More young people want to be a YouTuber than ever before, but it’s not as easy as your faves make it look. It takes a lot of technical knowhow, video editing tools, and, more than anything else, experience to create top quality YouTube videos in 2021.

With the help of Justin Brown from Primal Video, a leading authority on all things YouTube and video editing, I’ll walk you through the ways top YouTubers create different types of content, plus the tools and edits you can use to get started, even if you don’t have any prior experience or money. Let’s get started!

  1. Rough cut
  2. Audio editing
  3. Effects & filters
  4. Text & subtitles
  5. Creating intro clips

1. Rough Cut

The main portion of YouTube edit doesn’t involve just one tool, but rather several basic editing techniques that lead to a rough cut. For some YouTubers with simpler content, this comprises most of their editing process: cutting, trimming, arranging, cropping, and rendering clips & audio – everything that goes into creating a basic draft of a full video project.

A graphic detailing the features of Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, and VN Video Editor.

Top YouTubers and their editors overwhelmingly use legacy programs like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro, but for simpler content, more casual creators can often get by perfectly well with a more accessible, free software like iMovie. Justin Brown recommends the free software VN Video Editor for creators looking to compile their video content with little prior experience, and Filmora for creators who are willing to pay a bit of money, but don’t need the full editing suites of Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro.

2. Audio Editing

While most YouTubers don’t need to complete complex audio mastering, many standard video projects require precise volume adjustment and fade effects, sound effects, multiple audio layer functionality, and even white noise reduction and EQ adjustments.

A graphic summarizing the features in Audacity.

A free, built-in program like iMovie is a good place to start editing your videos’ audio, and for more complex edits, Mac users have a solid beginner-friendly option in GarageBand. As expected, professional programs like Premiere and Final Cut will provide all the tools that any YouTuber will need, but there are also some free options for high-level editing tools. Brown recommends DaVinci Resolve for editors prepared for a steep learning curve, and for creators willing to edit their audio in a separate program, Audacity provides extensive, professional tools, and is surprisingly easy to pick up for beginners.

3. Effects & Filters

Effects and filters are often most important in videos on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat, but they can add a lot to a great YouTube edit as well. Even if you’re not making a fancam or specific TikTok trend, a glitter overlay, greenscreen-style background edit, or 80’s home video filter can instantly add a stylish aesthetic to any video clip.

A graphic comparing Adobe After Effects to CapCut.

Since effects and filters are so new and trendy, most legacy editing softwares don’t provide the options that today’s YouTubers need, unless they want to create these effects from scratch in high-level programs like After Effects or Da Vinci Resolve. Brown explains:

Effect editing is a whole new world for video – they’re extremely popular from places like TikTok and Instagram, but most usual editors just aren’t built with these edits in mind. CapCut is the leader right now for built-in effects, templates, and instant edits. And it’s owned by ByteDance, the same company that owns TikTok. It’s not the best place to make full video edits, but it makes it easy to create effects that you used to need After Effects or Apple Motion for.

4. Text & Subtitles

Custom text layers and subtitles help creators fit a lot more information into their videos, while raising production quality and making video content more flexible and accessible. Unfortunately, these are often weak spots for many leading video editing softwares, especially for beginners. iMovie, for instance, has few text customization options, only providing a few templates for text. And many leading editors with auto-subtitling tools require paid plans for these tools to be unlocked.

Brown lays out the best options for casual creators:

Kapwing leads the way for subtitles and text. The auto-subtitling feature makes it easy to customize and correct generated captions quickly. Text layers have great customization options, as well. For short video, CapCut also provides transcription, like the tools in TikTok and Instagram, but it can be tough to make edits and corrections after transcribing.

5. Creating Intro Clips

Creating custom intro clips with a distinctive brand and smooth motion graphics is a task that has always been difficult for newer creators to accomplish. But in 2021, you don’t need to be an expert in After Effects or Apple Motion, and you don’t need to pay an animator or video editor to create an intro for you.

(But in all honesty, your favorite popular YouTubers probably brought in some outside help for their own, even if they make some of their edits themselves.)

Brown recommends PlaceIt for beginners, and for good reason. It comes from the same company as VideoHive, a popular paid source of motion graphics and video assets, and it includes nearly 900 distinct, polished templates for YouTube intros specifically. The main drawback is that PlaceIt burns in a watermark, so other free options like Canva or Kapwing may be preferable for some creators.

I hope this article helps you find the best editing programs to grow your YouTube content! If you're interested in more tips and tutorials on creating great videos in 2021, check out the Primal Video YouTube channel or read through some related articles on YouTube editing:

The Price of Every Video Editing Software, Explained
How to Make a Subscribe GIF for YouTube
Y2Mate Shut Down: Here's the Best Alternative
How to Convert a YouTube Video to an MP3