How To: Get Unique Face Filters by Following AR Creators on Instagram

Get Unique Face Filters by Following AR Creators on Instagram

It's easy to forget just how cool face filters are. Augmented reality has come a long way, and apps like Instagram now offer a suite of impressive effects to play with, but some of the best ones aren't easily found. There is a treasure trove of exclusive, custom face filters that are unavailable to the general public, but not at all inaccessible — you just need to know the trick to getting them.

Instagram announced a program in May 2018 that let brands, public figures, celebrities, and other popular creators make original face filters for their audience via Facebook's Spark AR Studio platform. Accounts would join the closed beta through Facebook with a linked Instagram, then they'd design original face filters via the macOS application.

As of August 2019, anyone can join the new public beta, so you can even create AR filters and effects yourself. There are over 30,000 users in the Spark AR Community, so there's likely a ton of filters out there you've probably never seen. And with the new public beta, AR effects are even easier to find on Instagram.

How to Get Custom Filters on Your Instagram

Now that custom filters have been an Instagram staple for some time, there are two different ways to get them in your Stories camera. The simplest way is also the most recent way — Instagram added a new Effects browser to the AR filter tray, making it easy to discover filters created by users just like you.

Option 1: The Effects Browser

To access the browser, launch the Stories camera, then tap the filter button (the one that looks like a face). Next, scroll all the way to the right, and tap "Browse More Effects" or "More Effects." Here, you'll find stories featuring AR filters, as well as filters you can use right then and there. Just tap a filter, watch its preview, and, if it's a good fit, tap "Try It" to instantly load it into your AR filter tray.

You can tap the filter in the tray to open expanded options. Tapping "Browse Effects" will return you to the Effects Browser, while "More" leads you even more options. "More from [Username]" will take you to that user's effects profile, "Report" will allow you to report the filter, and "Remove" will remove the filter from your tray.

Option 2: Follow a Creator

Following a creator who makes AR filters has two perks. One, you get to support that creator's Instagram page. Two, you instantly gain access to all of that creator's filters! Perhaps the most notable Instagram filter creator is Johanna Jaskowska, even if others make more filters. Jaskowska's filters mostly follow the same theme of adding material effects to your face without actually hiding it behind the filter.

All you need to do to gain access to these filters is to follow Jaskowska. Once you do, you'll find them scattered in the filter section of the Instagram Stories camera (tap the smiley face in the bottom right). You'll know a filter was made by Jaskowska not only because of its distinct style but because you'll see her tag appear at the top of the display when choosing the filter.

Another good person to follow would be Instagram product designer George Kedenburg III, who works on Spark AR. He created a "Desktop96" face filter, which throws you inside a Windows 95-looking desktop environment, as well as "Battery Life," which throws a battery indicator above your head.

Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

So you're following Jaskowska and GK3 on Instagram. What now? How do you find other creators that offer these filters? There are a few things you can do.

Tip 1: Check 'Lenslist'

If you're looking for a comprehensive database of filters, effects, and creators, look no further than "Lenslist," which not only offers an easy way to discover new creators and their effects but also lets you manually search for content. It even allows creators to directly upload original effects to the site.

Because Lenslist is interested in AR across the mobile landscape, you'll find that some filters aren't exclusive to Instagram. Lenslist covers Snapchat and Facebook as well, so just keep that in mind when browsing for that next great effect.

Tip 2: Use 'Suggestions for You'

One of the fastest ways to rack up these custom filters is to find participating creators via Suggestions for You after following a filter creator. The section appears whenever you start following an account, but you can also open it manually by tapping the arrow. Expand the window further by tapping "See All," and you'll find a lengthy list of creators to follow.

It's important to note that, while helpful, these suggestions won't exclusively filter (pun intended) for participating creators. You'll find accounts in these lists that don't make their own filters, but it can be tough to tell without actually following the account since some participating creators don't mention their filters in their bios either. If you follow an account and don't see any new custom filters in your Stories camera, you can always unfollow that creator.

Tip 3: Follow the Hashtags

While there isn't enough coordination between Spark AR and creators at this time to use one universal hashtag, you might find creators using similar hashtags when advertising their new filters on their feeds:

#ar
#effects
#filter
#followforfilters
#instafilter
#instagramfilters
#instalens
#instamask
#sparkar
#sparkarcreators

It's likely once the ball gets rolling, creators will start using the same hashtag to better place the community on the digital map. Until then, these hashtags will just have to make do.

Tip 4: Dive into the 'SparkCreators' Account

While Spark AR is backing all of these creators, it doesn't have an Instagram account of its own. Instead, the best we have is a "SparkCreators" account. This Instagram page regularly promotes filters made by the Spark AR community. It's also an account that filter creators to follow. While not all of its 36,000 followers are filter-makers, many are. Like Suggested for You, SparkCreators provides a good stream of accounts to pick up, you just have to do the leg work.

Having Trouble? Here's a Starter List

If you're having trouble finding creators with the methods above, we've gathered a shortlist of the ones we've found. Use this as a base to get you started, but don't stop there or you'll be missing out on hundreds of cool AR face filters.

Cover image, screenshots, and GIFs by Jake Peterson/Gadget Hacks (unless otherwise noted)

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