TikTok users claim you can make a 'perfect' camera filter with nothing but tape — so we tried it ourselves

Dillon Thompson
·3 min read

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Why worry about all those wild, mind-numbing Instagram settings when you can make your own iPhone camera filter?

That’s the promise of a viral TikTok hack, which claims you can create a simple, colorful iPhone filter with two common household items.

Those ingredients? Expo markers and some clear tape. It might sound like an elementary school art project — but apparently, it works.

Still, the editors/amateur photographers here at In The Know had some doubts (we’ve been burned by TikTok hacks before).

We put the iPhone camera filter hack to the test with a good, old-fashioned photo contest — pitting the TikTok method against a state-of-the-art filter. Here’s what went down.

How to make a homemade iPhone camera filter

In one corner, we have our regular, real-life filter: It’s this Graduated Color Filter Kit from Apexel.

Shop: Apexel 2020 Phone Camera Graduated Color Filter Accessory Kit – $25 on Amazon

Credit: Amazon
Credit: Amazon

This kit comes with seven different filters, suited for all kinds of Instagramming needs. So, we decided to test the TikTok hack with a handful of different filter colors that matched our Amazon gadget.

Here’s what you’ll need for the TikTok version:

  • One roll of clear tape

  • A variety pack of Expo (or comparable) markers

To make the homemade filter, start by ripping a small piece of tape and pasting it over your phone’s camera. Be sure to cover the entire lens, and also avoid getting too many fingerprints on the tape.

Then, color in the tape with whatever marker color you want! For single-color filters, it’s really that easy.

For multicolor filters (like in the video above), add a second layer of tape and color over part of the camera, but not all of it. This will give your photos an abstract, slightly trippy look.

So, does TikTok’s iPhone camera filter really work?

Technically, yes. Still, it’s clear there are some limitations on the hack — especially compared to something like the Apexel filter kit.

To decide which filter kit won our photo contest, we sent a series of similar photos to the ITK team and let them choose which “portfolio” they liked best. Here’s an example of the comparison (the TikTok filter is on the right).

Credit: ITK
Credit: ITK

Ultimately, the photos taken with the Apexel filters won out. As you can see from this comparison, the TikTok hack makes images appear a bit hazy — and it’s also harder to “stack” filters to get different colors into the frame.

Final verdict?

The TikTok iPhone camera filter does work, but, in our case, it seemed a bit limited. If you want to get serious about your Instagram game (this editor does not, but zero judgment!), then an actual, store-bought filter is probably the way to go.

For more on our photo challenge, check out the video at the top of this article.

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