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Video Tutorial Guide: Make Your Own How-to Video

/ WeVideo

Man filming cooking tutorial. Gradient overlay on image.

Whether you call it a video tutorial, explainer, how-to video, training video, or [insert your favorite term here], we've all seen 'em. And chances are, you've watched enough tutorial videos on YouTube or elsewhere to recognize the helpful, from the okay, from the meh.

So, ready to make your own tutorial video? Read on for everything you need to know in order to create a video that educates, inspires, and prompts action.

What is a tutorial video?

A great video tutorial:

  • Answers the "how-to" question as quickly as possible
  • Is thorough
  • Provides direction to the viewer on what to do next

Tutorial videos can be about anyyyyything, so long as they transfer knowledge. Or demonstrate a process. Or explain a concept. In other words — leave viewers with something valuable.

Maybe a company leverages video as a way to explain its product. Or internal teams use screen recording as a form of asynchronous (and educational) communication. Perhaps a YouTube gamer uses tutorials as a way to explain how to beat certain challenges, quests, bosses, etc.

See why how-tos run the gamut of possibilities? It's no wonder that one-third of internet users watch at least one tutorial each week.

How to make a tutorial video

As much as we'd like there to be a one-size-fits-all process for making instructional videos, there's not.

For example, if you’re creating a video on how to change the oil of a car, using your computer’s webcam might not be the best choice. But if you’re explaining how to change your email signature in Gmail then a webcam and screen recording are a great fit.

That said, there are several shared steps you can follow to ensure your video makes an impact. Let's take a look.

1. Start with a storyboard

Before you hit record, start with a plan. Don’t expect to have everything come to you as you start presenting.

To create an effective storyboard, begin by identifying the topic you’re going to address, such as a frequently asked question by your customers or an onboarding experience. At the beginning of the video, you’ll want to quickly address what the video will teach the viewer, the tools or items you’ll be using, and then list the timeline of the steps needed to achieve the objective.

This video on how to change your tire does a great job of explaining what the video will teach you, the tools needed, and the steps to follow.

 

Video credit: ChrisFix

2. Script out your content

The purpose of any video tutorial is to explain something in a clear and concise manner so your viewer can understand and repeat what they’ve learned. If you’re fumbling with words or not presenting your tutorial in logical steps, then your video won’t be very effective.

Once you have the first draft of your script, practice reading it out loud. You’ll often find that the way you write sounds very different from how you normally speak. You’ll want to tweak your script to be clear and concise without coming off as robotic.

 

By the way — how your script reads should be reflective of your brand. Write in the voice and tone that you typically use when speaking to customers. And carry that through with each video you make, so that your content stays consistent.  

3. Plan when you’ll be shown on camera

Have a structured beginning, middle and end. You can avoid adding extra work for yourself by identifying when in your tutorial video you’ll be speaking to the camera as the subject and when you’ll be “hidden” behind other footage such as B-roll or screen sharing.

4. Set up your equipment and record

Video and audio recording equipment is key. Don't worry — you can always edit in post, but the better your initial setup, the faster it will be for you to produce your tutorial video. A couple considerations: 

Microphone

Try to film in a quiet area where you can limit the amount of external noise as much as possible. We also recommend using an external microphone rather than the internal microphone in your computer or camera.

A simple lavalier microphone that attaches via your standard 3.5mm headphone jack can cost as little as $10. Another option is to use any headphones that have a mic attached to them such as Apple AirPods or a Bluetooth variation.

If you’ve got some old Apple headphones laying around, you can actually cut off the end of the headphone and tape the microphone portion to the inside of your shirt for a makeshift lav mic.

Apple wired headphone, with arrow and text pointing out the microphone part.
Apple wired headphone, with microphone and headphone being separated by scissors.

Lighting

You don’t need to invest in a set of expensive camera lights right off the bat, but before you start filming make sure you’re positioned so that the lights are coming at you rather than from behind you.

For instance, if you’re filming in front of a window, close the curtains behind you as much as you need to prevent shadows. If you’re facing a window, consider hanging a white sheet or some light-colored curtains to provide diffused natural light.

Webcam positioning

Using a webcam to record? Position it so that you’re looking slightly up at it rather than down. This will prevent you from appearing as if you have multiple chins (you're welcome). Another trick — place your laptop on a stack of books so the webcam is at eye level.

5. Edit your tutorial video

The good news — WeVideo makes it easy to edit your video tutorial however you want. Whether you need to make quick edits — like trimming or combining clips — or add text, music, effects, etc., you can do so in WeVideo.

Let's dive into a few post-production considerations. 

Highlighting/emphasizing important aspects of tutorial

There are hundreds of options and techniques for emphasizing things within your video. As you start to create more instructional content this might be something you consider investing more time in. For now, here are a few easy-to-implement tricks to help draw your viewers’ attention to the focus point. 

  • Zoom-in animation: An easy way to draw your viewers’ attention to a specific point in your video is to simply make it bigger. You can do this by increasing the scale of your video. Combine this with animation and you have a nice effect. 
  • Add text: If you’re creating a directional video with multiple steps, labeling each section of the video with a callout (such as step 1, step 2, etc.) can be a nice touch. 
  • Sound effects: An audio cue (such as a ding, whoosh, or pop) can be a fantastic complement to an animation. To do this in WeVideo, simply select the sound effect you want and place it in the audio track at the same time as an animation. 

Table of contents

If you’re addressing multiple questions in one video you can look at the timestamp of where you’re addressing each question and list that at the beginning of the video to make things easier for viewers.

Once you have the timestamp of each section, list it off using a static text clip and a solid background. Make sure you give your viewers a few seconds to read it. Check out the example of a tutorial video table of contents below.

 

Video credit: Inters3ct

Tutorial background music

Adding background music can be nice to fill in the lulls of silence, but it can be distracting when it’s competing with the voice of someone speaking. 5-Minute Crafts does a good job of using music in the tutorial hacks video below. This is also a great example of showing, not telling.

 

Video credit: 5-Minute Crafts

6. Publish your video

When you’ve finished editing your video and it’s time to publish, there are a number of options to consider.

YouTube

YouTube is the largest video-sharing website and second largest website in the world, making it a great option for getting your tutorial video out to a wide audience to increase awareness and exposure.

It’s also completely free with the possibility of even earning you money through your own channel. Plus you can host a video on YouTube and embed that video somewhere on your website.

The downside to YouTube is that since it's so popular, it’s easy for a video to get lost in the noise if not optimized for search. Furthermore, given the topic of your tutorial video, it’s quite likely that your video will be listed right next to your competitor’s. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but something to consider nonetheless. 

Social media

It’s often best practice to post on different social channels and direct web traffic back to your website or YouTube channel. This expands your reach and helps generate awareness.

Each channel has different time restrictions for how long your video can be and optimal lengths. For instance, Twitter’s video max time limit is 2 minutes and 20 seconds, but videos that are between 30 and 45 seconds tend to perform best. Then there's something like Instagram, with a variety of posting types, all with their own video length requirements.

You'll also want to consider whether to paste a link to your video or upload the video's .mp4 file natively to a social site. The advantage of the latter is that the video will autoplay on sites like Facebook or LinkedIn.

The counterargument to this, of course, is that if your main goal is to grow your YouTube channel, then you’ll want to direct all of your viewers there rather than splitting them between Facebook and YouTube. 

Paid video hosting

A key benefit of paid video hosting sites (like Brightcove, Wistia, Vimeo or Vidyard) is that they often offer better analytic options, more responsive embedding options, faster load times, and A/B testing capabilities.

If you’re embedding a how-to video on your website, you might consider one of these hosting options in order to reduce load time.

30 tutorial video ideas & frameworks to try

There are so many different ways to create an effective video tutorial. To help you plan your own video script, scenes, and edits, we’re sharing 30 creative and effective tutorial examples across the most popular categories.

Browse the frameworks below to get inspired and then write your script, shoot your footage, and bring it all together in WeVideo. Easy!

Step-by-step process videos

Video credit: Discount Tire

Because they’re so clear, catchy, and easy to remember, tutorial videos with numbered steps are always a hit for viewers. They’re especially great video content for social media, where our attention spans are notoriously short.

  1. How to change a tire: As long as you’ve got a smartphone with data, you can easily follow these 10 steps to change a tire and avoid a roadside emergency.
  2. How to write compelling dialogue: Novelists, rejoice! This video tutorial explains how to write better dialogue in just 6 steps. (Then comes the hard part: actually writing it.)
  3. How to be happy again: This video tutorial breaks down a very serious subject (improving mental health) into four steps that you can take this month.
  4. How to disagree with your boss: This is exactly why tutorial videos work so well! Even something as touchy as workplace conflict can be broken down into a few repeatable steps.
  5. 10 steps to making bread: This video covers the general process of breadmaking from start to finish. Individual bread recipes will vary, but these 10 steps form a great foundation.

Follow-along videos

Video credit: Bob Ross

Follow-along videos are often quite similar to step-by-step processes, but they usually pertain to something more artistic or creative in nature. The purpose is to inspire as much as it is to instruct, and the narrator will often prompt viewers to pause the video to actually complete the steps shown in real time.

  1. Bob Ross paints: Bob Ross is perhaps the original follow-along video maker, reaching millions of students worldwide with his encouraging and beginner-friendly painting tutorials.
  2. Hand embroidery for beginners: This 10-minute video tutorial demonstrates how to execute a dozen or so common stitches.
  3. Procreate painting process: For someone learning a complex program like Procreate for digital painting, follow-along tutorials are invaluable.
  4. Modern dance tutorial: Dance is another arena perfect for the follow-along video style. Viewers can pause and rewatch until they get the steps just right.
  5. Beginner stretching routine: Just like dance, workouts are a popular topic for follow-along tutorial videos. Some simply lead by example while others provide more detailed verbal instructions.

Tutorial videos with pro tips & hacks

Video credit: Liz Fenwick DYI

Another popular format for tutorial videos is the pro tip or “hacks” category. These videos are less sequential than formal step-by-step processes, but they’re no less effective in terms of teaching you how to do something well.

  1. 10 closet organization hacks: Banish clutter for good with expert tips on getting organized. Ideas range from color coding to DIY earring hangers.
  2. Top 20 MacBook tips: This video tutorial promises maximum productivity by revealing some hidden tricks that even experienced Apple enthusiasts may not know.
  3. 11 house cleaning hacks: From oven liners to cornstarch for the windows, these hacks come straight from cleaning professionals.
  4. 4 tips for better public speaking: This video tutorial pulls key takeaways from successful public speakers including author and business leader Simon Sinek.
  5. 10 tips for getting into the gaming industry: Speaking to aspiring game developers and designers, this video breaks down the most essential tips for getting your foot in the door of a jam-packed industry.

So-called “101” videos

Video credit: Kenra Professional

If your tutorial video is aimed at beginners, then you can’t go wrong with a title like “Any Topic 101.” Taken from classic naming conventions for university courses in the United States, this framework makes it perfectly clear who your target audience is.

  1. Hair color theory 101: This beginner-friendly tutorial starts with basic color theory and then gets into the details of how it applies to hair dye specifically.
  2. Radiology 101: If you ever wanted to learn how to read a chest X-ray, this video has you covered. It’s definitely a smart content marketing strategy for a medical educational resource company.
  3. Tornadoes 101: National Geographic shares everything a beginner might want to know about the destructive force of nature that is a tornado.
  4. Coding 101: Online programming tutorials are without doubt some of the most popular YouTube videos. This one starts at the very beginning: the binary system.
  5. Meditation 101: Popular YouTube yogi Sarah Beth shares the basics of meditation and how to integrate this ancient practice into your life.

“Talking head” videos

Video credit: Marko - Whiteboard Finance

Talking head videos are just what they sound like: a video with a person talking. Oftentimes, this style of video has very few edits or additional features; the focus is instead on the person speaking. This format works especially well for more personal topics or when the speaker is a recognized authority in the space.

  1. 50/30/20 rule: This rule takes a well-trodden concept (how to save money) and makes it easier to remember by dividing everything in your life into just three categories.
  2. Grant writing for nonprofits: In this video, Ashlee Tate shares 10 tips for writing a grant as a nonprofit organization. No bells or whistles, just straightforward information.
  3. How to stay motivated to lose weight: Weight loss is always a heavily searched topic, and in this video, health coach Dani discusses motivation and its role in sustainable change.
  4. How I became confident: This video is framed not as “how to” but rather “how I,” which really works to emphasize the creator’s lived experience while still providing helpful tips.
  5. Become a better mom: Sitting at her table and talking straight to the camera, Ayanna shares five goals you can set to become a more involved and nurturing mother.

Screen recording tutorial videos

Video credit: WeVideo

Unsurprisingly, screencasting tutorials are great for learning how to use software. Screencasts often start with an introduction from the host and may even show continuous webcam footage throughout the video. (And if you didn’t know, you can do both with WeVideo’s screen recorder!)

  1. How to make a bite-sized video for social: WeVideo’s own Max explains how to mimic the popular video style of social media influencer Gary Vee.
  2. Learn how to make a 2D game: This beginner-friendly tutorial video covers how to create a basic game in Unity, the go-to game engine for consoles, computers, and mobile devices.
  3. How to use auto layout in Figma: This screencast shows how to master one of the more advanced tools available in Figma, a popular UI and UX design platform.
  4. ClickUp task dependencies tutorial: Project management tools like ClickUp are the ideal candidate for screencast tutorials because they’re so complex.
  5. How to use Blender: Blender tutorials are abundant on YouTube because the software is not only extremely complicated; it’s also open source. That means lots of students worldwide looking for tips.

And that’s a wrap! With the step-by-step guide and the 30 tutorial video ideas above, you’ll be making quality instructional videos in no time. And just in case you're looking for even more inspiration, here's a tidy list of 30 video content marketing ideas. Happy creating!