The best software for editing videos for YouTube will help transform your YouTube videos from amateur efforts to pro reels. Whether you're making YouTube videos for fun or for a close circle of family and friends, or are steadily building an audience and starting to make money, the right software can really make a difference to your YouTube success.
What do you need software for? Well you probably want to be able to edit your video and audio together and add titles, graphics, music and effects in a way that makes your YouTube clips pop. And the good news is, that there's a wide range of programmes for editing videos for YouTube to choose from.
You could use same high-end YouTube editing software that your favourite YouTubers are using, for slick and professional results. Or you might prefer to pay less for a mid-range tool, with a flatter learning curve, so you can start doing some basic editing more quickly. Alternatively, maybe you're short of cash, and want to know about the best free software for editing videos for YouTube. Whatever you're looking for, we've got you covered.
If you just want video editing software and aren't too bothered about YouTube specifically, then see our guides to the best video editing software and video editing apps around today, or if it's TikTok you're into, then our guide to how to edit a video on TikTok should be enough to get you started. You might also want to check out our breakdown of the best headphones for video editing.
The best software for editing videos for YouTube: Paid-for tools
If you're a veteran YouTuber who's well versed in video editing and want cross-platform software that packed with powerful features and flexible collaboration tools, then Premiere Pro is for you.
Premiere Pro, which is used throughout the TV and movie industries, is the route to the kind of slick production values that will take your channel to the next level. Famous YouTubers using Premiere Pro to edit their videos include PewDiePie, Zack from Jerry Rig Everything, Theo Jo, Linus Tech Tips, Jake Paul, Smosh and Devinsupertramp.
Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here, from support for 4K, 8K and VR formats, to editing collaboratively via a virtual screening room. Other useful features including automatic audio and video syncing, the ability to pull in motion graphics from After Effects, and being able to watch a clip and edit it at the same time.
Premiere Pro offers so many features, in fact, that it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. That said, the interface is pretty straightforward, and it's customisable, too, so you can bring the tools you use more often to the forefront. Adobe also provides plenty of free tutorials (see our Premiere Pro tutorials) if you get stuck.
Please note that you can’t buy Premiere Pro outright: you can only effectively rent it, as part of a Creative Cloud subscription. On the plus side, that means the software is constantly being improved: some of the latest updates, for example, included the addition of pre-made titles and graphics templates, which could prove useful in bookending your YouTube clips. On the minus side, it means Premiere Pro will cost you a lot of money over time. For details of the various pricing options, check out our article how to download Premiere Pro.
- Read our Premiere Pro review
If you’re looking for subscription-free software for editing videos for YouTube, we'd recommend Final Cut Pro X. Well, as long as you have a Mac, because it’s not available on Windows.
First launched in 2011, Final Cut was the only serious player in this field for many years, and has been used to edit countless Hollywood films. Famous YouTubers using it to edit their videos include iJustine, Marques Brownlee, Austin Evans, Dude Perfect and Jonathan Morrison.
It's available for a one-off fee, so is a good choice for long-term YouTubers who don't want to pay a never-ending subscription. Final Cut Pro X is also a good choice if you do all your work within the Apple ecosystem, because it works super-smoothly with your iTunes and Photos collections. And there's currently a very generous 90-day free trial, so you can be sure you like it before committing.
In terms of the software itself, Final Cut Pro X is brimming with sophisticated features to help you raise the look and feel of your YouTube videos to new levels. These include support for 4K, 360-degree video and HDR, advanced filters, multichannel audio tools, noise reduction and advanced colour grading. Most notably, the proprietary Magnetic Timeline system makes finding scenes and moving them around very simple and intuitive, while its Multicam feature lets you view up to 16 angles simultaneously and sync up to 64.
In short, as long as you use a Mac, both Final Cut Pro X and Premiere Pro offer YouTubers sophisticated tools for editing your videos and giving them that high-class sheen that will help them stand out from the pack. For more details to help you decide between them, check out our article Premiere Pro vs Final Cut Pro.
- Read our Final Cut Pro X review
If you’re just starting out on your career as a YouTuber, you’ll want something a little simpler than the first two tools on our list. In which case, we’d recommend Adobe’s Premiere Elements. It’s essentially a stripped-down version of Premiere Pro, so you get all the standard tools you need for video editing, in a simpler interface, and at a one-off price rather than a subscription.
If video editing is totally new to you, then you’ll appreciate the easy-to-follow interface, clear navigation, video creation wizard, step-by-step tutorials and choice of three editing modes. On the other hand, Premiere Elements is not just a bog-standard basic tool. For those with a little more experience, it also comes with some a number of clever and useful features, such as face detection, audio effects and soundtracks, noise reduction, automatic feature detection and guided edits.
- Read our Premiere Elements review
Another good choice for beginners editing YouTube videos is Pinnacle Studio. Because it’s been around for a very long time, you may have heard some bad reports based on earlier versions. But in fact, since Corel took it over in 2012, it’s been developed into very capable and reliable professional video editing software.
While it may not be quite as powerful as some of the other titles on this list, it’s a good choice for an absolute beginner, with a nicely organised and user-friendly interface. Meanwhile, once you’ve spent a bit of time with it you can graduate to the more advanced features at the higher price tier, including keyframing controls, dynamic video masking and 360 VR editing. In short, if you’re new to video editing, aren’t already tied in to either Adobe’s or Apple’s ecosystems, and are watching the pennies carefully, Pinnacle Studio is well worth investigating.
Another popular video editing programme that's worth considering for your YouTube videos is CyberLink Power Director 365. This mid-market software is available for a very affordable subscription, despite including some advanced features such as multi-cam editing, motion tracking and 360-degree editing.
If you need to create a video very quickly, there's a mini programme, slightly hidden inside the Easy Editor, called the Magic Movie Wizard, which uses clever tech to automatically combine your photos and clips in a matter of minutes. When it comes to 'proper' video editing, there's a fairly flat learning curve, plus lots of tutorials to help you build your skills.
There's also a partnership with Shutterstock that makes it easy to use stock assets in your video, similar to how Premiere Pro plays with Adobe Stock. Note, though, that this tool is Windows only, and requires a subscription that’s similar to Adobe’s, albeit significantly cheaper.
Premiere Rush is an Adobe app that’s been specifically created for YouTubers and social media video creators. And so if you create a lot of video on your phone, or spend a lot of time editing videos on the go, it should save you a lot of time and effort, either as an alternative or a partner app to Premiere Pro.
Premiere Rush allows you to use many of the most useful features of Premiere Pro on mobile, such as auto ducking, which helps you balance out sound levels between voice and music. It's super-easy to incorporate assets from Adobe Stock, such as motion graphic templates, to get that slick look and feel to your videos. And the app shares your work with the cloud, so you can pick it up and continue editing whatever the device you’re on, being it mobile or desktop, iOS or Android.
The free plan is available to anyone with a Creative Cloud membership and includes 2GB cloud storage, unlimited free exports on mobile, and up to three exports on desktop. Beyond that, you'll need to upgrade to a paid plan.
- Read our Premiere Rush review
The best free software for editing videos for YouTube
If you work on Windows and don’t mind a bit of a learning curve, it's worth giving Lightworks a try. This pro-level video editing software is commonly used in Hollywood, on big-budget movies from Moulin Rouge to The King’s Speech. Yet the free version is barely any less powerful and feature-rich than the paid one. We particularly appreciate the very fine control often by the superior timeline feature, not to mention being able to export straight to YouTube and Vimeo.
The main downside of the free version is that you can only export at 720p, so if HD or 4K video is important to your YouTube brand, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Also, it’s only free for non-commercial projects, so it’s not an option if you’re already making money from your YouTube channel. (That said, if you’re already making money, then it’s probably time to pay for software anyway).
Shotcut is so simple to use, it would make a great starter app for any YouTuber who’s completely new to video editing. You’ll find a good selection of video and audio editing tools, and support for wide range of formats, including 4K.
Note that Shotcut is not just free, it’s open source. As with most open source software, that comes with both plusses and minuses. On the negative side, the interface is not as polished as those in most commercial tools. On the positive side, the interface is customisable using pre-made panels, so you can adapt it to how you work. There’s also a thriving community surrounding it, a ton of tutorials, and it's available for Linux, as well as iOS and Windows.
If you own a Mac, iPad or iPhone, you already have iMovie, which comes pre-loaded, so it's well worth giving a try for editing your YouTube videos. Broadly aimed at general consumer use, for putting together holiday videos and the like, it couldn't be further away from a pro-level tool like Final Cut Pro X. But by that token, it's very simple to pick up and use, so it's a good option for someone just starting on their YouTube video editing journey.
The latest version also has a few nifty features, including pre-set themes, the excellent storyboard-based tools for Trailers and Movies, and support for 4K editing. There's also support for the MacBook's Touch Bar and the iPad's mouse and touch pad.