Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Waterlogue App

Tomorrow a fun new app for the iPhone and iPad will be released called Waterlogue. The app interprets a photo to look like it was painted in watercolor.


The developers let me play with an advance version of it. I started by taking a photo of our teapot using our iPad. Then Waterlogue started dissecting the image in real time, searching out contours, dropping in blotches of color, and applying watercolor-like effects, such as a wet-into-wet color bloom. Like magic, and it's accurate with ellipses!


It goes beyond typical Photoshop watercolor filters because it has more visual intelligence, and more of the feel of the real paint. But of course you can still sense the photo behind it.


Here's one based on a photo of me sketching on the streets in Shanghai. The app gives you several different painting styles to choose from. My favorites were Natural, Luminous, and this one, Travelogue. Like a sketch, it leaves unpainted lines at the top, and little white dots in the darks.

The app was designed by John Balestrieri and Robert Clair, who are readers and commentators on this blog. Of course it's no threat to traditional artists (unless the art that someone does is little more than an app), and no substitute for actual sketching. To my mind, it's just a fun new way to think about image-making.

You can pick up a copy of the app when it's released tomorrow, or sign up today for a reminder at the Waterlogue website.

16 comments:

Tom Hart said...

I was prepared not to like this - my natural defense mechanism, I guess. But I'm impressed. Plus, I bet it's fun, and might even be instructive to watch it work in the real-time way that you describe.

When I recouperate from my initial visceral reaction to such devices, I remember that it's just another tool.

dragonladych said...

Well the app is cool but I can predict even more scams with this. Most people will not be able to tell the difference between this and a painting and might purchase prints without knowing the truth. Now it's not really different from selling framed calendar pages, just another reason for scammers to be happy and profit from people's naivety.

But people who like buying original art still will do so of course.

Andy said...

Ahh, but can you use it to create a photo-realistic image of Morgan Freeman?

Katherine said...

I am torn between complimenting it as a jolly good imitation of a watercolour, and being nervous of it for the same reason. If it was anyone but you promoting it... (... see what esteem I hold you in James!?)

Stinson Lenz said...

I think that it is the artist's choice of subjust, rather than the medium, that makes a piece of art. If you ran a boring image through this filter, it would still be boring.

also, if art is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, anything to tilt the balance and leave more room for inspiration is OK in my book.

That said, there's no substitute for learning how to paint before you might use a program like this. Kind of like learning long division, before you're allowed to use a calculator.

Carole Pivarnik said...

Neat app...just for fun and also I can see how it would be instructive to see how a photo is simplified as a watercolor image--something many artists struggle with especially when just starting out in watercolor. It would be really neat if it had a Complexity slider...so you could see how it interpreted an image differently at different levels of complexity. I will definitely be downloading this one. Thanks for sharing the info.

Don Ketchek said...

No threat to real artists? Maybe not yet, but it is only a small step away from non-artists (and artists, too, of course) printing full size "waterlogues" that will begin entering art shows and contests - and prints being sold online, no doubt - that will definitely be a threat to traditional artists. Frauds are already using advanced print technology to enter (and in some cases) win art contests with what turns out to be photos.

As the next generation of kids grows up with computers that can replicate what traditional artists do, they would be half crazy to put in years of learning and effort to do what a computer can do in seconds. I have nothing against digital art - and do some myself - but I always try to draw the line (pun intended) between using the computer as a tool and having the computer programming actually generate the artwork. I think more and more, artists will no longer draw that distinction.

jytte said...

I think that the device may be used by beginners just to see how a photo could look like if painted in watercolours. If people buy a print of a painting it is still only a print right. :o)

Simone said...

A mechanically produced image will still lack that "something" which is present in images produced by hand. Fine painting will be still be something only a small percentage of people can do. True, those not willing to put in the effort it takes to be an accomplished painter will use this to produce images they call art. But it won't be "fine" art. If it is art at all.

kornblumen said...

It might be, as several commentators above have pointed out, that fine art will still remain special, with only a few being able to produce it. But what does it matter?

I am sure that at some point, when both the technology advances, and the next generation grows up with these possibilities and, even more crucially, the new visuals firmly changing their tastes and expectations, it won't be as easy to tell the difference anymore. And why would they? Most people appreciate visuals for the emotions they invoke in them, not for the hard work behind a piece of art.

The definition of art is not set in stone. Already today digital artists don't bother to set up their own perspective, or simply trace over 3D models, and it's still considered art. Tomorrow, it will be taking a photo and adding effects like these to it that will be considered "art".

Or maybe not, but I don't see why the majority should still care for fine arts, if there won't be any actual demand for them anymore.

Tom Hart said...

I think it's always been true, and will continue to be so, that the people who buy original art care how it's made. Those who buy mass produced images - i.e. prints - will tend to care much less (as a general rule), being largely interested in how the image appeals to them.

I don't think technology chanages that.

Carol said...

That's scary. We once thought that translating a language into another would never be possible... now being a translator is a dying job since computers are getting so much better... Let's never forget not to get manipulated by the machine and let our creativity stay as intact as possible. We can't predict anything as to date.

runninghead said...

I follow things like this and I'd say it's the best one yet. You can even, to some extent, see how it's done but it's till the only nice looking result I've seen so far. I'll be trying it out tomorrow, on both photos and digital paintings. Thanks for bringing this to our attention James and well done John and Robert!

Sam Easton said...

As beautiful as the Waterlogue application is, I can see it being abused like Instagram.

Jonathan Grace said...

I agree with Stinson- any tool in the hand of an artist is simply to assist the artist in expressing their creativity. Regardless of the tool- the art is in knowing how to use available tools to express something and also knowing when to stop/enhance/modify. I think any shortcut is valid if it is used to achieve the artists honest intent... research dutch master Vermeer... camera obscura... what is that considered to be???

Shar said...

I just wish there were a Photoshop filter/script/action that was this good!