Use Custom Overlays for Composition in Final Cut Pro

[ Updated Jan. 30, 2022, with the overlay technique that I find myself using in every project. ]

A new feature that appeared with FCP X 10.4.9 is custom overlays. These are non-exporting elements that can help with framing, or re-framing, in Final Cut.


Custom Overlays are images that we create and, as such, there are none available in Final Cut until we create them.

Here’s an example. This is a PNG file with a transparent background that I created in Photoshop. (Other formats may work, but my preference is PNG.)

NOTE: The transparent background is important, as that is what allows the overlay to be superimposed over your video.

Notice that I’m including text to label the frame sizes as well as color to help differentiate between the 4×3 and 9×16 frames.

You can create any overlay content you want – keep in mind this will be superimposed over your video, so try to keep the overlay elements minimal so you can see the video below it.

Save the file to a location you can easily find later.


To add an overlay, go to the View menu in the top right corner of the Viewer and Choose Custom Overlay > Add Custom Overlay. (In this screen shot, I removed some of the View menu.)

Navigate to the PNG file you just created in Photoshop and select it.

The overlay is added to Final Cut’s menu and the overlay file itself is moved to: [Home Directory] > Library > Application Support > ProApps > Custom Overlays.

Here, for instance, I added two different overlay files to FCP X. Whichever is checked is the active overlay.

Here’s one I use for anamorphic framing, set to 75% opacity.

To enable, or disable, the display of overlays, check or uncheck Show Custom Overlay. (This menu is also used to determine the opacity of the overlays.)

Here is the overlay we created in Photoshop, set to 50% opacity.

UPDATE – Jan. 30, 2022

In real-life, I find myself using overlays in every project, but not the ones I illustrated earlier. Instead, I created an overlay with the watermark I add to all my social media videos. By constantly displaying this during an edit, I can easily see whether there will be a conflict between the watermark, which I add during compression, and the text I’m creating in Final Cut.

Given all the infographics I use in my webinars, this technique saves me a ton of time because I can fix problems long before I export the master file and move it into compression.


Overlays can contain lines, text and other graphical elements. They could even fill the entire screen, but, then, how would you see the video below it?

Overlays do not export, nor do they show up on the video scopes. But, when they are on-screen, they can help you solve a variety of compositional tasks.

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10 Responses to Use Custom Overlays for Composition in Final Cut Pro

  1. Thanks for this Larry. A custom overlay seems to let some pixels over the underlying video peek through. FCP X doesn’t maintain the overlay well when changing the viewer window size; This shows up as a thin line of pixels on tp and/or bottom. I posted about this on Creative Cow. However if you take the same custom overlay file and bring it into FCP X as an attached still image clip, it sits as an overlay perfectly and scales with the viewer window resizing just fine. This is very peculiar behavior. I prefer not to use an attached clip because then I don’t have to worry about FCP wanting to potentially render it. It’s not too big of a deal though. I enable/disable the clip (with V on the keyboard) as needed.

    I’ve sent Apple feedback through the app because overlays I’ve created on my own in programs such as Pixelmator Pro, Photoshop and using Andreas Kiel’s X-Overlay free app yield the same result. Not that I expected anything different since I am creating the same file with the same pixel dimensions. Andreas noticed this behavior too.

    FCP 10.5, macOS Catalina

  2. Jan de Bloois says:

    Nice! I had the suggestion for Apple a while ago. In stead of this I made a Generator in Motion to do this. A grid according the Rule of Thirds, and a grid according the Golden Ratio. I made a little movie, with an artificial English voice (I am Dutch), to explain why the lines are there on your camera, and the difference is between the two. Please watch my movie on Greetings, Larry, and all the best!

  3. Thanks for the post. I’d like to see the same 8 crop guide overlays that Adobe has in Lightroom baked into FCP. In Lightroom, you can easily cycle through the overlays with the “O” key and they scale as you try different crops. If anyone out there can make the plugin, I’m your first customer.

  4. Goce says:

    Hi Larry,

    For some odd reason I can’t add custom overlay inside FCP. I am choosing the overlay but nothing happens and “Show Custom Overlay” option is greyed out.

    I even tried to manually adding the overlays with creating the folder in ProAps folder.

    Any tips?

    • Larry Jordan says:


      Hmm… I use custom overlays daily. Make sure that you import the overlay. Use the View menu at the top of the Viewer, then choose Custom Overlay > Add Custom Overlay. The overlay itself should be a PNG with a transparent background.

      Ah! If that doesn’t work, trash your FCP preferences to reset the system to its defaults.


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