Custom Stock Scanners – building a scanner to find stocks on the ThinkOrSwim trading platform

Custom stock scanners are the best way to find the stocks that you want to trade or invest in for the long haul. Trading and investing in stocks are 2 different things and typically require different stock scanning tools to find the one you are looking for.

Scanning for stocks with your own custom ThinkorSwim (the trading platform provided by T.D. Ameritrade) stock screener/scanner is not only a great way to find stocks that are in play, but you can also find exactly what you are looking for with the right criteria.

Today I will walk you through building a custom stock scanner on ThinkorSwim and even share one of my favorite custom scanners with you at the end!

How to build a custom stock scanner on Thinkorswim

Since this post is specifically about creating a custom stock scanner for ThinkorSwim (sometimes called a “stock screener”), I will move forward as if you already downloaded and installed the platform and are somewhat familiar with its use.

Custom Stock Scanner - Thinkorswim
Click the “Scan” tab

Custom stock scanners are found and created under the “Scan” tab at the top of your ThinkorSwim trading platform. To create your own custom scanner start by clicking this tab and then the “Stock Hacker” tab, which is where the magic is done.

Stock Hacker tab - Thinkorswim stock trading platform
Click on the “Stock Hacker “tab

After clicking “Scan” and “Stock Hacker” you should now see a window similar to the one above. This is where you will be dialing in the stock scanning criteria that is right for you.

The Stock Hacker

Your stock hacker may have “filters” already in place, or it may be completely blank. My stock hacker opened up with 3 filters already there. However, I will only be using 1 of the stock scanning filters that popped up and I will be adding several others. I will show you how to remove the filters we do not want and add the ones we do next.

Click the “X” to remove unwanted stock scanning filters

The 3 stock scanning filters that came up when I opened my stock hacker were Net Change, Volume, and % Change. We can click the “X” on % Change and Net Change to remove them. This will leave us with the Volume filter which is the #1 thing we will be looking for in this custom scanner.

adding filters to custom stock scanners
Set the Minimum and Maximum Volume Criteria
The first stock scanning filter

Leaving the Volume filter in place, I filled it in to search for stocks trading a minimum volume of 500,000 shares and a max of 200,000,000. The reason for this is simple, if a stock is not trading shares, we do not want to look at it. This stock scanner is built around finding the stocks with trading VOLUME!

The second filter we are going to add is also going to be a Volume based filter. This time we want to look for “Unusual Volume”.

Click “Add Filter” then “Study”

Scanning for unusual volume can notify us that well, something “unusual” may be happening with this stock. Since I look mostly for momentum stocks, I like to see unusual volume as many times we see huge price changes in correlation.

Click the Add Filter button that I have circled above and then in the drop-down menu choose “STUDY”. You will then see a new area pop up. When you do this it may automatically add in the ADXCrossover as the default study. Don’t worry, simply click the drop-down for ADXCrossover and you will see several study types to choose from. We want to choose >Volume>Unusual Volume for our first study based filter.

Change your filter to scan for Unusual Volume
Set the fields to find stock meeting your custom scanning preferences

For this custom stock scanner, my personal preference is to search for the criteria in the image above. Study; Unusual_Volume Current bar’s: VOLUME INCREASED at least: 7% from its typical average over “50” periods. The “D” I have circled on the right tells us the timeframe to search for, which in this case is “Daily”. This tells the custom stock screener to look only for stocks that are at least 7% above their average trading volume over the last 50 days. I believe that this helps identify stocks that are picking up “hype” or genuine public interest.

Scan for the matching price range of .50 – $5.50

Next, we want to scan for stocks within our preferred price range. We do this by adding another filter. Click “+Add Filter” again and this time choose “Stock”.

price range for custom stock scanners
Change the default from “Ask” to “Close”

In the fields generated we just fill in the price range that we want the custom stock scanner to return. I have mine set to search for min: “.50” and max: “5.50”. This returns scan results for only stocks between $.50 and $5.50.

Scanning for Stocks That are Going Up / the Price Direction of a Stock

I want to find stocks that are going the same direction I want my balance going, and that is UP!

custom scan price direction

We want to change the default again and this time under Price Performance, choose the “Price_Direction” study. My settings are: The CLOSE has increased over the last 1 consecutive bars. I leave it set to “D” for the “Daily” chart on this scanner.

Time to add another filter. This one is going to be under price performance and is there to scan for price direction. Click “+Add Filter” again and let’s change some drop-downs.

Add The VWAP Study Filter

It should feel like routine by now, but once again click the “+Add Filter” button and again choose “Study”. We will change the default to the Price_Change filter which is again found under the “Price Performance” studies.

Price Change Filter

Fill in all of the criteria for the Price Change filter. The settings I am using are Price Change: “VWAP” is at least “4.0%”GREATER” than “1” bars ago on the “D” (daily) chart.

Your custom stock scanner should look like the image below after completing the steps and adding the filters above.

The final step is to save this scanner and give it a name. Name this scanner “1CustomScanPennyStockChris” because it is my #1 Scanner. It will also help you remember where you found it.

Saving the custom stock scanner on Thinkorswim
Click the 3-Bars circled in the image

Save Your New Custom Stock Scanner

To save your custom scanner, click the 3 bars circled in the image above. This will pull up the “Scan Query Menu” where you can select “Save scan query” and give it a name. Copy and paste “1CustomScanPennyStockChris” (without the quotes) and select save.

Guess what guys? You just built a custom scanner and you can FINALLY hit the scan button!

The search results should return stocks that traded OVER 500K Volume, with Unusual Volume, between .50 and $5.50. They should also currently be above the previous day’s close and the VWAP (volume-weighted average price) should be 4% or more HIGHER than the previous day’s VWAP.

I ran this custom stock scanner at 1:55 pm, on Sunday, January 10, 2021. It returned 120 stocks that matched all of the criteria required on the previous trading day.

custom scanner results

Keep in mind that if you run custom stock scanners during the active trading day, they will return completely different results than they will on a Sunday afternoon like today.

Also, I keep this scanner loaded as a watchlist and set to alert me whenever a new stock is added throughout the day. I’ll write a post about how to do that later.

It looks like I have a decent list of stocks to start building a watchlist for Monday morning! I hope you do too!

Download this custom stock scanner on Thinkorswim for free in case you had any problems in the building process:

More custom stock scanners

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