Picsart, the self-declared “world’s leading digital creation platform”, has announced a new artificial intelligence-powered tool called “AI Enhance.” According to the press release, the tool—which is coming to both Picsart’s mobile app, available for iOS and Android, and API service for businesses—“removes noise, upscales images and improves overall quality.” Here’s what you need to know. 

What does AI Enhance do?

According to Picsart, AI Enhance’s “capabilities include advanced image enhancement and upscaling that improves the overall quality of an image and resolution for printing or sharing online.” To achieve all this, “It uses advanced AI models to remove or blur pixelated effects, add pixels, and sharpen and restore scenes and objects, including faces.”

In short, Picsart is selling this as a scale-up-and-sharpen tool on steroids. 

Is it any good? 

A low-resolution portrait of News Editor Dan Bracaglia’s grandparents. Dan Bracaglia
The same image, run through Picsart’s “HD Portrait” tool. Note: Open both images in a new tab for the best comparison. Dan Bracaglia

According to Picsart’s blog, a version of AI Enhance is currently available in the iOS app as “HD Portrait” under the “Retouch Tool.” We checked it out and while the tool exists, it didn’t increase the size of my low-resolution image. What it did do was smooth the skin, somewhat aggressively, especially with the slider set to 100 percent. 

A more general version of the AI Enhance too is also set to launch in the general “Editor” section of the app sometime this summer. More likely than not, it’s this tool that will perform the upscaling. We’ve requested access to the beta and will update this story when we’ve had the chance to try it out. But we’re hoping the results are a little more impressive than the HD Portrait tool.

Haje Jan Kamps, over at TechCrunch, had a bit more success testing the beta of AI Enhance. However, it still seemingly declares noise the enemy, and slightly over-sharpens faces and other areas of high detail it detects. 

Even the company’s own example images, like the one at the top of the page, show somewhat similar results. The handful of sample files available take a low quality and very (artificially!?) noisy original, smooth things out, sharpen faces, and call it a day. 

Barack Obama
We also tested out the tool on a portrait of our good pal, Barry O. Dan Bracaglia
Barack Obama
The skin-smoothing effect on our 44th president’s face is a bit over the top. Dan Bracaglia

How does this stack up to other upscaling tools?

While we’ll withhold judgment until the feature is more widely available, Picsart isn’t the only app offering AI-powered upscaling tools. 

Topaz Labs has Gigapixel AI which can upscale images up to 600%. Since it costs $99.99 just for the upscaling tool (or $199.99 for the upscaling, denoise, and sharpening tools) we suspect Topaz Labs is the company Picsart is swinging at when it says “this type of technology has been limited to expensive software with limited quality.” With that said, it’s hard to deny that the results from Gigapixel AI are significantly more natural-looking. 

Photoshop also has a “Super Resolution” feature that is powered by its Sensei AI. It’s very much still in development, but also quite effective at scaling up low-resolution images. It is a lot more conservative when it comes to noise reduction which, as a photographer, I much prefer. Picsart feels like it’s trying to do too much with just one tool. 

What does Picsart cost? 

The HD Portrait tool in the iOS app was locked behind the Picsart Gold subscription ($55.99 for a year or $11.99 per month). If you’re just looking for image upscaling (or even image editing) this feels a little steep. Adobe’s Photography bundle that includes Photoshop and Lightroom, both of which have multiple ways of upscaling images, AI-powered or not, is $9.99 monthly. If you are prepared to pay for Picsart for a year upfront, it’s cheaper—but not if you subscribe month to month.