How to Create Your Own Instagram Stories Filter (Using Spark AR Studio)
Previously, only approved creators could design and publish their Instagram Stories effects (or AR filters) to Instagram, making it an exclusive growth hack.
But now, anyone and everyone can design and create Instagram Stories filters for their brand using Spark AR Studio!
To help you get started, we’re sharing our guide to Spark AR Studio and top tips for designing your first filter:
What is Spark AR Studio?
You’ve probably spotted Instagram’s cool stories filters already — from floating golden orbs, neon frames, and the classic puppy ears, Instagram Stories AR (augmented reality) effects are taking over our feeds!
Previously, these filters could only be created and shared on Instagram by approved brands and creators, making it a really cool but exclusive trend to get involved with.
Spark AR Studio is Facebook’s tool for building augmented reality effects, and it was announced earlier this year that it would be moved out of it’s closed beta on Instagram by the end of the summer.
And that time has finally come — now anyone, and everyone can create Instagram Stories filters and effects!
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We’re excited to announce that we are officially kicking off the public beta for publishing Spark AR effects to Instagram! Starting today, anyone can create and publish their own #SparkAR effects on Instagram. We’re also introducing the new Effect Gallery, making it easier to discover unique effects from the creator community. Read our blog post at the link in bio for more details and tag a creator you think will love this!
A post shared by Spark AR (@sparkarcreators) on Aug 13, 2019 at 9:24am PDT
That means that AR filters are now another powerful marketing asset on Instagram, with more than 1 billion people using an AR effect that was created on the Spark AR platform!
Spark AR Studio is a complex tool — if you’re just starting out in the world of visual design and 3D modeling, the platform can look and feel overwhelming. But don’t let that discourage you!
Some of the simplest designs are often the most popular, and there are tons of great online resources and tutorials to help you through.
Plus, there are plenty of talented AR designers you can work with to create Instagram Stories filters or effects for your brand.
The Spark AR Studio website has a partners page with a big list of augmented reality producers, creators, and agencies that you can reach out to and commission a project.
Or you can also check out Lenlist — a website that compiles the top camera effects (and effects creators) for Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
In this blog post, we’re going to help you get started if you want to go solo with Spark AR Studio.
Or if you’re calling on the help of a designer, we have some top tips for creating the best Instagram Stories filters out there!
How to Create Instagram Stories Effects: Top Tips & Best Practices
We don’t want to cherry coat this — Spark AR is an advanced tool.
If you have some technical and visual design know-how, you’ll find navigating the platform easier than most.
However, if you’re totally new to visual design, you can still get involved — it will just take a little added time and dedication to learn the skills you need to understand Spark AR and all it’s great tools and features!
And who doesn’t love learning a new skill, right?
We’re going to point you in the right direction of some of the best tutorials and guides online in this blog post, but before you jump into Spark AR, here are some top tips to keep in mind!
Create Instagram Stories Effects Tip #1: Think About Your Audience
The first step to creating an Instagram Stories filter or effect is to consider your target audience and how they’ll use your filter.
Most filters are made for selfies, but some have special effects or graphics that are better suited to a landscape or city shots.
So you need to think about who, how, and why someone would use your filter.
For example, the Kylie Cosmetics Instagram Stories filter — the brand was one of the first to create AR filters for Instagram and they created it so followers could take a selfie and “try on” the lipstick colors from the collection.
The filter had a clear purpose, while still being fun, creative and a subtle promotion for the product range.
However, some other designers and brands are creating filters to share a message or raise awareness — like a Pride filter or a special environmental message:
Later’s Communications Designer, Martina Freyer adds that your creative direction is just as important as your design skills when it comes to navigating Spark AR!
“Creators should ask themselves how their filter is going to set them apart from other brands — what do you want to communicate with an AR experience?”
It’s worth spending time thinking about how, what, and why you want to create an AR filter in the first place.
“There are no strict rules on the creative path,” says Martina, but it’s easy to feel lost or overwhelmed with the features, tools, and endless design possibilities within Spark AR.
“But with a clear concept and idea in mind, you can start to visually materialize it!”
Or if you plan to work with a designer, your brief and concept idea will be clear from the get-go — that means less time designing and more time perfecting your Instagram Stories filter.
Want some more inspiration for creating your first AR filter? Check out these 13 fun AR filters that are trending right now on Instagram Stories!
Create Instagram Stories Effects Tip #2: Consider Your Branding
The perfect Instagram Stories filter for your brand needs to be balanced between your branding and creativity.
“The purpose of the filter is to be a ‘gift’ to your followers,” says designer and AR effects creator Vanessa Dutra (@sereiahipster).
“Some brands make the mistake of placing their logo on various areas of the filter, and this can make people a little cautious about using it as they’re inadvertently promoting the brand.”
A good way to work around this is to only include the logo on the filter thumbnail or create a variation of the filter where the logo is just a small element to the overall design.
Take a look at how Disney has created a playful filter that nods to their branding with their iconic Mickey Mouse ears:
When selected, the AR filter lets you add Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse ears to your photo or video. Tapping the screen lets you switch between several different styles, including shiny sequin-studded ears!
While Disney’s AR filter is more playful than promotional, it’s still super shareable, aligned with their brand, and great for spreading brand awareness!
Tip: If you are going to create a series of filters it is good to try to include a unifying element between all of them so that they can easily be associated with your profile and brand, says @sereiahipser.
Think about using the same color palette, typography, or similarly styled icons to create theme across all your designs.
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NUMA ESCALA DE FILTROS DA SEREIA, COMO ESTÁ SUA QUINTA-FEIRA? Arrasta pro lado e me conta nos comentários . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #instagramfilters #filtrosinstagram #filters #sereiahipster #filtros
A post shared by Vanessa Dutra (@sereiahipster) on Aug 15, 2019 at 4:33am PDT
Looking for some more ideas on how to brand your filter? Check out these 8 brands creating cool AR filters for Instagram Stories!
Create Instagram Stories Effects Tip #3: Make it Dynamic
Some of the best AR filters are simple but dynamic.
When you’re thinking about designing your filter, try to conceptualize if it’s going to move, change, track a motion, or if there are other variations of your filter that a user can choose between.
Check out how visual artist and motion designer Philipp Basler brings together his love of line drawings and AR to create some seriously cool Instagram filters.
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A post shared by Philipp Basler (@basphi) on Apr 30, 2019 at 9:24am PDT
Whilst they’re simple (and recognizable!), they also stand out from the crowd thanks to their fast-paced design and effect.
Create Instagram Stories Effects Tip #4: Make it All About the User, Not the Filter
Some of the most popular effects on Instagram are re-usable — as in people can (and want to) use them over and over again.
For this to happen, an AR effect needs to “get out of the way” and make people’s content the hero as opposed to making the effect the center of attention.
When you do this well, people can create something entirely new every time they use your effect!
Tip: Make sure your design allows for your users’ expressions to be seen and recognized. Not only does this align with Instagram’s guidelines for AR filters, but it also means that the user is easily recognizable, along with your branded filter.
For more tips on how to create Instagram Stories filters that work for your brand, check out our Ultimate Guide to Spark AR Studio!
How to Create Instagram Stories Filters Step #1: Download Spark AR
Ready to get started? The first step is to download Spark AR!
Visit this website to download Spark AR to your desktop — you’ll need to sign in to your Facebook account to get access, so begin by logging in with your personal account.
Once Spark AR has downloaded, you can jump right in. But it’s worth taking some time on the welcome screen!
First up — join the super-insightful Spark AR Facebook Community!
While you’re learning the ropes, it’s a great place to ask questions, find inspiration, or even reach out to designers for advice or commissioned projects!
Tap the “Go to Community” button on the bottom right corner from the Welcome page to be brought straight to the group.
Next up, you can look through some of the sample designs on Spark AR — these are completed and live Instagram stories filters and effects, but you can access how they’re made in Spark AR to get a better understanding of the tool.
“Spark AR is all about space, interactions, and creativity!” says Martina.
“It might be scary if you’ve never worked with a program like Cinema 3D or After Effects, but I recommend to start playing around with the tools — there are so many easy ways to getting great results!”
Let these sample filters and affects act as a sounding board and inspiration for your design, and well as the very basic blueprints to how Spark AR works!
How to Create Instagram Stories Filters Step #2: Brush up on (or Start Learning!) AR Skills
We did say this was going to be a learning experience!
Augmented reality is growing in popularity, and the good news is that there are so many great online resources that you can use to help you understand AR, learn about Spark AR’s tools and features, and help you create your first Instagram Stories filters.
Here are some of our favorite resources for getting to know Spark AR:
#1: Facebook’s Spark AR Resources
Make sure you spend some time reading up on some of Facebook’s great guides before you jump into your first project — there’s a lot of new terms to get to know, like the face mesh, hand tracker, and Patch Editor.
TIP: Head to the Spark AR resources page and use the search bar to search for any tool, topic or feature you want to learn more about:
More than likely, Facebook will have a complete and detailed guide on how to use it in Spark AR for you to consult!
Here are three guides to start off your Spark AR education:
#1: Finding Your Way Around Spark AR Studio: This 7-minute video and basic Spark AR tools guide is the best for understanding the basics.
#2: Creating a Face Tracking Effect Tutorial: With this video and guide, you’ll learn how to make an effect that responds to someone’s face — using a face tracker, face mesh, material, and texture.
#3: Creating World Effects Tutorial: Want to create a filter that fills the screen with a background, sparkles, or floating orbs?
Facebook has you covered in this guide — you’ll learn to create a simple world effect that places objects in a fixed position in someone’s environment, instead of relative to the camera’s view and movement.
#4: Sample Effects: Facebook knows that most people won’t know how to use Spark AR right off the bat, so they’ve provided these sample AR filters (accessible from Spark AR’s Homepage) so you open up the project and take a closer look at how it’s built!
Looking for more Samples and Spark AR basic guides? Check out this resources page for everything you need to get started.
#2: Watch YouTube Tutorials and Video Guides
If you’re anything like the Later team, visual learning is the only way to go!
So getting to grips with Spark AR can be tons easier when you’ve watched and followed along with some beginner’s guides to Spark AR on YouTube.
Start off with the Facebook for Developer’s playlist on Spark AR:
While there are only a few videos in the playlist, they’re in-depth, but great for those who have gotten the basics from the online guides and resources:
The Later team also found these two videos to be helpful when getting to grips with different types of Instagram Stories filters and effects:
First up, the 3D effect face mask, like the these mirrored face-detecting masks:
Using Spark AR’s Face Tracker to identify faces in the tool, you can use a Face Mesh to customize masks — like adding in colors, vibrancy, angles, and intensity!
Plus, you can work with skin retouching and add light effects to your filters!
Check out this video for a quick step-by-step guide on how to create this kind of filter:
Secondly, there are 2D filters that react (or track) motion filter — like our favorite puppy ears!
You might have seen filters where you can tap to change the 2D filter option or maybe it moves or loops based on a person’s movements on screen:
If you want to learn more about these types of filters, check out this video!
It’s a basic overview of how to create a 2D filter effect that has 2-3 design options when a user taps on the screen:
#3: Spark AR’s Facebook Community
Remember when we suggested joining the Spark AR Facebook community?
Well, now it’s going to come in handy!
No matter how big or how small the question, the Spark AR’s creative community is buzzing with designers that are eager to help — so if you run into any problems, you can definitely submit a question in the Facebook Group.
Plus, if you’re feeling completely overwhelmed at this stage, this could be a good space to reach out to the pros and get some design help!
How to Create Instagram Stories Filters Step #3: Jump Right into the Deep End
So you’ve read up on the Spark AR guides and resources, watched video tutorials, thought about your creative concept, and are now ready to jump right into Spark AR!
When you click to “Create a New Project” from the Spark AR homepage, you’ll be brought to this dashboard:
To help you get used to the dashboard — here are a few of the features to know about:
#1: The Stimulator
The Simulator acts as a representation of your device — like a phone or tablet. It helps you see in real-time how your AR filter will work and will react on a user.
Spark AR also provides you with some dummy user videos to test our your filter.
#2: The Viewport
Think of this as your main stage — this is where you can see and work with the effect you’re building.
From the menu on the left of the screen, the Camera can be selected — this will bring up blue lines in your Viewport. These lines show where the camera is pointing, and what the camera can see.
At the top of the Viewport are the Manipulators — these can change your object’s Position, Scale, and Rotation
#3: The Scene Panel
Scene Panel is on the left side of the interface, and from here you can add Objects into your filter or effect.
This post was originally published on Later