It looks like AI art is going to be truly anywhere, even in the humble Microsoft Paint. As more and more mainstream names integrate controversial text-to-image AI art generation, Microsoft is planning to launch Paint Cocreator.
The development suggests there's still life left in "the people's Photoshop,' which has been around since Windows 1.0. But we have doubts as to whether it will offer serious competition for the best AI art generators.
Once a niche area developed by specialist models like Midjourney, DALL-E and Stable Diffusion, text-to-image AI art generation has rapidly entered the mainstream. Industry giants like Adobe and Canva have introduced their own AI-powered tools, and even the stock photography giant Getty Images has added an AI image generator.
But perhaps nothing quite symbolises the arrival of mainstream ubiquity like the incorporation of generative AI into the old-school digital art tool Microsoft Paint. We presumed that such a move might be coming. After all, Microsoft is an investor in DALL-E creator OpenAI and it has already added a DALL-E 2-powered AI-image generator to its search engine Bing. But in the Microsoft Insiders blog, the software giant has now confirmed that text-to-image generation will becoming to Paint in a matter of weeks.
Microsoft says it is currently testing a preview of the tool, which again will be powered by DALL-E. Named Paint Cocreator, the feature will allow users to generate images based on a text prompt or select from a range of art styles. Paint Cocreator will generate three variations, and users will be able to choose the one they like and then edit the artwork by adding layers – another novelty for Paint.
Microsoft Paint has been around since 1985 and is often mocked for its rather basic tools. For a long time, it saw very little in the way of updates, and there were even rumours that Microsoft was going to kill Paint off back with Windows 10. But the company seems to have taken a newfound interest in the tool. It gave Paint a new look back in 2021 and added a background removal tool in Paint this year.
We will have to see how well Paint Cocreator actually works. Although DALL-E 2 was one of the first AI art generators to appear based on a diffusion model, it's been overtaken in quality and reliability by other options. That said, OpenAI has announced the release of DALL-E 3, which appears to improve on the interpretation of text prompts while also adding integration with the AI chatbot Chat GPT – a development that OpenAI says will mean users don't even need to write their own prompts.
It's worth noting, however, that inclusion in Paint doesn't mean that AI image generation will become entirely free. While Paint is included in Windows as standard, it appears that the use of Paint Cocreator will require credits. In the preview, users receive 50 credits for free – enough for 50 generations. Presumably, Microsoft is considering a similar model to that of DALL-E, through which users get a limited number of free credits and have to pay if they run out. It said the system might change after the preview period.
Microsoft says Paint Cocreator should be available to all Windows 11 users in a few weeks. For the moment, it is available for Microsoft Insiders, and there is a waiting list to get a preview in the US, the UK, France, Australia, Canada, Italy and Germany. To learn how to use text-to-image tools, see our roundup of AI art tutorials.