How to edit your videos for free with YouTube

Let’s face it, not all of us are gifted with the technical talents of a professional video editor. If you just want to edit together video clips from your smartphone or tablet quickly and easily, and without getting to grips with a new piece of software, then hope is at hand: YouTube. Here you will find everything you need to know about editing together videos on YouTube – skip to the bottom of the page and there are a couple of quick and super-easy step-by-step guides to get you started. 

Upload your videos


Uploading your films to YouTube is incredibly easy.

  1. Go to and click the up arrow or Select Files to browse for the video you want to add, or drag and drop your file to the window.
  2. You will be able to fill in some basic information including a Title, Description, Thumbnail, Playlists, Audience, Paid Promotion, Tags, Language, subtitles and closed captions, Recording date and location, License and distribution, Category, and Comments and Ratings then click Next.
  3. Add Video Elements.
  4. Select the required privacy option – Public (visible and searchable to all), Unlisted (you will be able to share the link with others, but people you do not know won’t be able to find the videos), Private (visible only to you) or Scheduled (will publish at a time of your choosing).
  5. If the video is shaky, YouTube will offer to stabilize it for you. Just click the ‘Yes, fix it’ button, and the adjustment will be made. You can undo this if you are not happy with the results.

How to edit without sharing

The main purpose of YouTube is to share videos, but you can keep your creations private if you prefer. This means you can use its editing tools without sharing your movies with all and sundry, or just use it as a place to back up your films. When uploading clips, set them as Private or Unlisted. Once you have edited your videos online, you can download the finished versions for watching offline or on a TV, tablet, or smartphone.

You do not need to use a video downloader because Google lets you save copies of your own videos. In the Video Manager, select Videos and click the down arrow next to the Edit button for the clip you want to save. Select Download MP4. You will need to use a conversion tool if you want to save the video in a different format.

How to use YouTube’s video editor


YouTube has a powerful video editor that can be accessed at This lets you trim clips, remix Creative Commons-licensed videos, add photos, find and add (legal) audio tracks, and spice up your videos with transitions, titles and effects. We will show you how to start editing your videos in our step-by-step guide, below.

The editor can be controlled using your mouse, but it also supports keyboard shortcuts. The left and right arrow keys let you move between the items, while Enter or Plus adds a chosen item to the editing timeline. Hit the spacebar to preview your video.

There are actually lots of different editing tools to be found throughout YouTube, so it can be difficult to find the particular tools you are looking for.

Add cards and annotations

Cards are used to add interactivity to videos. You can add up to five cards per video and they can be used to show images, titles, and polls, as well as links to other YouTube channels, websites, and the like. To add a card, go the Video Manager, select your clip, and click Edit. In the tab bar at the top, select Cards, then click ‘Add card’. Click the Create button next to the type you want to add. You may need to agree to some terms and conditions before you can use it. Enter the URL to direct viewers to, and upload an image or pick one of the suggestions. Edit the card and click ‘Create card’ to finish.

You can also add annotations in the Video Manager. Select the Annotations tab and click the ‘Add annotation’ button. You can choose a speech bubble, note, title, spotlight, or label. Select the type you want and enter some text. You can then format it, and set the start and end display times. You can also optionally add a URL.

Add subtitles and closed captions


Subtitles and closed captions can be added through the Video Manager. Click the ‘Subtitles and CC’ tab, then select the language that is primarily spoken in your video. If all your videos use the same language (English, for example), you can set this as the default choice for all new uploads. Click the ‘Add new subtitles or CC’ button and choose a language from the dropdown list. You can then upload your own subtitle file, use ‘Transcribe and auto-sync’ (type or paste in all of the words spoken in the video) or create new subtitles or captions by typing them in as the video plays.

Record and edit videos straight from iPhone to YouTube

YouTube Capture is an iPhone app from Google that lets you record and edit videos on your phone. You can stitch together an unlimited number of clips, trimming and rearranging them as required; add an optional soundtrack from your music collection or Capture’s audio library, and then upload the result to YouTube and share the link on social networks. It hasn’t been updated for a few years but it still works well and can be used on older devices running iOS 6 and later.

Editing tips

When editing your video, you should avoid too many jumps and cuts, and use transitions and effects sparingly. YouTube’s editor offers lots of different transition types but you should stick to the simpler ones, such as wipes and slides. There are many other options, including hearts, circles, and stars that open and close, but they just make your movie look cheesy.

Step by step: How to edit your videos in YouTube

  1. Open the YouTube editor and thumbnails of all of your uploaded videos will appear on the right. If you have a lot of videos, you can search for the one you want by name. Clicking a thumbnail will start that video playing on the left. Drag any videos you want to include in the storyboard.
  2. Give your project a name.
  3. Click a thumbnail and you can use the handles to adjust the start and endpoint of your clip. Auto-fix automatically adjusts the lighting and color, or you can use the sliders to make changes manually. You can also slow down your video by increments, rotate and stabilize it.
  4. Click Filters to apply some global effects to the overall color. Filters can be layered on top of one another. You can also add some text and tweak the audio. If you want to add a soundtrack, drag it to the timeline. Click ‘Create video’ when you’re done.

Step by step: How to enhance your videos in YouTube

  1. The Video Manager includes an Enhancements option. To use it, click Videos, then click the down arrow next to the Edit button for the video you want to tweak. Select Enhancements. The original and enhanced videos will begin to play side by side.
  2. The ‘Quick fixes’ section lets you ‘Auto-fix’ your video or you can use the sliders below to make changes manually. You can also Stabilise your film and apply a ‘Slow motion’  or ‘Timelapse’ effect. Videos can be trimmed and rotated. Filters can be applied to the next tab.
  3. YouTube has recently added a set of Blurring Effects. The editor can automatically find and blur faces in your video or you can blur specific items or areas, such as car number plates. Select the latter option, then draw around the area to blur. YouTube will automatically track (and blur) the object throughout the video.

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