santa claus by the fireplace and christmas tree in living room
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Photoshop Santa Claus Into Your Living Room With These Free Apps

Augmented reality has really changed the game.

Originally Published: 

Let's face it, there’s been a lot less magic and joy over the last year than usual, and finding small things that might be even a little bit entertaining is huge. Thankfully, there are a few fun opportunities to make the holidays a bit brighter, like these Christmas apps that allow you to insert Santa into your home via augmented reality. It's like playing Pokémon, but you're catching Jolly Old Saint Nick instead.

It's creative as heck, and way more convincing than some of the things I've tried to convince my kids of the Santa myth. (Also, this requires 100% less glitter, which I am here for.) The apps are all basically the same; you film or take a picture of your living room or wherever, and then click a button to insert and size Santa so that he fits appropriately into the space. Some of them have Santa unpacking presents, and others just have a Santa in repose. They’re fairly user-friendly, most are free, and available across iOS and Android. Just make sure to check the permissions you accept before you set them up to make sure you’re not accidentally giving a free app information you don’t want them to have.

I took the time to download and test drive all these (and more) applications to find the best and easiest to use. After excluding any apps that were slow to load, glitchy, or otherwise too costly, here are the best of the bunch.


Catch Santa In My House

The free Catch Santa In My House app is fantastic, easy to use, and straight forward. It's perfect to use to "trick" your kids into seeing Santa in your room. This one is one of my favorites. It has the most "real" feel.

Available in iOS and Android, it's an easy photo edit app that allows you to choose one of 50 Santa poses that you then digitally place in a picture of your living room. The editor in the app is seamless and easy to use, and the pictures actually end up looking pretty good. I will admit, if you save the pic and run it through a filter, it looks even more believable for the generation of kids who are living with AR every day.


Santa Was Here

The free Santa Was Here app is a bit more of a caricature, but it's still really cute. The platform is simple and interactive, with plenty of great options for placing Santa. I say "caricature," because Santa is kind of cartoonish in this version. Also, if you want more than a couple of poses, or access to the ability to record and personalize, it's no longer free. However, it works the same as Catch Santa, and just as easily. Again, filters are your friend, and it's on iOS.


Capture The Magic

Capture the Magic

Capture the Magic for both iOS and Android has improved greatly for 2021. Where it was glitchy before, and tricky to use in my opinion, now it’s pretty great. (I didn’t swear at the app at all trying to use it, which is my personal measuring stick of an app’s ease.) You can choose from almost 100 Santas, and pose them in myriad ways, flipping, resizing, and placing with just a tap. The graphics are convincing, with jolly Santas and additional stickers to make your scene all the more festive and fun. It’s easy to pretend that you caught Santa on your baby monitor or security camera with this app. Just take a picture of where you want Santa to be from the angle of the actual camera, and poof! You’ve caught the big man himself.


PNG Photoshop Overlays


If you’re a Photoshop fan, you can even buy Santa PNG overlays to put in your own pictures. This gives you quite a bit more ability to blur edges, color correct, resize elements in your own photo, and to get the placement just right. You could even add in extra elements like snow, a smoky fireplace where none existed, and a halo of red and green around Jolly Old Saint Nick.

Kids believe in Santa for such a brief period in their lives. Why not make it as magical and real as you can? The world and real life can creep in at a later date. Right now? It’s time for fantasy.

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