Time to level up.

Warm Up: Becoming a Lens Creator


Welcome to the Snapchat AR Lens Challenge and to the Snapchat Lens creator community! We’re so pleased you decided to join us.  

Snapchat Lenses are the filters you use to add effects, backgrounds, and animations onto your photos and videos.

This is the first step on your journey to becoming a real-life Lens creator. We can’t wait to see what you create.

Most of you have probably come across a few Snapchat Lenses in your time. If you haven’t, don’t worry. By the end of this challenge you’ll be an expert – trust us!

We’re going to give you everything you need to go from a Lens user to a Lens creator. Over the next eight Level Up Lessons, you’ll have a go at making at least five different types of Lenses before sharing them with the world. 

Here are the types of lenses you’re going to be creating. Open the Snapchat app on your phone and use it to scan the codes and try them yourself!

In Lesson 3, make a Face Paint Lens like this one:
In Lesson 4, you'll discover how to make a Face Distorting Lens like this:

Learn how to change the background of your Lens in Lesson 5, like this:

Create a Face in Picture Lens like this one in Lesson 6:
In Lesson 2, make your own 2D Lens like this:

The best bit is that you’ll be in charge of your own experience. You’ll learn all the tricks of the trade by having a go, working at your own pace and you’ll have creative freedom to finally create the AR Lenses YOU want to create.

At the end of the challenge, you’ll have the chance to enter one of your Lenses into our competition. The winner will get the opportunity to win a cash prize and professional development webinar training and an invitation to apply to the inaugural London Snap Lens Academy, Snap Inc’s summer program for rising AR design students. You’ll also get to meet loads of people who work in all sorts of different roles. Imagine how great that would look on your CV!

Excited? We are too!

So down to the nitty gritty. Here’s what you’ll need to complete the AR Lens Challenge:

  • 💻 A computer or laptop
  • 📱 Your phone with Snapchat downloaded
  • 🤳 A selfie, or a headshot of a celebrity
  • A willingness to have a go…

Before you Continue, Open Your Phone!

The Snapchat app isn’t just social! Yes, it's known for funny lenses, but it enables creators and designers to build a different and creative environment onto our physical world. Take a peak:

Many people don’t know that the Camera Platform Team at Snap developed Lens Studio, the platform that enables any user to go from consumer to producer! The Snap AR Lens Challenge enables anyone to take their 2D designs and facilitates an opportunity to learn how to build for friends to enjoy.

Learn more about Lens Studio and download the desktop app. Let’s dive in further about the Snap AR Lens Challenge.

LESSON 1: Warm-Up Before You Level Up 

Let’s get started with a quick creative warm-up. In this first activity, all you need to do is come up with an idea for a Lens and then prototype it.

A prototype is like a basic plan or a model of an idea. It isn’t supposed to be perfect and the more mistakes you make the more you’ll learn. All designers use prototypes to test and develop their ideas into something that works. So be brave with your ideas and have fun with it!

To create your prototype Lens, all you’ll need is…

  • 💻 A computer
  • 📱 Smartphone
  • 🤳 Digital photo of your face (selfie)
  • 📐 Image editing software Canva (free and online)
  • 📓 A Sketchbook (yours or ours)
  • An open mind and the desire to create…

This warm-up activity is designed to help you build your graphic design skills and your confidence. You’ll meet some of our Lens Creators and get a better idea about what makes a great Snapchat Lens.

Step 1: Explore (spend about 5 minutes on this)

Time to get inspired! Have a look at some of the Lenses being created by our Snapchat Lens creator community at this link. You can see some of the best Lenses from 2021 here. There also some great examples on page 2 of the Sketchbook. Try them on yourself by opening Snapchat and taking a photo of the QR code. This will unlock the Lens. Alternatively, just have a play around with the ones you already have in your Snapchat app.

Pick two that you like.

Step 2: Analyse (spend around 10 minutes here)

✏️ Complete the Lens Venn Diagram in your Sketchbook (Page 3), comparing and contrasting your two chosen Lenses. Are there any key differences or similarities that stand out?

Play with the Lenses. Think about:

💭 Which features stand out the most to you? Which do YOU find most appealing? Why?

💭 Think about how it feels to see yourself using the Lenses. Do you feel differently about each lens? Why?

In your Sketchbook (see page 3), complete a SWOT analysis of your two chosen Lenses. –

  • What are the STRENGTHS of each Lens? 
  • What are the WEAKNESSES of each Lens? 
  • What OPPORTUNITIES does each Lens present to users, advertisers or businesses? 
  • What potential THREATS (problems) does each Lens face that could stop it being successful with users, businesses or advertisers?

Step 3: Mind Map

Mind Map at least five quick ideas for AR Lens filters that could go over a selfie. Use the Lens Ideas space in your Sketchbook (see page 4) or draw them on a paper / on your computer.

If you’re stuck for ideas, think back to the Lenses you just tried out. Which features did you like? Take them and give them your own twist.

Step 4: Choose

Choose your favourite Lens idea and draw it in more detail using the Lens Prototype Space in your Sketchbook (see page 5). Remember – a prototype is like a quick sketch or a mock up, nothing more. The most important thing is getting your ideas down quickly. You can develop them further in the next step.

Step 5: Design (You’ll need about 30 mins or maybe longer if you’re new to this)

Now it’s time to create a digital version of your paper Lens prototype. You’ll use an image editing tool you are already familiar with.

Your digital prototype should look as if you actually took a selfie using your new Lens filter. You’re aiming for something like this…

Safari Lens

Here’s how to do it:

Get familiar with your chosen design software. If you’re already familiar, yay! You can skip this step.

If you are new to design, or if you need to jog your memory first, that’s ok! That’s what this warm-up is all about: building some pretty useful design skills and your confidence. 

If you don’t have a preferred image editing software, try Canva. It’s a free online app that comes with some pretty amazing design features. If you’re new to Canva, spend 10 minutes to look through this Graphic Design Basics guide.

  1. Take a selfie, or find a headshot of a celebrity, and import it into Canva. You’ll use this as the background layer of your image, layering your Lens elements on top. Make sure your selfie or headshot looks like it would in Snapchat. 

  1. Create a new layer. On this layer, add the first element of your new Lens. Depending on the software you’re using, you might do this by drawing with the paint tool, importing a photo, using a shape or icon template. Whatever you do, focus on making sure it fits well on your face.

    For example, say you want to make a crown of flowers. The first element might be a headband that becomes the base for your flowers. You should label that layer as “Layer 1 Headband”. Labelling your layers clearly will save you time (and confusion) later on. Promise!

  1. Keep adding different elements to build out your Lens idea. Create each new element on a new layer and keep on labelling them clearly. This will make it easier to edit.

    For example: For your flower crown, you could add a second layer for big flowers. You would save and label this one “Layer 2 Big Flowers”. Next, might be a third layer for smaller flowers, which you’d label “Layer 3 Small Flowers”, and so on.

  1. Edit each element/layer until you are happy with your prototype! Remember: A good 2D Lens will always fit well around the face.
  2. Save your work as a .PNG file.

Step 6: Share and Reflect 

Congratulations on creating your first Lens concept! We hope you’re all warmed up and ready to go.

It’s almost time to take your prototype to the next level. But first, let’s celebrate your awesome work by sharing it with our friendly learner community. That way you can see everyone’s ideas and hear about each other’s experiences. 

Upload your final prototype photo to the Warm-Up Lesson#1 Padlet. In the caption that goes with it, share your thoughts on these questions: 

  • What did you enjoy about creating your own Lens?
  • What did you find challenging?
  • What did you learn from the experience?
  • What are you looking forward to trying next?