DIY your own Snapchat World Lenses with new (and free) Lens Studio

Snapchat is now letting users create DIY augmented reality World Lenses. On Thursday, December 14, Snapchat announced Lens Studio, a desktop app that allows anyone to create a lens, submit it for publication and then share using a scanable Snapchat code.

Lens Studio is ideal for users with previous 3D design experience, but Snapchat is also adding a handful of tools for those new to crafting content beyond the typical two dimensions. The software opens to a window with several template options that make it easier to get started. The templates allow you to choose what kind of movement the lens will have, whether that’s a fully animated character or multiple objects that pop up when the user turns the camera around. Snapchat even included two templates for users who haven’t worked with 3D objects yet, including a two-dimensional picture frame you can add to the AR space.

Available for both Windows and Mac desktop computers, Lens Studio allows users to customize their lens with with a handful of different tools, including importing 3D objects created in other programs and editing the existing object with different colors, textures and lighting effects. As creators work, a preview on the side shows what the Lens will look like for Snapchat users. Along with designing the lens, the software also allows creators to provide instructions, for example hinting toward an action users can take to animate the lens.

Lens Studio won’t mean that users will suddenly have hundreds more lenses to scroll through before finding the right one. Once the lens is approved by Snapchat, creators get a Snapchat code that’s scanned to activate the new lens, then users have 24 hours to use the lens before it disappears and requires a rescan to use again. That allows brick and mortar businesses to create a lens that’s exclusive to customers that visit their store, for example. With 95 percent of the geofilters inside Snapchat created by users, it’s also possible that Snapchat could choose to add to its in-app lenses from Lens Studio users in the future.

The scannable lenses, however, will likely create an increase in unique world lenses to send to friends. By limiting the lenses to a code scan, Snapchat creates a sort of exclusive World Lens system that’s only accessible to users that have visited a certain location, giving users the ability to share unique lenses rather than that dancing hot dog we’ve all seen.

The software’s beginner-focused tools, however, suggest the tools aren’t just for advertisers and graphic design professionals. The software is only for World Lenses, or the options using the rear-facing camera. Lens Studio doesn’t currently support those selfie AR effects like interactive masks and puppy faces.

“With the launch of Lens Studio, we’re excited to make Lenses more accessible to creators, and experiences within Snapchat more personal and diverse,” Snap Inc. said in the announcement. “We’ve seen how much more fun Geofilters have become since first inviting the community to create their own three years ago — and can’t wait to see what you build with Lens Studio!”

Earlier this year, Snapchat launched sponsored World Lenses, which allowed advertisers with big budgets to create a dancing mascot or other promotional AR objects. Lens Studio opens up those custom lenses to more users, from small businesses and artists to the computer savvy that just want to design their own lens — because why not?

Lens Studio is a free download, available from Snap’s new page for the software, which also includes tutorials for using the new program.