How to Make AR Lenses with Lens Studio and Snapchat app
Lens Studio

How to Make AR Lenses with Lens Studio and Snapchat app

In this guide, you will find information that will help you to build your first SnapLens for the Snapchat app. There are several options available. Non-technical users can use an in-app AR builder to create their base lenses and filters. More technical and professional users can go with Lens Studio to create more immersive AR experiences.


How to make Snapchat Lenses with Lens Studio


If you would like to develop immersive AR lenses and experiences, you have to check and try Lens Studio by Snap Inc. This professional software for macOS and Windows allows creating Augmented Reality lenses, filters and experiences for the Snapchat app.


Step 1. Download and install Lens Studio


You can get the Lens Studio installer from the official website or directly from the Catchar directory. Save the installation file to your PC or Mac, run it and follow the steps to install Lens Studio software. Make sure that your OS and hardware compatible with it. Just in case, you can discover the system requirements below:


  • Operating System: Windows 10 (64 bit); macOS 10.13+
  • Hardware: Minimum of Intel Core i3 2.5Ghz or AMD FX 4300 2.6Ghz with 4 GB RAM; Intel HD Graphics 4000 / Nvidia GeForce 710 / AMD Radeon HD 6450 or better; screen resolution of 1280x768 or higher
  • Please make sure that you have the latest driver for your specific graphics card installed
  • 1.65Gb of free hard drive space 


Step 2. Launch Lens Studio 🚀


When you first launch Lens Studio, you will see a dashboard with different sections, such as home, templates and documentation. You can also create your new project or open an existing project from here. By clicking on the 'LOGIN TO MY LENSES WITH SNAPCHAT' button, you can connect your current lenses if you have them. In addition, from the dashboard, you can visit the forum or report an issue.





Step 3. Discover your first tutorial


Snap Inc. has also released a detailed tutorial with coachmarks that will popup when you launch Lens Studio first time. During the writing of this article, the birthday tutorial template has been automatically popped up. This tutorial shows steps that help you create your first birthday Augmented Reality lens. You can discover how to customize different elements, such as colors, days until birthday, text and much more.


Step 4. The home screen of Lens Studio


You can see a big rotator at the top of the home screen where the Lens Studio team shares here updates and new features. Below creators are able to discover recommended templates. 


Step 5. Try and discover templates


Snapchat team has done a great job and prepared tons of amazing templates that are easy to use. All templates sorted by category and skill level. Let's discover all templates in-depth:



  • 2D Objects. 2D objects attached to your head using simple 2D images.
  • 3D Objects. A 3D object attached to your head. It also shows how to work with two faces.
  • Animated Objects. A moving 3D object in the world.
  • Baseball Cap. Create a baseball cap by importing a single 2D image.
  • Buckingham Palace. Add 2D and 3D content tracked to Buckingham Palace.
  • Chain Physics. Simulate the movement of chains, earrings, and more.
  • Classification. Find out whether someone is wearing glasses using a classification ML model.
  • Countdown. Create a countdown Lens. Customize the date, your hat, and glasses.
  • Custom Segmentation. Apply an effect to a segment of the camera using a custom segmentation ML model.
  • Cutout. Add movable images to the world that cast a shadow.
  • Distort. Stretch, bulge and add additional features to the user's face.
  • Eiffel Tower. Add 2D and 3D content tracked to the Eiffel Tower.
  • Face Expressions. Drive blendshapes using the user's facial expression.
  • Face Image Picker. Select a face from your camera roll and add it to an animated world object.
  • Face Landmarks. Track points around the face to drive different effects.
  • Face Mesh. Apply custom textures and effects to a 3D face model that mimics the user's face.
  • Face Paint. Paint on the user's face using face substitution.
  • Face in Picture. Add your face or facial features to a 2D image.
  • Face in Video. Track 2D content to a video.
  • Flatiron Building. Add 2D and 3D content tracked to the Flatiron Builder.
  • Fullscreen. Fullscreen effects triggered on tap or time.
  • Groud Segmentation. Replace the ground with a material and occlude objects not on the ground.
  • Hair Color. Modify your hair color by choosing its style and colors.
  • Hand. Attach content to your hand. Includes a hand found and hand lost interaction.
  • Hand Gestures. Use hand gestures to play different sounds and animations.
  • High Score. A complex example of persistent storage through a fully playable game.
  • Interactive Approach. Live 3D characters that you can interact with.
  • Interactive Look At. A 3D object you can look at to trigger an animation.
  • Interactive Path. Create a character that moves in the real world.
  • Interactive Tap. Tap to trigger animation.
  • Look Around. A world of 3D objects all around you.
  • Makeup. Add makeup by tuning options for the lips, cheeks, and eyes.
  • Marker. Adds content tightly tracked to an image marker. Includes pre-built marker animation.
  • Market with Snapcode. Unlock a marker experience from a Snapcode. Both marker and Snapcode are tracked. 
  • Material Editor. Use advanced materials to modify how your 3D objects look.
  • Object Detection. Detect where in the camera an object is using an object detection ML model.
  • Paper Head. Control images and animation and animation with facial movement.
  • Particles. Add environment particles to the world.
  • Pet. Add images of animation to cat and dog faces.
  • Photo. Create a face Lens just by importing a single photo of a face.
  • Picture Frame. A 2D image placed in a 3D frame.
  • Portal. Create a portal into another world.
  • Portrait Particles. Add particles behind the user. Optionally add text, and images.
  • Segmentation. Replace a segment of the camera with an image, tiled image or post effect coloring.
  • Shoulder. Attach content to the user's shoulders.
  • Simple High Score. Save data using persistent storage. Great for high scores.
  • Skeletal. Track 2D content to head, neck, shoulders, elbows and hands.
  • Soundboard. Tap on different parts of the screen to play different sounds and animations.
  • Spectacles Depth. Send an object flying that will collide and react to surfaces in your video.
  • Spectacles Path. Add a tunnel of objects based on your video's path.
  • Static Object. A still 3D object in the world.
  • Style transfer. Apply a visual style to your camera feed using a style transfer ML model.
  • Sunglasses. Create custom sunglasses! Simply tune your frame and lenses.
  • TCL Chinese Theatre. Add 2D and 3D content tracked to the TCL Chinese Theatre.
  • Team Celebrate. Create a Lens for your team! Simply tune your team's colors and logo.
  • Trigger. Trigger animation and sound by opening your mouth, raising your eyebrows and more.
  • US Capitol. Add 2D and 3D content tracked to the U.S. Capitol.
  • Window. A window into another world.


As you see, the Snapchat team does the best to simplify the process of creating Augmented Reality experiences and lenses. Moreover, each template has the 'Learn More' button. By clicking on it, an additional popup will be opened where you can find more information about template, such as:


  • Full title
  • Complexity 
  • Detailed description
  • Category
  • Links to video and text documentation


Step 6. Discover Lens Studio with Template


You can start using Lens Studio from scratch or launch a template that fits your requirements. Lens Studio looks very similar to any other 3D software. So if you are familiar with any, you will quickly understand how it works. On the left-hand side, you can see "Objects" and "Resources" panels. Let's review them in detail.


Panel with objects



On the top is your "Objects" panel. Here you can find and add different interactions. First, you see the bar with buttons and search and after the list with objects. Lens Studio presents hundreds of ready-to-go AR objects and interactions, such as screen image, screen text, camera, light, image object, text object, audio, audio effect, liquify, particles, object tracking, marker tracking, location tracking, helper scripts, post effects, color correction. In face effects, you can find and use the following effects: eye color, face mask, face stretch, face image, face liquify, face retouch, face inset, and head binding. SnapML is a new feature by Snap Inc. that you can also find and activate from here. Moreover, some legacy effects are also located here, like a legacy sprite, legacy billboard, legacy face sprite. 


Panel with resources



On the bottom is your "Resources" panel, where you can import your additional resources if you have any. Like the "Objects" panel first, you see additional controls, tabs, and search input. Below, you can see the list of resources related to your project or template. By clicking on the "+" button, creators can add additional resources from the Lens Studio library. There are tons of ready-to-go resources that you can add and use, like textures, material resources, and markers. Also, from the "Resources" panel, you can create a container with your custom Javascript code to create more immersive interactions. 


Lens Studio also has integration with GIPHY. As a result, you can search and add different gifs animations in a few simple clicks. Moreover, Lens Studio has its own Media Library, where you discover different 3D objects and add it from here. 


Scene



In the middle is your perspective view. This is where you move around and preview your creation in 3D space. To change the angle you have to hold the 'OPTION' button (ALT in case of PC) and move around. You can also do the same with your right-click. Scroll your mouse or touchpad to zoom in and zoom out. Again, these controls are very similar to any 3D software.  


Preview panel



On the right-hand side, you have a "Preview" panel. You can see a UI that looks similar to the Snapchat camera. All changes from Lens Studio creators are able to discover on the fly in this section. You can change how looks your virtual assistant. Click on "Person 1", and a dropdown will be opened. By clicking on the different persons, virtual assistants will be changing. Select the person that you like to continue working with.


You can active a live preview and connect your camera. This feature helps to see and understand how your Snapchat Lens will look in the physical environment. If you want to activate the preview feature, you have to find on the top of the "Preview" panel click the round icon, and click on it.


By the way, creators have a choice where this panel with LIVE preview will be located. You can minimize it or launch it as a separate screen.


There is an option to preview your AR lens directly in the Snapchat app. To make it happen, you have to click on the 'Preview in Snapchat' button. Snapcode will popup, launch the Snapchat app on your phone and scan this Snapcode to pair your devices. Then you will have the ability to send your Lens to your Snapchat app. Click on the "Send Lens to Device" button and you will receive a notification to the Snapchat. Tap once on the notification and your Lens will be added to the carousel with filters and lenses to your app. 


Inspector panel



Also, on the right side of Lens Studio located "Inspector" panel. This panel shows detailed information about your objects, resources, etc. If you are using a template, you can adjust the size of any objects. Select the preferred object on the left panel and start adjusting it. Lens Studio marks any edited objects with [EDIT_ME] badge so you can identify them. 


Publish Lens


If you want to share your Lens with community and friends, you have to click on the 'Publish Lens' button. My Lenses popup will open, and it prompts you to share through two ways Sponsored Lenses and Community Lenses. Sponsored Lenses are mainly for brands and brand activations. But for basic needs, you have to go with Community Lenses. When you click that, you will see the "Confirm Submission" form. Here you have a choice to Submit a new Lens or Update Existing one. Also, there are two additional fields available, like Lens Tags and Lens Preview. Lens Tag helps you to categorize your Lens or effect. If someone searches your Lens, these tags will help to find it. You can upload a screenshot of your Lens by using Lens Preview. It helps Snapchat users to identify how your Lens looks like.


Once you fill everything and click on the 'Submit' button, some additional steps on the background will go further. Lens Studio team will review your Lens and make sure that your Lens fits guidelines. Once it's approved, you have the ability to share. There are two ways to share your Lens. The first one is a link that you can share on Social Media or just simply send it to friends. And also, you have a Snapcode. This code is universal for all Snapchat users, and they use them to activate any content on the Snapchat app.


How to create custom Snapchat Lenses


If you feel that you are skilled enough, you can create your Snapchat Lens from scratch. Anyway, creators love Lens Studio because it has lots of templates. Many of them simply use existing templates and customize them based on their needs and projects. 


Before you start developing your new custom Lens, you have to consider the following points and create a to-do list:


  1. Discover the best Snapchat lenses and examples
  2. Check the Snapchat submission guidelines beforehand to make sure your lens complies
  3. Think about the type of Lens? (i.e., 2D, 3D, landmarker, portal, etc.)
  4. Prepare and create your digital assets. (i.e., 3D models, motion graphics, sound, audio, text, etc.)
  5. Discover different templates that fit your project
  6. Customize an existing template or build from scratch
  7. Share to Snapchat
  8. Promote your Lens


Create your first 2D lens


You can start with basic AR experiences and lenses. Try to create 2D Lens by replacing and customizing some existing templates. For example, you can go to Google and find the image of a celebrity's face and save it. Make sure that this image has a transparent background without noise, and it looks like a straight-on photo so you can separate the face from it. 


Launch Lens Studio and open the "Face Paint" template. First, you have to upload a photo of the celebrity you saved and add to the resources. Click on the "+" button on your resources panel and choice "+ From Files." You will need to select the photo, and it becomes appearing in your resources panel.


Now, on the left side in the "Objects" panel, find the "Paint" folder and click on "Face Paint". Go to your "Inspector" panel and replace the texture. Then, you have to use the "Detect Face" feature to adjust the position of Lens automatically. You don't need to crop or remove the background manually. This feature will do everything for you.


Hooray! You just made your first Lens for the Snapchat app. Now, you can publish it to share it with the community and your friends.



How to create 3D Snapchat Lens


In this guide, you can also find tips that can help you create your first 3D Lens. If you are a professional 3D artist, you should know how to create 3D assets, right? But what if not...? In this case, some third-party tools like Vectary can help you. 


Vectary is a simple-to-use design tool that helps to create AR content and experiences. Moreover, this tool has a wide range of 3D objects and animations. You can also pair Google Poly library with Vectary to get more 3D objects.


You can start your free account on Vectary right away. Run the Vectary design tool and select 3D objects that you like. You can use additional features, such as rotation, sizing, color changing, etc. After you have finished, you can export your 3D objects. Use the OBJ file format. 


Now go back to Lens Studio. You can also start creating your 3D Snapchat lens from the template. For example, use the Baseball Cap template because you can replace some objects for your future 3D Lens. Delete the original hat and face stripe layers. Then, upload OBJ models into the same folder. Test your Lens on the device. If everything okay, push it to Snapchat. 


How to make AR lenses through in-app builder on the Snapchat 


Snapchat has released its simple in-app tool that allows creating Augmented Reality experiences and base lenses. This tool has the following possibilities and features:



  • Edit Text. By using it, users can make AR facial lenses with text and emojis. There are different font styles available, such as magnet, neon, glitter, round, wavey, bubble. Snapchat team time-to-time updates font styles so you can find a new option frequently. Also, creators can customize text color. 
  • Face Builder. This feature allows you to overlay any photo from your gallery with a face that is streaming directly from your camera. Funny here that only eyes and mouth appear over the photo. You can change the size of this AR lens and also drag it anywhere. 
  • Face Paint. It looks like an editor with some predefined animated 3D objects. You can select any object that you like and then simply tap on your face to place it. There are following animated objects that are available to use: star, hearts, diamonds, teddy-bears (that look like Haribo bears), and thorns.
  • 3D paint tool allows users to draw any Augmented Reality facial lens in a few seconds. Creators can control brush thickness, colors, or select brush gradient. Moreover, painting is available in the live preview. Snapchat has also added a reflecting feature so you can draw on two sides of your face at the same time. If you are a good painter, this tool is definitely for you.
  • If you are thinking about face tattoo, you can try this tool. It will help you to discover different tattoos through Augmented Reality experience. You can use four types of fonts to create your own custom tattoo, type whatever you want, and see how it will look like on your face. The randomizer feature allows you to try different predefined tattoos. 
  • DIY Effects is a section where you can select, change, and apply filters on the fly. Here you can find a wide range of different filters, such as sunburn, old fashioned, frost, neon frame, square frame, postcard frame, CCTV effect, moire, antenna, circle, heart, rectangle, bokeh, love, flare. Also, you can adjust the intensity of each filter.
  • Makeup Set. By using this builder, you can try-on various virtual makeup. There are a few predefined patterns available.
  • Colorful Vibes. This simple filter allows you to change the shades and colors of your future video or photo on the fly.
  • Noise and Blur. Here you can adjust noise and blur by simply swiping two controls.
  • Camera Mood. This feature allows you to create a funny AR lens with photos from your camera roll. Three photos with faces will appear around your head.
  • Makeup. This one perfectly works for women and girls. This AR builder helps to discover different lipsticks, blushes, and shades. There are various colors available from red to dark purple. 
  • Emoji Freckles. By using it, you can add different emojis on your face in real-time. The following emojis are available: 🖤 🦋 🍓 🌸 🔥 😈 💩
  • Write Something. It allows you to write neon words in AR experience that can be mapped to your forehead.


Conclusion


The creating tool by Snapchat is a perfect opportunity to build your own AR lens or filter in a few simple clicks. The problem that this tool doesn’t provide you the ability to create immersive AR lenses and experiences. You will not be able to use dependencies, custom textures, 3D models, animation, etc. To create immersive AR lenses for the Snapchat app, you have to use Lens Studio.


How to promote Snapchat lenses


There are many different strategies available on how to promote Snapchat Augmented Reality lenses and experiences. You can use SMM, direct marketing, or collaborate with other creators. But first, you have to think about the overall concept and quality of your lenses. If you create something immersive, your Lens could become viral, and users will share it by themselves. 


You can also submit your Lens to Catchar directory to get feedback from other creators. Catchar helps creators to get organic traffic for their lenses. Besides, Catchar team promotes all submissions across social media networks and newsletters. More than 30,000 contacts and followers are available.