in streaming in the Creative section on Twitch. It's a massively supportive and positive community, full of incredible artists who open their studio to the world every day. Being part of it is so rewarding, and it's the reason I'm able to pursue my career as an artist!

If anyone has any questions, feedback, or tips/tricks or stories, please share them in the comments below!

050. Twitch Story: Face Painting!

Anyone familiar with Twitch.tv and the chat system within each stream is aware of channel currency.
It's a point system that the channel offers (each one has it's own rules and name for the currency).
Since I started my stream with a "Matrix" theme, my currency has always been Spoons.

For every 15 minutes someone spends in my chat, they collect 1 spoon. 

Viewers can save up their spoons and use them for rewards. Anything from song requests (each song requires 8 spoons), to the ultimate reward: I'll get a butt tattoo (for 1 million spoons).

The most common reward people choose (besides song requests) is the Face Painting! I'm not sure why, but my viewers will save up 4,000 spoons in order to activate Face Paint on stream.

So far I've done it 5 times. Each time, the viewer who is using their spoons gets to choose the design.
I've done: Geometric Fox, William Wallace, Samurai, Sugar Skull, and Neytiri.

It's one of the silly things that streaming allows me to do!

043. Twitch Story: RIP Laptop

Having a sense of humor is the only way to survive in this world if you're accident prone.

Today I'm sharing a blooper that happened during one of my streams. Something that, at the time, was the absolute worst possible thing that could happen.

It was horrible. 
In every way.

I literally cringe when I watch this video.

Since then, I've learned my lesson. 

  1. Don't use a pint glass for paint water. It's unstable when you're brushes are in it.
  2. Don't keep open glasses/jars of water near laptop/computer, even for ONE MINUTE.
  3. Elevate laptop at least 1" above desk surface.
  4. If you spill water directly on your laptop (on keyboard) IMMEDIATELY TURN IT OFF AND PUT IT UPSIDEDOWN IN A TUB OF RICE.

At the time, my regular streaming PC was in the shop for repairs, so this laptop was the only thing that I could use to stream.
After this accident happened, I did not have a computer, and I was offline for 2 weeks.
This is devastating when your livelihood depends on the internet!

So, be smarter than me.

022. Twitch Story: My Angel Investor

Sometimes, life throws you a curveball. Sometimes, life kicks you in the teeth. Sometimes life can just be a complete asshole.

And sometimes, once in a great while, life hands you rose.

Today I want to talk about something that happened to me early on during my twitch career (5 months after I started to stream). I had quit my job at the end of May 2015, and was streaming and making art full time. I had been going through some health problems. My car had just been stolen. So many things were happening in my life. My stream was very much my safe haven, and painting was my therapy. All I wanted (and still want) is to inspire others to create. To do what they love and live out their dreams.

One day in June, while streaming the creation of a personal painting project, a gentleman who goes by Bobo1511, began watching my stream and hanging out in chat.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Bobo sends me $1,000.
Nope... can't be real. Shock and awe.
Then $1500.
Still in disbelief. How do I thank this amazing person? 
Then $1000. Complete breakdown. Trying to stay professional and focused just became impossible!

I had never experienced such spontaneous generosity from a stranger before. I was completely stunned by his random act of kindness. 

I even tried to send him something in return, and he insisted on paying it forward to send a painting to his friend who loved my work.

I'm not telling this story to just glorify anyone. I'm telling this story, because it shows there are amazingly kind and generous people in the world who expect nothing in return. 

I also want to make a point.
If you walk through life with a cynical outlook, cynicism will show itself. 
I'm not saying "if you think happy thoughts, only good things will happen to you."
But if you send out those positive vibes, they WILL come back to you in some way. If you live with a grateful heart, a desire to spread love, and a joy in inspiring others, your life will not only be richer, but you never know what positive energy will come back to you.

Surround yourself with like-minded people. Grow your network of love. Remain humble, and share what has been shared with you.

015. Weekly Twitch Story: More Then Just a Stream

In honor of last night’s celebration stream for my 2 year anniversary of streaming on Twitch, I decided I wanted to share a little about what it means to me. I try to express it verbally during my streams, but it’s difficult! I get really emotional.

I’ve touched on a lot of this during the last Twitch Story post, but I’ll try to sum it up here.

Streaming on Twitch has forced me outside of my comfort zone. As someone with severe social anxiety, I never imagined myself doing something like this! However there’s a huge difference between being in the same room with 100 people, and streaming with 100 viewers. During stream, the wall of technology between us provides a buffer, almost like a safety blanket. I’m in complete control, I can step away if needed, and that is hugely important for remaining calm.

Flashback to 2014. The thought of selling my artwork in a gallery or networking in person in order to grow my art business was nearly paralyzing. It was always my far off dream to make a living as an artist. Because of my anxiety, I was barely able to handle my photography business (which heavily relied on social interaction), but it was giving me some financial freedom, which gave me hope of someday having artistic freedom. Again… being a full time artist was a distant daydream.

When I started streaming on Twitch in January 2015, I started out in gaming, because that’s all there was. It was just a fun way to connect with other gamers. Once the Creative community was established, I never looked back. I loved the constantly inspiring, supportive, and diverse community that was growing. Creating artwork in front of people was very nerve-wracking at first. I was terrified of messing up. It took a very long time to realize that messing up is just a natural part of the learning process, and viewers enjoy seeing the truth in process. Every artist goes through it!

A specific example: I started out as an abstract painter, using a palette knife to create active works of color. When I started streaming my artwork, I wanted to paint fanart of video game characters and my favorite scenes from movies or games. I had never tried this before, so before each stream I would try to visualize how the painting should look, and I’d almost puke with nerves when beginning the painting.

After a few months of this, I began becoming more comfortable with my technique, and I learned to trust my vision. I realized, time and again, my mind’s eye was more powerful than I thought, and translating what was in my mind to the canvas was just a matter of practicing technique. Painting on a daily basis led to rapid growth, which meant I could share my vision more easily. I felt like I was fitting 10 years of study into a year (now 2 years).

As my skill progressed I began selling more artwork, and that in addition to the Twitch and Patreon support meant I gained the financial freedom to quit my day job and pursue art full-time.

WOW!

In retrospect I can see my progression as a person and an artist over the years. I owe so much of my growth to the self discovery that happened while I was pushing myself past outside of my comfort zone. Whether it was simply trying a new painting technique or singing in front of strangers for the first time, when you face your fears, you come out stronger!

Something magical happens when you open yourself up to others in a genuine way. Artwork is so personal, and the creative process sometimes feels sacred. To share that energy with others who feel the same way is such a wonderful experience.

This is a clip from yesterday’s celebration stream, where I attempted to convey some of these feelings:

Again, words are hard.

By sharing this story, it is my hope that my viewers or anyone reading this finds inspiration in my journey, and you learn to believe in yourself. It IS possible to live your dream!

008. Weekly Twitch Story: From 0 to 12.5K+ Followers

The views expressed here are entirely my own and do not reflect any views or beliefs of Twitch, Twitch staff, or any Twitch affiliates.

Front page of Twitch, October, 2015.

Front page of Twitch, October, 2015.

Good morning! I decided that Sundays will be my Twitch Story days. Something interesting, funny, weird, maybe a cool event or success or failure, anything that I think might be of interest relating to my Twitch journey.
(In case anyone missed this post, Twitch is a gaming website where people can live-stream themselves gaming, or creative content. People can log on and chat with the streamer, live!)

Today I thought I'd start off by discussing how I went from a brand new baby streamer to where I am today. Who would have thought a gaming site would have led to me living my dream as an artist? I absolutely love the community that my stream has become. My viewers are my real friends, and they probably know me better than most people in my every day life. Over the last two years I've gone from a complete noob, to a thriving and fun community of over 12,500 followers (though I'm sure many of my friends will say I'm still a tech noob...thanks guys...). There are so many factors that contribute, but if I had to sum it up, I think I owe my success to the following:

1. Daily interaction in dozens of streams for 3 months before I ever started streaming. Not only observing what makes a stream enjoyable and fun, but building relationships with lots of streamers/viewers. Being genuinely interested in the community and what is being created or played.  Being a viewer first allows you to understand what makes a stream successful. Later on, your friends will host and raid you, and you repay them with the same support. It's such a supportive community which is one of the reason I love Twitch Creative so much!

2. Being myself. It's obvious when a streamer is pretending to be someone they're not. Trying to be overly nice or funny or cool is a huge turnoff. It might get someone short-term success, but it won't last. Viewers can see through the bullshit. The Creative community is so incredibly diverse. Being yourself, showing your true personality and creating what you love will draw genuine and like-minded people, and you will get more enjoyment out of it in the long run. 

3. Chat interaction and giving back. One of my favorite things about streaming is the interaction. I do my best to respond to every single line of chat (which can be difficult when trying to stay focused on a painting). I feel it's really important to make sure everyone feels welcome. I also love doing giveaways and rewarding loyalty. Every streamer has a different approach, but for over a year I've been doing subscriber-activated giveaways: every 10 subs or resubs I do a quick giveaway in chat (subs have higher chance of winning but subscription isn't required). For the cost of a stamp, I can send the winner a custom watercolor postcard  (which I love making) and show my appreciation in some small way. When I do milestone streams (like 1 year anniversary or 10,000 followers), I do a couple larger giveaways. If I could afford it, I would do a lot more giveaways because I love it!

4. Stream because I love it, not for the money. Now, obviously there are streamers who make a lot of money streaming. Some gaming streamers make over $100,000 a year. It's a legitimate business. Things are a little different for us Creative streamers, though it certainly is possible to make enough to pay the bills, as I am doing (but that includes art sales and commissions). When I first started streaming, the Creative section wasn't even an official thing. There was no chance of getting Partnered on Twitch as a Creative streamer- you had to be a big gaming streamer to do that. So from the very beginning I was of the mindset that this was just for fun, and honestly I'm so thankful for that. I feel like I have a very healthy relationship with and appreciation for my stream. I was never in it for the money because I had a day job for the first 6 months, which meant no pressure, and that led to more joy, and deeper relationships with my viewers. 

5. Consistency in "schedule." By this I mean creating a stream schedule and sticking to it. Not canceling or changing a lot of streams (which is difficult and you make sacrifices). For a long time I was streaming 4-5 days a week, for 8ish hours per day. I rarely changed or canceled streams (only sometimes for outside events, or anxiety attacks). Keeping a consistent schedule meant viewers could rely on my stream/chat as a place to spend time and enjoy themselves. I experienced a drastic shift in my stream when I was getting divorced and planning a trip to Europe in January 2016. I was actually traveling in Scotland when I reached 10,000 followers, just barely over a year into streaming! It was a strange time for my stream, because I was going through so much personal transition. It was bound to effect my community. People were understanding and supportive, but they have their own lives and priorities. I took 2 months off to travel and heal. During that time I lost more than half my subscribers and lots of followers, and when I eventually returned to streaming, my viewership was around 1/2 of what it was before. But I was happy. I was healing. I was feeling like myself. As I continued to stream full time again in March 2016, my subscribers returned (and increased), my viewership increased and surpassed my previous levels, and I was growing as an artist. I hadn't changed the way I stream. I was just back to a consistent schedule.

Now I'll go into details about my early days of streaming.

After watching several Twitch streams for a few months, I started to wonder what it would be like. So in January 2015, I gave it a try. I watched tutorials on YouTube and googled how to use the free streaming software, OBS, used Photoshop to make some simple overlays for my stream. For my first stream, I played Call of Duty - Advanced Warfare campaign. First time ever playing any of the CoD series (having been a Halo fanatic). During my first stream I only had a couple viewers, ranging from 0-5 throughout the entire thing. A few of them trolled me, but luckily I was already familiar with modding so I got rid of them quickly and focused on playing. I was lucky enough to meet a really nice viewer who returned to watch almost every day, and helped me through the game when I needed help, as well as playing together when I switched to Multiplayer (and 2 years later, he still stops by my stream which is so cool! Hamtime1 you are the best!). Over the next few weeks I continued to stream when I got home from work, for at least a few hours a night. I was hooked. After a few weeks, I finally got a capture card, and was able to stream Halo (my favorite game) through my xbox1. I had so much fun talking to viewers while playing, and connecting with other streamers who were excellent players that I looked up to. However, as many women gamers know, it's only a matter of time before you are confronted with misogynistic comments, or disgusting sexist remarks. Why? Because it's the internet. There's no getting around it. Boys feel it is their right to make horrible comments towards women. 

There were enough games, enough nights where a couple assholes completely ruined it for me. I was really frustrated because I knew it would never stop. That is just the nature of being a woman in a gaming community saturated with boys barely out of puberty. Despite the many wonderful people I had met, I was fed up. Luckily, it was around this time that I was becoming aware of a couple Streamers who were not just gaming on stream, but painting. Yes, PAINTING!

I decided to try out a painting stream myself. I was terrified. This meant putting my art on display, which is NOT something I was used to. I was only ever painting as a hobby in my free time (rarely), and occasionally sold something to a friend. So having something so intimate on public display was scary. What if I messed up? What if people were bored? 

Screen capture - the first time I was raided by Bob Ross with over 2,000 viewers. Note my facial expression...

Screen capture - the first time I was raided by Bob Ross with over 2,000 viewers. Note my facial expression...

Despite these fears, within the first few painting streams I was stunned by the connections I was making with viewers and I absolutely loved it. Sharing the creative process was something new (even in college I worked on my own and only showed the final results to a class or teacher). Viewers were engaged, asking questions, saying they were inspired to draw or paint. I was terrified of failure, but at the same time confronted with an incredible opportunity. I loved the sense of community we were developing together, and sharing the messy creative process was becoming less scary. My gaming streams dwindled, and my viewership shifted (I lost a lot at first then gained more later). After a couple months, my viewership hovered around 15-30 live viewers (which at first scared me so much that I would sometimes turn my camera off). Then some big Streamers started to host and raid me, and I would sometimes have thousands of viewers at once. As I got used to it I realized there's nothing to fear. "Get rid of the trolls as you need to and just have fun" I told myself. 

Other Creative streamers were creating art as well and we were all connected on such an intimate level. As the community grew, Twitch saw the value in Creative streaming and supported us by partnering a select few Creative streamers, starting a Bob Ross rerun marathon (which brought in thousands of new viewers who had never heard of Creative before), and officially launching the Creative section on Twitch. I had received my partnership a month before the launch which was amazing timing. My stream grew rapidly around this time. I was streaming constantly. It was my safe, happy place! 

My stream success has ebbed and flowed over time. Things that happen in our personal lives effect our ability to stream and the quality of the stream. There's not a recipe for success. However, my stream is never more successful than when I am happy. Keeping a balance in life is key to maintaining long-term happiness and success, no matter what your job is! It took me a long time to be OK with taking days off, or even weeks, to travel or take care of myself. When I feel obligated to stream, and I "force" it, my viewers can always tell. It's no good. Even today I see my viewer, follower, and subscriber counts drop when I take time off. Yet I know that it is the only way I can remain a balanced and happy version of myself, which in the end, is what matters. I have to maintain faith that the community will be there when I return. Don't be afraid to live your life!
Featured on Twitch Weekly show, October 2016.

Featured on Twitch Weekly show, October 2016.

I would not be where I am today, living my dream of being a full-time artist, traveling the world, if it wasn't for Twitch Creative. Watching streams, and then eventually starting my own, has led to so much personal growth, artistic growth, and self awareness. Some of my best friends are people I met through Twitch. I know there are a lot of people who share a similar gratitude for this incredible community. 

Every streamer does it for their own reasons, and has a different journey. We all share similar experiences along the way, so if anyone wants to chat about it, let me know!

I would just like to reiterate how important it is to make sure you are happy and healthy. Your stream will thank you.

If anyone has any specific questions, please leave a comment or send me a message!