Microsoft's MS Paint is getting two Photoshop-like upgrades, and it'll still be free to use

The popular photo editor has remained mostly unchanged for nearly 40 years, but a pair of new features bring it to the level of today's options.
Written by Artie Beaty, Contributing Writer
Microsoft Paint logo
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In what's sure to bring a wave of nostalgia, everyone's favorite image editor from the 1990s is back in the news. As part of an update for Windows Insiders, Microsoft Paint is getting support for two pretty big new features -- transparency and layers. While both of these have been Photoshop staples for years, it's not often that Paint receives this kind of upgrade.

Transparency, as the name implies, gives users the option to open and edit PNGs with a clear background. As with most photo editors, a checkerboard background indicates the part of the picture that's transparent. Any part of the image that is erased will now be clear instead of white. 

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With layers, users can now stack shapes, text, and other images on top of each other and then change the order of those layers to make more complex art than ever before. If you combine transparency and layers together, erasing the top layer will show the layer underneath.

Both of these features should pair quite nicely with a new background removal feature Microsoft announced for Paint earlier this month. With that feature, users can take the background out of an image with one click, leaving a smooth cutout of the subject.

MS Paint

Right now, the new Paint features are only available to Windows Insider users, but once new things hit the Insiders program, it's usually not too long before they're available to the general public.

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To test out these new features, just click on "new layer" in the toolbar. A panel will appear with options to hide, duplicate, merge, or remove layers. While this isn't necessarily new ground for image editors, it's certainly a big upgrade for an image editor that's remained largely unchanged for almost 40 years.

And given that these additions are relatively basic, it's not too likely Paint will steal any users from more professional photo editors like Photoshop. Still, it's a solid upgrade for people who need a free program to do light work and it's a good option for people who don't want to or can't install other software.

If Microsoft continues to add features to Paint though, it's easy to see the editor gaining a little ground. Especially given that it's free, it's still more appealing than the paid alternatives.

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