Buying art can be intimidating. The thought of striking up a conversation with a gallery owner can seem daunting. And the alternative — scrolling through countless paintings and prints online — isn’t much easier. Even if you find something you like at a price you can afford, trying to figure out what it would look like hanging over your living room sofa may be enough to relegate the purchase to the bottom of your wish list.
To eliminate that last hurdle and help you visualize a limited-edition print or an abstract painting on your wall, online art sellers like Art.com and Saatchi Art have been developing apps that allow you to try out works at home using virtual and augmented reality. Other new apps let you tap into your phone’s camera roll to see what your own photos would look like hanging in your hallway.
Most of the apps, which can be downloaded for free on iTunes, build on the augmented reality development platform that Apple released last year, allowing you to shop from a particular collection of art and use your cellphone camera to virtually hang a three-dimensional rendering of pieces you like on your wall. With the release of Apple’s iOS 11.3 this spring, more apps that can stick things on walls are expected in the coming months. In the meantime, we tried out a few that are available now.
HOW IT WORKS Once you select an artwork you like from the more than two million posters, prints and fine art photographs offered by Art.com, tapping “view in room” starts the augmented reality experience. After a simple calibration step in which you align a green line with the base of your wall, a correctly sized 3-D image of the art will appear on your wall, giving a surprisingly realistic idea of how that Joan Miró print would look in your bathroom. You can also swipe through a selection of frames — from “wood mount” to “Chelsea Black” — to see what goes best with your blue velvet sofa, or move the print with a touch of your finger to a different spot on your wall.
Want to create a gallery wall? Tap the frame icon at the bottom of the app, choose your style (contemporary, midcentury modern or rustic) and select a layout (two symmetrical artworks hung side by side or an asymmetrical collection of three or five). Then tap on each frame to browse through recommended pieces of art or pick from favorites you have saved. Prices adjust based on the artwork you select.
Once you have a grouping you like, tap “view in room” to see how that gallery wall would look in your space. A framed trio of “midcentury modern” prints seemed reasonable at about $300 and fit nicely above my streamlined sofa with tapered legs. If you decide to buy, Art.com will send you a full-size paper wall template for easy hanging as of March 1.
BEST FOR Shoppers looking for a paint-by-number guide to hanging art on the wall who won’t mind if they see the same piece of art in an office hallway or a neighbor’s apartment. (While Art.com offers a selection of exclusive prints through licensing deals and partnerships, many of its posters and fine art giclées are reprints.)
HOW IT WORKS If you’re looking for something unique, Saatchi Art has more than 500,000 original paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs from thousands of emerging artists around the world. You can sort by medium, size and price, or browse curated selections like “artists of the week” or “new abstract expressionist paintings.”
Tapping on an artist’s name brings up more works by that person. Filtering by price ($100 to $500) and size (large) produced a wide selection, from limited-edition prints like a poster of Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” by Robotic Ewe, recreated using the film script ($210), to acrylic paintings like “Amazonia,” a bright abstract by Rashna Hackett, inspired by rain forest parrots ($490).
Tapping “view in a room” displays the art on your wall and allows you to save a photo on your phone. But judging size is a bit tricky, as users must estimate their distance from the wall. When I tried to view “Woods II by Dimitar Hinkov” on my wall, the app pulled up the $500 painting, showing its dimensions (20 inches long by 28 inches high) with the directions “please stand 5.1 feet from wall.” The company plans to introduce an update in coming weeks that eliminates this step by automatically sizing the artwork to scale.
Unlike Art.com’s app, this one has no self-serve feature for viewing your art in frames. But if you have a budget of $1,000 or more, Saatchi Art will connect you with a curator who will put together a selection of art for you to peruse based on your space and style, and work closely with you to produce a mock-up of what that art would look like in your living space.
BEST FOR Beginning and longtime collectors alike with budgets starting at $150, as well as those interested in emerging artists.
HOW IT WORKS If you want to see what your own photos would look like hanging on your wall, PictureThat AR allows you to pull from your phone’s camera roll by tapping a circular icon at the bottom of the screen. The app will serve up a collection of photos from artists found on Instagram; scroll past those until you see your camera roll.
After selecting an image you want to hang, place the phone against the wall and tap “Hang photo.” Then step back to superimpose the image on your wall.
You can adjust the size with a pinch of your finger or add more images to the wall with a tap of your screen, then save the collection to your photo archive or share on social media. Tapping on your superimposed image pulls up its dimensions along with the option to buy a digital print ranging from $36 for a 4-by-6-inch photo to $84 for a 24-by-36-inch one.
The app also allows you to save an image to your camera roll from any website to view on your wall later by using the Action button (that little square icon with the upward-pointing arrow) on your iPhone.
While the app attempts to solve many of the challenges involved with trying to visualize art on a wall, the execution still has a ways to go. During a trial run in my light-deprived apartment, my attempts to virtually hang photos elicited the following response: “Not enough surface detail. Try moving camera or find better lighting.” Though I was able to view the photos on my wall, the images occasionally drifted off the screen. Michael Yagudaev, the chief executive of Nano 3 Labs, a mobile and web development company in Vancouver, British Columbia, which developed the app, acknowledged the issue and said he expects the app to improve as the technology evolves.
Because this app allows you to upload any image from your camera roll onto your wall, it helped with a longstanding issue of my own that the others did not address: All the framed posters and rice-paper prints I bought on vacation in Vietnam years ago that are now stashed at the back of my closet. By taking photos of them, I was able to virtually hang them on the wall to see where I might eventually put them.
BEST FOR Getting an idea of how those skiing shots from your Tahoe vacation would look on your wall or as a way to view art from websites without a 3-D option.
This home renovation and design site was the flurry of home furnishing sites that began leveraging Apple’s new augmented reality development platform last year to let you try out furniture at home virtually. Earlier this month it added a new feature that extends those capabilities to wall décor, including ready-to-hang paintings, photographs, fine art prints, clocks, mirrors and wall-mounted lighting.
HOW IT WORKS After you have selected a piece of art, tapping the “View in My Room 3D” button opens up the camera view on your iPhone or iPad. To virtually hang the art on the wall, you scan the floor and place the phone flat against the wall. You can manipulate the item, placing it at the best position and angle to see how, say, a $127 Evelyn Wall Mirror would look in your hall.
Snapshots can be saved to a Houzz “ideabook,” where they can be shared with family, an interior designer or other collaborators. Each product viewed in 3D is automatically kept in a shopping list.
BEST FOR Shoppers who want to see more than just prints, paintings and photos displayed on the wall.
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