Creating an Interactive Wall of Album Art

An exploration in interior design, art, technology, and delight by using NFC tags and album art to play Apple Music across our HomePods.

What did I make?

Using Apple Shortcuts, AirPlay 2, iPhones, and Apple Music, I made a display of album artwork that, when tapped with an iPhone, will play that album across all our smart speakers.


My wife and I just moved into a new place, and we made it a point to really invest in making it something more special than the previous place we lived in. You know, “do it right” from the beginning.

Previously, I had seen an apartment tour from Nikias, in which he shared some awesome ideas, one of which caught my attention: he set up a wall of album art that, when an album was tapped with a phone, would cause that album to play on his smart speakers.

It’s a great idea, though I would have wanted a more in-depth overview of how he did it. As I experimented around with the idea, I figured out his method, and now the 100 pack of NFC tags I bought could finally be put to good use.

Planning the idea

To start, Moriah and I spent a night creating a list of albums we enjoy listening to. Since this idea has been in our minds for a while (along with having music nights, an idea from Paul Thurrott), we had already been cultivating albums we enjoy, which made this a fairly easy task.

A very long list of albums we both really enjoy.

After we came up with a list of albums that were both enjoyable and artsy, I went online to find the album art covers. I used Google Images (I tried other solutions to no avail) to find high resolution pictures— ideally, something at about 3000×3000 pixels. However, most of the photos I found were well below that, sometimes as low as 600×600. Some were pixelated at that size, which meant somebody upscaled an 160×160 image without increasing the quality.

Since I was going to be printing those images out, I needed to make sure they were high quality (around 3000×3000). I used Photomator’s ML Upscale feature to triple the size of each image; while it wasn’t perfect, and the result was a bit “smoother” than I wanted, the images looked a lot better!

I put in a 1-hour photo request at our nearest Walmart. Unfortunately the only sizes they had available to print were 8×8″ and 4×4″ (a Vinyl album cover is 12.5″ and a CD album cover is 4.75″), but for the sake of art, these sufficed! I put in an order for 8″ and 4″ photo frames at Amazon (links to what I bought below). Since the dimensions were smaller than I wanted, I opted for frames that had thicker borders instead of border-less frames. I also had to make sure the smaller frames had the same size borders as the larger frames in order to not look disproportionate.

While I was waiting for the prints, I decided to figure out how I might lay these albums out on the wall. It’s interesting looking back at this after having finished the project, as what we ended with was neither the layout or the wall we thought we would go with. But anyway, I used Apple’s Freeform app to get an approximation for how the albums might be laid out. I knew the dimensions and sizes wouldn’t be right, but the app allowed Moriah and I to experiment around with ideas!

When I got the prints, Moriah went through and trimmed any white from the prints and I went through and unwrapped the frames and taped the NFC tags to the bottom right side of the images using double-sided tape.

Now that I had the actual frames in hand, I experimented around with some layouts by placing the frames on the floor. This helped me realize that we needed to put these on another–larger–wall, and that we could even get a more abstract with the design:

We settled on the more spread out and random look. I began working on mounting the frames to the wall. While there are certainly better methods to put a design like this on the wall (wires, tracks, hiring a professional), I decided to “transpose” the design I made on the floor to the wall using Velcro command strips and a level. I had originally started to use pushpins, but the frames ended up being very wobbly, and I didn’t want to risk them falling off as we tapped the albums. The Velcro command strips proved to work well: I could place the album on the wall and get a good idea of where I wanted it, take off the tape, stick it to the wall, then work on leveling it. Ultimate creative freedom.

And… voilà!

Programming the albums

Now that the albums were mounted on the wall, I needed to program them. There are a few different methods for doing so, and there are others if you’re not using an iOS device. Since this is an iPhone and Apple Music house, I’ll present those options below (all options programmed on iOS 17.2).

If you’re using Spotify or an Android device, you’ll have to switch up the steps or find another solution. Sorry 😔

I’ll be using the Shortcuts app for all my “programming”. Additionally, I’ll be programming the Shortcut not to just play the music I want, but I’ll also make sure it plays on all our HomePods and that the volume is set really low (just in case any speakers were left at a really high volume).

Before you decide which method is best for you, download my Shortcut:

Play Album From NFC

Takes in an album name and then plays a matching iTunes song on Apple Music on the speakers you choose.

Method 1: NFC + Shortcut Automations

This is the method used in the video shared at the beginning, and it’s the most seamless way to use the feature– once it’s set up. If you’re the only one enjoying your albums, and you don’t have 18+ albums to program, this is the method for you!


  • Does not require interacting with your device or tapping on the screen; the Shortcut can run without interaction from the user.


  • Each album has to be programmed manually on each user’s device.
  • If you want to re-program your NFC tag, you have to do it for each user.
  • Adding albums means building another Shortcut automation for each user.


  1. Download and customize the Shortcut above.
  2. Open the Shortcuts app.
  3. Go to the Automation tab.
  4. Tap the “+” button in the top right.
  5. Scroll down and tap NFC.
  6. Tap “Scan” and scan your NFC tag. Name it!
  7. Change the selected option to “Run Immediately” and disable “Notify When Run”.
  8. Tap Next, then tap New Blank Automation.
  9. Add “Text” as an action, then enter the album’s name (or iTunes/Apple Music URL).
  10. Add “Run Shortcut” as an action, then find the Play Album From NFC Shortcut you downloaded.
  11. The Text and Shortcut actions should be connected. Tap “Done” and try tapping your phone to the NFC tag!

Method 2: Shortcut + NFC Tools

This is a method I used before I found an easier way to accomplish the same thing. Basically, it involves making a Shortcut for each album you want, then using the NFC Tools app to program each NFC tag to run that Shortcut. This is the worst way to do this, as you’d need to make a new Shortcut for every album, and then share each Shortcut with each person you wanted to give access to play the albums.

Method 3: ONE Shortcut + NFC Tools

This is the method I went with! This method allowed me to make one Shortcut and program each NFC tag once. The best part is that if I want to change how my speakers are set up, or add any additional functionality (like changing the lights), I update the Shortcut and share it. I don’t have to reprogram any tags. Another perk: if I want to add an additional album to our collection, I don’t have to program it on Moriah’s phone too. I just program the NFC tag and the Shortcut will already know what to do.


  • “Simplest” shortcut
  • Easy to deploy (send one Shortcut to friends)
  • Easy to update NFC tags (no reprogramming)
  • Add additional albums without updating each friend’s phone


  • Requires tapping on a notification to run the Shortcut
  • Needs another Shortcut if you want to play anything but an album (playlist, song)


  1. Download and customize the Shortcut above.
  2. Download the NFC Tools app.
  3. Open NFC Tools and tap “Write”.
  4. Tap “Add Record” and scroll to the bottom and tap “Shortcut”.
  5. Enter the Shortcut name exactly as it appears in the Shortcuts app (It should be Play Album From NFC).
  6. Under “Input,” enter the album name. Typically entering the album name and artist (such as Currents by Tame Impala) is the most reliable method. However, you can also find the album’s URL in the iTunes or Apple Music app and put that in there too.
  7. Tap “OK” and then tap “Write.” Tap your phone to the NFC tag.


I’m very happy with this. We have a wall filled with things we like, and it’s not just decorative: it serves a purpose, and brings a tactile experience to something that’s usually very digital and theoretical. My wife and I will definitely be adding to this collection– if not with more albums, with our own custom playlists and seasonal songs!

What’s great about Shortcut method mentioned above is that it can be customized and updated for each individual. If Moriah wants her music louder than I do, she can change her Shortcut and the functionality will still work. I’m also thinking that maybe I’ll make another Shortcut that just takes in Apple Music URLs, so that we only need one Shortcut to play albums, artists, playlists, or songs.

Do you have any ideas on how you’ll use this? Did you try building something similar? Let me know in the comments!


Don’t want to read my life’s story, but you do want to know what I used? Here’s my list of resources:

Play Album From NFC

Takes in an album name and then plays a matching iTunes song on Apple Music on the speakers you choose.

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