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STANDARDS

CCSS: 3.G.A.1

TEKS: 3.6A, 3.6B

Instagram Filter Designer

Leighton McDonald designs filters for social media apps

Courtesy of Leighton McDonald (Murakami, Spark AR, IGOR); Shutterstock.com (All Other Images)

This filter was inspired by the work of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami (right); This filter gives you the look the musician Tyler, the Creator wore for his 2019 album IGOR (left).

On social media apps like Instagram, filters can be a fun way to make a photo or video look cool. They can fill your screen with sparkles or change the shape of your face! But who makes these filters, and how do they do it? 

Leighton McDonald is a virtual designer who works with augmented reality (AR) to create filters for social media platforms.

People use filters on social media apps like Instagram. Using them can be a fun way to make a photo or video look cool. They can fill your screen with sparkles. They can even change the shape of your face! But who makes these filters? How are they created?

Leighton McDonald is a virtual designer. He works with augmented reality, or AR. He creates filters for social media platforms.

Working With AR 

R is a type of digital art that you can view through your camera. It layers images over what you see, for example adding sunglasses to a video of yourself.

McDonald first started working with AR in college. He developed a program that showed construction workers the location of underground pipes. That way they knew where to dig safely.

AR is a type of digital art. You can view it through your camera. AR layers images over what you see in the real world. For example, you can add digital sunglasses to a video of yourself using AR.

McDonald first started working with AR in college. He developed a program for construction workers. The program showed the construction workers where pipes were located under the ground. That way the construction workers knew where it was safe to dig.

Courtesy of Leighton McDonald (Murakami, Spark AR, IGOR)

McDonald uses a program called Spark AR to create his fun filters.

Eventually he started using AR programs to share content on social media. So far he’s created more than 63 social media filters. One of his latest got 3 million views in two days! 

Many of McDonald’s filters are inspired by futuristic ideas. He sees a future in which people wear digital video game skins over their clothes. “I always try to think about what digital fashion will look like,” he says.

McDonald began using AR programs to share content on social media. He’s created more than 63 social media filters so far. One of his latest filters got 3 million views in two days!

Many of McDonald’s filters are inspired by futuristic ideas. He sees a future in which people wear digital video game skins over their clothes. “I always try to think about what digital fashion will look like,” he says.

Creating a Filter

To create a filter for Instagram, McDonald sketches an idea in Photoshop over a hand-drawn shape or a photo. Next, he uploads the sketch into the program Spark AR. This allows him to adjust the image from multiple perspectives, or angles, and to add effects. 

He places the image on a 2-D or 3-D plane, or a digital rectangle floating in space. Then he layers shapes or effects on top of it. The finished filter appears on a user’s camera according to where McDonald placed it on the plane.

McDonald encourages anyone who’s interested in working with AR to learn computer coding. But knowing your users is important too. “If I’m designing something [that] I want to go viral, I think about the person who would be using it,” he says. 

McDonald starts creating a filter by sketching an idea. He uses Photoshop. He sketches his idea over a photo. Sometimes he sketches over a shape he drew by hand. McDonald then uploads the sketch into a program called Spark AR. Spark AR allows McDonald to view the image from many angles. He can change or move the image however he wants. McDonald can also add effects to the image in Spark AR.

McDonald places the image on a 2-D or 3-D plane. A plane is a digital rectangle that floats in space. Then he layers shapes or effects on top of it. The location of the filter on the plane determines where the finished filter will appear on a user’s camera.

McDonald says that anyone who is interested in working with AR should learn computer coding. But knowing your users is important too. “If I’m designing something [that] I want to go viral, I think about the person who would be using it,” he says.

Analysis

Answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper.

Answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper.

Which shape did you use the most in your filter design? Explain why. 

Which shape did you use the most in your filter design? Explain why. 

If you could have used one other shape in your design, which one would you have chosen? How would you have used it?

If you could have used one other shape in your design, which one would you have chosen? How would you have used it?

Which classmate’s filter would you be most excited to use and why?

Which classmate’s filter would you be most excited to use and why?

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