How to Use YouTube's Free Online Video Editor

Screenshot of the YouTube Video Editor
Screenshot of the YouTube Video Editor | Source

Wait...YouTube has a Free Video Editor?

Believe it or not, the YouTube video editor has been around since September 2011. When it was first released it was somewhat limited, but over the years it has grown to become a versatile, feature packed video editor. It works great on Macs, PCs and Chromebooks, but is best avoided if you are working on a mobile device like an iPad or Android phone.

Why Use the YouTube Video Editor?

The YouTube Editor is not the most powerful editor you will ever use. However, it is free, and it includes all the basic editing tools you need to make a professional looking video. It is also an online tool, so you can use it anywhere you have an internet connection, and on any computer that you have access to.

The editor is easy to use, and most people can quickly get to grips with the mechanics of how to edit video in YouTube. You also have some awesome sharing options built-in, and of course it doesn't hurt to have the largest and most popular video sharing site in the world to host your video.

A Video Editing Workflow

To get started, you need to login to your YouTube account and upload the clips that you want to use in the editor. You can do that by clicking the upload button in the top right-hand corner of YouTube, or by going to

The next step is optional, but certainly worth thinking about. When you upload your raw footage, you may want to mark it as Private or Unlisted. This prevents it from being publicly searchable inside of YouTube or in search engines.

Why would you want to do this? The chances are high that your original footage may not make much sense in its raw form, and there may be parts that you want to edit out before it is ready for public viewing. Setting your privacy settings on each video to Private or Unlisted is a good way to draw the curtain over your video until you are ready to unveil it in its finished form!

Once your clips are uploaded, you can head over to the YouTube editor. You can get to it by clicking the Upload button, and then clicking Video Editor. Alternatively, you can navigate directly to

There is more than one way to access the YouTube Editor
There is more than one way to access the YouTube Editor | Source

How to Upload a Video to YouTube

How to Add and Trim Video

To add your uploaded video clips to the editing timeline, locate them in the media library in the top right-hand corner of your screen. You can preview a clip by clicking the red play button on the thumbnail to see the content of any clip. Once you find the ones you need, drag them to the timeline below, or hover over the thumbnail and click the "+" sign to add them. Video clips can be re-ordered by dragging and dropping them to different positions in the timeline.

YouTube says you can add up to 50 video clips and 500 pictures. However, it doesn't take nearly that many to make the timeline look busy and confusing. So, to get a better picture of everything you are editing, be sure to take advantage of the slider next to the microphone in the bottom right-hand corner of the editor. Use this, or the scroll wheel on your mouse, to zoom in or out on your timeline editor.

To trim the beginning or end of a clip you first need to select it by clicking on it. This will highlight the video and add a thick blue bar at the beginning and end of the clip. Hover your cursor over the middle of this blue bar, then click and drag to trim footage off the beginning or end of your selected video.

Drag the blue bars to trim video clips
Drag the blue bars to trim video clips | Source

How to Add Photos

YouTube does have a dedicated photo slideshow tool, but if you want a mixed media production you will be glad to know that you can also add photos alongside your videos while in the YouTube editor.

To get started, simply click the camera icon in the editing menu, then click on Add photos. You can use photos from your Google+ account, or upload photos directly from your computer. Adding images is done in the same way as video. Just drag them to where you want them to appear in the timeline, and drag the bars on the left or right to control how long a photo appears on the screen.

Images can be added to the YouTube editor from multiple sources
Images can be added to the YouTube editor from multiple sources | Source

Splitting and Removing Clips

To split a clip at a given point, select the clip by clicking on it, then hover your cursor over it until you see the scissors appear. Click on the scissors. You now have a vertical red line that you can use to scan through the video that you currently have selected. Move the red line to the point at which you want to split the video and then click the mouse again to split the clip in two.

Splitting a clip is great for inserting additional footage or for doing cutaway scenes, but it can also be used to remove a section of video from the middle of a clip. To do this, click the scissors icon and move the red line to the beginning of the footage you want to remove and click to make your first cut. Then move the red line to the end of the section you want to remove and make another cut. This splits your video into three parts. Hover your mouse over the middle clip and click the "x" in the top right-hand corner of the clip to remove it.

Splitting clips lets you remove unwanted sections of video
Splitting clips lets you remove unwanted sections of video | Source

Creative Commons and Copyright

YouTube is very protective of its users content, and rightly so. However, if you are looking for some additional footage that you didn't shoot yourself, you can search through YouTube's library of videos that have been licensed for Creative Commons use. Any of these can be used in your project with attribution or permission from the original owner.

How is this possible? When you first upload a video to YouTube, one of the options you get is to set the license you want to associate with this video. A standard YouTube license is the default option, but you can opt to add a Creative Commons license. YouTube states:

"By marking your original video with a Creative Commons license, you are granting the entire YouTube community the right to reuse and edit that video." (YouTube support documentation)

To find the Creative Commons videos in the YouTube editor, click the "CC" in the menu bar (see image below) and search for some keywords that might be associated with the type of video you are looking for. Creative Commons videos are a great option for students and teachers who are looking to find some stock footage that they want to work into classroom projects quickly and easily.

Creative Commons videos are free to edit, remix and use as you please
Creative Commons videos are free to edit, remix and use as you please | Source

Video Transitions

To give your video a more professional look, you can add video transitions between your clips. Transitions are animations, similar to what you might see between slides in a PowerPoint presentation.

To add a transition, select the transitions icon in the menu, (see image below), and choose the type of animation you want to use. Then click and drag it down to the timeline and hover your mouse between the two clips that you want to separate with a transition. When you see a thick blue line, release the mouse button to add the transition.

Some transitions have additional options you can set to show the direction that they move, the softness of their edge, or some other properties. If these options exist, you will see them listed above in the transitions menu.

The default duration of a new transition is two seconds, but you can change this by dragging the blue bars either side of the transition to lengthen or shorten the transition, much like we did above when we talked about trimming video clips.

Video transitions give your project a more polished appearance
Video transitions give your project a more polished appearance | Source

How to Edit and Save an Existing Video

Adding Text & Titles

Text can be added to individual video clips, or to the beginning or end of a project to simulate titles and credits. This is done from the text menu, which can be found by clicking the large "a" in the editing toolbar.

To add text at the beginning or end of a video, click the "a" and choose the style of text you want to add. Then drag it to the timeline and insert it at the beginning or end of your project. You can now choose from a number of font properties to customize the text to your liking.

To add text to a specific point on your video, you need to find the text style you want and drag it on top of the video clip where you want it to appear. The text will then display on top of the video you selected and will be visible for the duration of the clip. If you don't want the text to play for the entire clip, try splitting the clip first, then add the text to the section you do want text to appear on.

YouTube includes a number of text styles for your videos
YouTube includes a number of text styles for your videos | Source

Filters and Video Enhancements

It would be great if everything we shot was perfectly exposed, in focus, and stabilized to give us the perfect footage we wanted. However, in reality, it doesn't always work like this. So, YouTube includes a number of quick fixes that are designed to help correct problems like this.

To find the Quick Fixes, click on any video clip that you want to enhance and look to the right of the preview window to see the options at your disposal, (see image below). Here you can brighten or darken clips, rotate or stabilize video, and even apply slow motion effects! To see a side by side comparison between the original and the edited video, be sure to check the box at the bottom.

For more video effects, you can consider applying a video filter. The Filters menu is located to the right of the Quick fixes and include the ability to add black and white, HDR, sepia and other effects to individual video clips. Simply select the clip you want to apply the effect to, then click the effect you want to add. If you change your mind, click the effect again to deselect it.

Some video clips need a few tweaks before they are ready for prime time!
Some video clips need a few tweaks before they are ready for prime time! | Source

Editing Audio and Music Effects

There are not a great deal of audio editing options available to users of the YouTube editor, but there are two in particular that are worth taking note of. Firstly, you can adjust the individual audio level of a video clip by clicking on it and selecting Audio from the editing box to the right of the preview window. This gives you a slider to increase or decrease the original audio in your clip.

You can't add your own music or audio tracks because of possible copyright infringements. However, you can take advantage of YouTube's amazing library of free to use music tracks. Deselect any video clips by clicking outside of the editor, then click the music note icon to open the YouTube music library.

Click the Genre tab to find the style of music you are looking for and preview any track by hovering over it with your mouse and clicking the play button. If you find one you like, drag it to the audio timeline, underneath your video clips. Alternatively, you can hover over the track you want, and click the "+" button on the far right of the track details to add it to the editor.

You can trim the beginning or end of a music track in the same way that you trim video clips, and you can have multiple audio tracks if you need them. Simply place them back to back on the timeline. However, you can't split a track, and there is no fade in or fade out for audio.

YouTube has an amazing library of free music to use in your video projects
YouTube has an amazing library of free music to use in your video projects | Source

Save and Publish Your Video

The editor automatically saves your work as you go. However, if you are ready to share your edited masterpiece with the world, you first need to publish it so that it is live and available to share. So here's what you need to do.

1. Name Your Video: In the top left-hand corner of the screen, next to the Project button, you will probably see the words "My Edited Video". Click here to rename your project to something more memorable!

2. Publish Your Video: In the top right hand corner of the screen is the Publish button, (see image below). When you are sure you are finished with all your edits, click this button so YouTube can begin processing your video. It will take a few minutes until it is ready to play, but you will soon be able to watch and share your finished product.

3. Share Your Video: While you are waiting for your video to process, you can check out your sharing options. You will see these underneath your video under the Share tab. There are numerous social networks that you can share to, but you can also share by email or get an HTML embed code for blogs and websites. More information on sharing is included in the video below.

Click the Publish button when you are finished with your edits
Click the Publish button when you are finished with your edits | Source

How to Share YouTube Videos

Quick Tips

  • For more control over your video trimming, click the small arrows on the top or bottom of the blue trim bar. This will nudge the trim bars by mere tenths of a second!
  • If you can't find the editing feature you are looking for inside the YouTube editor, it may be because you have a video or photo selected in the timeline. Click anywhere outside the timeline to deselect your media and see all the editing options that are available to you.
  • The YouTube Editor automatically saves your project as you work. So, if you don't have time to finish what you are working on, don't worry. You can come back later and everything will be right where you left it!
  • Did your browser freeze up? Is the YouTube Editor not doing what it is supposed to be doing? No problem. Most issues can be solved by simply refreshing the page you are working on. Because all your work is automatically saved, a quick browser refresh is often all you need to get back up and running.


It might not always be your first choice, but if you take the time to learn how to use the YouTube video editor, you will soon appreciate the power and convenience that a tool like this offers. It's easy enough for both kids and adults to use, and it's freely available on the web as part of the world's largest video sharing website. So, the next time you need to edit some video, take a look at this handy online video editor. It does more than you might think!

© 2014 Jonathan Wylie

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Comments 11 comments

jessyk profile image

jessyk 2 years ago from Boston

Thanks a lot! this hub helped me editing my videos!

great job sir!

Jonathan Wylie profile image

Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA Author

Thanks jessyk. Glad you found it useful :)

Ilona1 profile image

Ilona1 2 years ago from Ohio

Just began making video for youtube, never used the editor and thought your hub was very helpful. Thanks!

Jonathan Wylie profile image

Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA Author

Thanks Ilona1. Good luck with your video project. Feel free to ask if you have any more questions! :)

Johnny Parker profile image

Johnny Parker 2 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

That's brilliant, I use imovie but sometimes you just want something simple and quick. Good article.

Jonathan Wylie profile image

Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA Author

Thanks Johnny!

ptosis profile image

ptosis 2 years ago from Arizona

I have used the Youtube video editor to add some quick music at the end or some other effect. I have used a bunch of video editors that are free and I just discovered OpenShot. Not very intuitive but there are TONS of how-tos. Today I learned how to pan and zoom a panoramic from a video by Harry van der Wolf and wrote a hub on it in text version today. Shameless self promotion will most likely have this comment deleted but - I can't seem to stop my self

Jonathan Wylie profile image

Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA Author

Thanks ptosis, I will have to check that out too.

askformore lm profile image

askformore lm 2 years ago

Thanks a lot for this very detailed info.

Chiara 2 months ago

Thanks a lot for your very useful article from Italy, Jonathan!!! I've found it great :-)

Jonathan Wylie profile image

Jonathan Wylie 2 months ago from Iowa, USA Author

Glad you liked it. Keep in touch if you need any help.

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