Interchange is the must of the evolution. That’s why collaboration is the most natural thing since the very beginning.

Let’s Enhance team is proud to help like-minded people for the sake of making art not obscure thingy but close-at-hand inspiration.

Today we are going to tell you a story about a tremendous leap of a start-up called “ArtPaper’.

We asked it co-founder Andrew Liakh to reveal how virtuosically create a project in the field viewed every day and why nobody realised yet it can be a profitable one.
It supposed to be a fun side project but turned out to be a successful app featured by Apple for a couple of times and spent a week on the App Store’s front page.

"Patterdale Farm" by Jogn Glover (1840)

What is this project about?

It’s all started from the one message 3 years ago “Why don’t we make wallpapers out of those gallery and museum works?”. That was the solution for three main problems:

  • getting rid of typical forests-mountains-deserts-wallpapers
  • getting bored with the limited amount of the default wallpaper
  • automating tedious job to refresh it manually

Did we know people actually may need it?
Short answer: we didn’t.

It came to existence thanks to Google Art Project. We were inspired by the idea of an online exhibition of different arts and thanks to it we were driven to have art on our desktops every day. Having some tough time with our main project the Artpaper launch was like a temporary getaway. Only after the release, we found out that people actually need this, especially in China.

The idea was to take art from fancy galleries all over the world and bring it to desktops. Art is something that people have been doing for ages, yet it remains quite inaccessible for most of us. We only see it in museums and galleries.

What is inside the process?

We hand-picked 160 coolest images and put them in an app that randomly updates one image per day with the info about this masterpiece.

And very soon ( 3 months after release) we ran out of new images on our Macs. Alex hand-picked the images again and the project was set in motion by adding 7 more collections with 1000+ images in total categorized by galleries.

By the way, we were featured by Apple!  Something like a week after the release in the ‘New Apps We Love’ section. That got us pretty excited.

As an experiment, we even tried to print the pictures in the real world.

That idea came with a really cool-looking copy of Starry Night at the friend’s place. It was printed on a huge canvas. I loved it a lot and that gave me a thought other people may want that too.

So we added a button in our app “Purchase a hard copy for $$$” (50, 100, or 150 US dollars). And we got a huge number of “purchases”. They were mostly from China with the 100$ leading price. So we build the ordering and tracking system, had a deal with a printing agency, and were prepared to die from handling the logistics and manually improving images in Photoshop, to get them ready for printing.

We sold 2 copies in 1 month. One to Alex’s brother, who lives in the US. Another one to some other guy from the US.

Turned out, there is a huge difference between pressing a “Purchase a hard copy for $100” and actually ordering something. China isn’t famous for speaking good English so that probably affected the number of false button presses too.

Of course we had to shut down this system.

"The spirit of war" by Jasper Francis Cropsey

How did you choose pictures?

The main problem was the lack of quality.

All these were pretty low-resolution with an average image width of 1200 pixels. This was enough but not great at all.

We were crazy about improving image quality. I printed out a couple of images on my inkjet printer and then scanned the results. This got us 6000px wide images, but of course it added a lot of noise, so we abandoned that.

As it was 3 years ago there were still plenty of non-Retina displays out there in the field. Low-resolution images were just enough since the screens were not flawless as well.

But everything changed when the visual market has exploded with mind-blowing resolution options. Occurred a huge need for image enhancing for this kind of art.

So we tried to upscale manually using Photoshop, but that failed.

This year, we thought Artpaper needs a refresh. I got the information from friends about Let’s Enhance, who did just what I thought printing and scanning apps would do. The only difference was that it actually works.

We bought a subscription, wrote a small script, and in 10 minutes we had all our 1000+ images in beautiful 5K, with no resizing distortion.

That really helped a lot! We wouldn’t have been able to get quality images for our app if Let’s Enhance wasn’t a thing.

Times have changed. The art can’t exist anymore as it was in 13, 16 or even 19th centuries.

We are living when Technologies are inspired by Art and Art is driven by Technologies.
What an awesome time.