Famed Snapchat artists like Michael Platco, Miologie, Dasha Battelle, and Shaun McBride make creating multicolor masterpieces look like, well, a snap. Imitating their techniques, however, can be daunting. If you’ve ever tried to turn one of your selfies into Frodo or Harry Potter and then given up, frustrated that your fingers were too chubby to paint it, you’re not alone.

Pro users claim they can look at any snap and know exactly how it was made. But the rest of us are left gawking: How did he do that?


Snapchat art by Michael Platco

Here’s a secret: Many of Snapchat’s best features are hidden. Some functions, like a “send all” button, are nonexistent, with no workaround. In order to get the most out of the app, you’ve got to learn a few tricks of the trade. 

Here are our best Snapchat hacks, tips, tricks, and secret functions to transform any ordinary snap into a work of art.

Save snaps from friends forever


 

Snapkeep is the premier third-party app for saving your photo messages. It allows you to save all snaps and videos from the app without the sender knowing. It’s free of advertising, and you can save unlimited snaps at no additional cost. (Saving unlimited stories, though, requires a small upgrade fee of $0.99.)

To use the app, download it from the iTunes store and log in with your Snapchat username. Note: You can only be signed into your Snapchat username on one application at a time. Signing into the Snapkeep app (or any of the third-party apps listed here) will sign you out of the Snapchat app. You can always sign right back in. This is a Snapchat security feature, not a bug. 

Once you’ve logged into Snapkeep, you’ll be confronted with a screen very similar to Snapchat’s snap-viewing screen. However, unlike Snapchat, on Snapkeep you can easily tab between snaps and stories.


 

Click into the snap you want to view, and voila! No time limit. You can review the snap or story anytime, as many times as you like, or choose to save it to your camera roll. In all cases, the sender will never be alerted. 

How to draw perfectly even, super-fine lines


Snapchat art by Dasha Battelle

How do artists like Michael Platco, the “Van Gogh of Snapchat,” draw such intricate lines? For their most complicated work, they often use an iPad.

Drawing on an iPad is infinitely easier than drawing on a phone. Once inside the app, the lines themselves don’t get smaller, so it’s like your finger is shrunken down times 100. You’re able to sketch fine lines that would be impossible to achieve on any smartphone, and a stylus can be used for advanced snap art.


Snapchat art by Miologie

To download Snapchat onto your iPad, enter the App Store, but swap the device listing from “iPad only” to “iPhone only.” After downloading, a blown-up version of the app will appear on your device. Before you know it, you’ll be snap-sketching chantilly lace.

How to access Snapchat’s secret color gradient

Snapchat’s secret palette of colors is probably one of the most elusive and difficult tricks to learn. Master it, and a technicolor world is just a few swipes away.

Michael Platco discovered the gradient while messing around with the app one day. He developed the clearest tutorial on how to unlock this secret feature. 


 

“Let’s say you’re on green,” he explains. “Hold your finger down, and begin to drag it to the left very slowly. You’ll notice that the shade begins to get lighter, the color will become softer and have more and more white in it. As soon as you notice the color has changed, you can also drag your finger directly straight down. This will give you darker versions of the same color.”

This trick also works for black and white. Drag your finger down, over, and up to access infinite shades of grey. 

On Android, the base functionality is similar, but the colors are organized in a locked palette instead of a gradient. It’s less customizable, but you also won’t lose colors like you do in the iPhone app. 

The Android version also offers a secret highlight and shadow feature that you can access via the pallette. This allows you to sketch translucent shades, highlighting or darkening areas of the snap. Sadly, this feature is unavailable on the iPhone app. 

How to create an infinite customizable Best Friends list 

Snapchat automatically sorts your most snapped friends into a “Best Friends” list on the “Send To” screen, but the list is non-customizable and capped at seven users.

To work around this, you’ll first need to rename your contacts. Decide who you want in your extended list, and navigate to their username on the “My Friends” page. Click on a name, and a drop-down list should appear. Here you can view her score and see a list of the top three friends with whom she snaps most often. 


 

To the right of the name, you’ll notice a small, circular settings icon. Click this icon and a pop-up will appear on the screen. Click the first option, “Edit Display Name.” Another pop-up window will appear with a field where you can change your friend’s name. (Note: This will only change her name on your phone).

To add the user to your new “Best Friends” list, add an “a_” before her name. For instance, if the user’s name is Beyoncé Knowles, you’d edit her display name to read “a_ Beyonce Knowles.” This will automatically force her name to the top of the A category on the “Send To” screen, allowing you to easily snap all your closest friends without having to scroll through your entire contact list.


 

How to upload photos and videos from your phone

Some Snapchat artists consider this cheating. “If you’re going to do that,” Platco told me, “why not just upload a whole Photoshop file?” Others consider it essential to protecting their work while crafting complex images in a young and buggy app.

“If 20 people decide to send me a snap at the same time, my app will crash and I’ll lose my work,” Shaun McBride, also known as Shonduras on Snapchat, explained in an interview with Forbes as he took a quick mid-drawing screenshot. “But I can go back in and load this one up to keep going.”  

Unfortunately, uploading images requires a third-party app. The best upload tool available right now is Snap Up. It’s easy, simple to use, and offers a clean interface. Search for “Snap Up” (two separate words) in the iPhone App Store, and click on the “Pro” version with the blue background and white ghost with a rainbow tail.


 

Once you sign in with your Snapchat username and password, you can easily upload photos and videos straight from your iPhone library. For videos longer than 10 seconds, Snap Up allows you to highlight and select the portion you’d like to snap or add to your story. 


 

Snap Up also allows you to add custom filters and fonts that aren’t available in the traditional Snapchat app (but beware, these features can sometimes be buggy). Other Snapchat photo-upload apps such as Snaphack or Hacksnap offer additional image editing, frames, and stickers. 


 

One small note of caution: Because these apps aren’t officially Snapchat-sanctioned, they are frequently shut down and removed from the App Store. Your best bet is to Google around until you find one that’s right for you. 

How to draw in black and white

Drawing in black and white is old-hat to many novice snappers, but the functionality still remains well hidden to those just starting out. The good news: It’s easy to learn. 

To draw in black, touch the color palette with one finger. Then, without lifting it, drag your finger to the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. Lift your finger, and the cursor will be set to black.

To draw in white: touch the color palette with one finger. Without lifting it, drag your finger to the top left-hand corner of the screen. Lift your finger, and the cursor will be set to white.

How to enable new geofilters

Snapchat recently unveiled a new range of location-specific geofilters. These fun, customized (sometimes branded) filters will pop up depending on where you snap. Money rains down in one filter from New York City’s Financial District; another Los Angeles–specific filter features brightly cut-out shops and shoes.


 

Many users complain that they can’t access these sticker-like decals. The simple fix: Make sure they’re turned on! To activate geofilters, navigate to the settings page and scroll down to “Additional Services.” Click “Manage” and a page will appear with several options.


 

Flick the “Filters” option to “on” and ensure you have location services enabled. Geofilters should begin to appear in certain locations in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. 

Happy snapping!

Illustration by Jason Reed