How to Add Text to Video with iMovie in Mac OS X

May 2, 2015 - 17 Comments

Overlay text on a video with iMovie for Mac OS X

If you want to place some text onto a video, the iMovie app for Mac is a good place to start. This is good for putting a title onto a movie, placing some basic subtitles on a silent video, captions on a video, or at a specific point in a movie, adding a watermark to video, or the myriad of other reasons you’d want words placed or alongside a movie. You’ll even be able to change the font size, font family, and various aspects of the text displayed on the movie.

You’ll find that overlaying text onto movies is fairly easy using iMovie in OS X once you learn how to do it, but it can be quite confusing to figure out how to access the text tools let alone how to save your video file the first time you use iMovie on the Mac, at least compared to the easier iOS version. But worry not, we’re going to show you exactly how to put text onto a movie using iMovie in Mac OS X, the video file you modify can be any you have access to.

How to Overlay Text on a Video with iMovie for Mac OS X

This is demonstrated from start to finish using the latest version of iMovie on the latest version of MacOS X, showing how to add a text overlay to a video, then save the video as a file on the Mac. Let’s get started.

  1. Open iMovie app
  2. Go to the “File” menu and choose “New Movie” – select “No Theme” (or choose a theme if you want one, your call), give the movie a name and click “OK”
  3. Click the “Import Media” button, select the movie or video file you want to add some text atop of, and choose “Import Selected”
  4. Import that movie

  5. Now drag the thumbnail of the movie you just imported into the video timeline below
  6. Put the movie into the timeline in iMovie like an intuitive UI would suggest

  7. Place your mouse cursor in the movie timeline where you want to place the text to overlay the video
  8. Click on the “Titles” portion under “Content Library” in the left side menus
  9. Put text overlays on a video with iMovie

  10. Double-click on the title (text) style you want to use, the most generic without any weird animations is often “Center” but explore the others, there’s a lot of fancy ones
  11. Edit the text as it appears in the preview screen, change the font size, font family face, font weight, and other text elements
  12. Editing the text that overlays the video in iMovie for Mac

  13. When satisfied, you can save your video by going to the File menu and choosing “Share” (why is there not a general Save option? Who knows!) and selecting ‘File’, clicking “Next” and now you’ll finally be at a normal save dialog where you can put the video file somewhere you can find it on the Mac
  14. How to save a video as a file in iMovie for Mac OS X

Saving a video with iMovie for Mac OS X is a unique experience of file saving using a Sharing menu

That’s it, your saved video file will have the overlay text you wrote out now in the placement of your choice in the movie.

To extend the title to cover the whole video, just grab the little handlebar and drag it all the way to the left for the start of the movie, and drag it to the right to the end of the video – the text will now cover the entire screen.

Is this simple? Once you learn how, sure, but myself and others may find that iMovie has a weird interface which is hard to predict if you’re unfamiliar with it. I’ll be the first to admit I am completely clueless when it comes to editing movies so maybe this is intuitive if you know what you’re doing with other video editor apps. Nonetheless, I found a fairly simple task like placing some text atop of a video to be way more complex than you’d expect it to be (say, like how easy it is to adding text onto a picture in Preview app of OS X). After stumbling around for quite some time before actually figuring it out I figured I should do a quick tutorial on this, because there’s no way I’m the only person this confused by this. Notably, it’s much easier to add text to videos with iOS iMovie, so perhaps an update to the Mac app will improve things.

Happy iMovie editing! If you know of an alternate method of placing text over video or onto a movie file with iMovie on the Mac, do let us know.


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Clyde Neal says:

    THANK YOU! “Centered” title was what I needed.

  2. Zsolt says:


    I couldn’t find the way to move the text around to the exact location I wanted to have appear… Is there a way to do that?

    My other issue: I would like to put a simple red filter over a video and other time a green filter over the full project. I’m making an educational video at work and when the video is green that would be the right thing to do and when the red filter is over that would represent the “please don’t do it this way” instructions.
    Is there anyone knows how to add these type of colour filters over the footages?

    I would appreciate any help with these two matters.


  3. Alajah says:

    This was very helpful, However I need a program where the text do not move, and can be spaced out accordingly to my liking. The only program that can do it is Adobe honestly

  4. Robert Michaels says:

    Great tips and very helpful tutorial! I use this tool to add text to videos on my PC but I couldn’t find similar tool for my Mac. Thank you very much for solving my problem :)

  5. Chris says:

    Is there a way to edit text you put in a movie after its saved? Thanks

  6. Sterling Holobyte says:

    I thought that there was no “Save” option because everything you do in iMovie is saved automatically.
    At least, that is what I read somewhere, and when I have closed out a project I am working on, it was always there when I opened up iMovie again.

    Then you “Share” it when you are ready to export it somewhere.

    That has been my experience anyway.

  7. vicky hay says:

    Wouldn’t most people like to have a title page at the start of a video and maybe some credits at the end? WHY is it impossible to find, anywhere, a clear explanation of how to do that…an explanation that works????

  8. Martin says:

    Yes – thanks for that basic overview. It was just what I needed.

  9. kristen says:

    Hello, great tips here, thank you! I haven’t tried it yet and will do so now, however, how do I place my verbiage small and at the BOTTOM? Client wants it at bottom throughout. I also have to figure out how to leave voiceover but replace video with a brochure scrolling from top to bottom (have made one imovie in my life but love it!) Thank you in advance, for these 2 tips!

  10. Charlotte says:

    Thanks for a good intro. However the Content Library does not give me an option of adding titles – any clues? I have cropping, sounds, video effects etc… Pls help! :-)

  11. Fnordmeister says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only person who’s wondered why you save a movie with “Share”.

  12. OK… I just figured out the solution to what I was just now griping about :) I created a PNG file with a transparent background. The PNG has the desired text in it. I dragged it into my movie, and placed it on top of the video. Now I can put the text anywhere want, have it stay as long as I want, and not fade in or out. Pretty darn cool!

  13. I use iMovie to create a lot of how-tos and demo movies. While it’s nice to be able to add text, I don’t like the lack of control I have over exactly where the text is placed, or how it behaves. Maybe I don’t want the text to move, or to fade out, etc. I decided to start creating title slides instead. This allows me to announce each section of the video, and have complete control over the text.

  14. Kurt says:

    For an ‘easy’ app I find iMovie on Mac to be incredibly overly complicated, and this walkthrough is a pretty good demonstration of that. Why is it so hard to just make it like editing a picture? Select a font tool and click on the video, drag what frames you want it to be there, done.

    iMovie on the iPhone is slightly better, but still a total mystery.

Leave a Reply


Shop on and help support OSXDaily!

Subscribe to OSXDaily

Subscribe to RSS Subscribe to Twitter Feed Follow on Facebook Subscribe to eMail Updates

Tips & Tricks


iPhone / iPad



Shop on Amazon to help support this site