Microsoft Paint lovers who scratched their heads at the lack of a native Windows 8 drawing app can rejoice: the new Fresh Paint will ship on Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.
Fresh Paint is a free painting app for the "Metro" mode of Windows 8 (download) and Windows Phone 8 (download). When it announced the beta preview of the app, Microsoft said that it started out as a "research project" to make a realistic digital-painting app.
"[W]e do a lot of real-world painting to make sure we get our algorithms right," Microsoft's general manager for its startup business group Ira Snyder wrote in the blog post.
The app lets you paint with a variety of tools, including watercolor, graphite pencil, and oil. It lets you mix colors, change canvases and brushes, and erase unwanted marks. Despite the similar name to Microsoft Paint, the long-standing Windows drawing app, it's not a direct replacement for MS Paint. Fresh Paint is only available in Metro mode, while MS Paint, with a new Ribbon toolbar, is still available in Windows 8's Desktop mode.
The updated version of Fresh Paint that will ship next week offers improved reactions to stylus pressure; new ways to incorporate photos into your painting; in-app artistic "inspirational" tools thanks to an Inspire Me feature; and the ability to make high-quality prints of your painting thanks to a partnership with CanvasPop.
The CanvasPop deal is interesting because Microsoft has figured out how to scale digital paintings to large-format canvas prints by analyzing your painting at the pixel level, using bilinear filtering, and then smoothing out the pixels. The technique, Microsoft says, will let people who use small devices such as Windows Phones make big prints of their paintings with no resolution loss.
Fresh Paint connects to CanvasPop thanks to a CanvasPop API, the first imaging program to do so. Printing with CanvasPop is not free, although Microsoft will be offering sign-up deals when Windows 8.1 launches.
The app also hooks into Microsoft SkyDrive, so you can sync your paintings across devices. However, a Microsoft representative wasn't sure if app settings will sync across devices.
Microsoft has been marketing the app as a way for artists and children to get comfortable with Windows 8 touch screens, and has made the app available for use in New York City's Museum of Modern Art.