Microsoft’s Paint update adds layers and transparency features

Microsoft has announced a new update to its flagship image editing software Paint, which will include layers, transparency support, and background removal tools. It could make advanced image editing far more accessible to young people.

Thred Media
3 min readSep 20, 2023

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A new update to Microsoft’s Paint could make image editing much easier and accessible for beginners, especially students and young designers.

In a statement to Windows Insiders, Microsoft said that it was ‘beginning to roll out an update’ that includes support for layers and image transparency. It will only be available to Windows Insiders and software testers for the time being, but expect a wider rollout in the coming months.

Up until now, Paint has been an extremely basic software tool that has seen minimal updates in its near forty year history. It is primarily used to quickly save JPG or PNG files and is not comparable to other, more expensive options, such as Adobe Photoshop.

In 2017, Microsoft announced it would no longer be updating or working on Paint, instead moving on to Paint 3D. This decision was eventually reversed. With the launch of Windows 11, Paint was reinstated as a mainstay software product.

These new updates suggest Microsoft is pushing Paint as a rival to Adobe, and could help young designers and beginners get their feet on the image editing ladder.

So, what is layering? For those who aren’t Photoshop savvy, layering is used to create images with multiple elements stacked on top of one another. Each of these different assets can be manipulated separately without influencing any other, allowing for much more complicated and intricate image changes.

Paint’s new update will now feature layer options on the right hand side of its interface, with all the expected tools readily available, including hiding, duplicating, or merging separate assets. Users will now be able to stack shapes, text, or other image elements on top of one another.

Microsoft also says that PNG files will now be fully supported. Historically, PNG files with transparent backgrounds have not been compatible with Paint. Pasting a PNG image will give a black background and cannot be edited. This will change with the latest update.

Both these changes coincide with Paint’s new background removal feature. With a simple click, Paint will automatically detect what is the foreground subject matter and what can be deleted. Photoshop has utilised this feature for several years.

Why are Paint’s new changes a big deal? While it may be incorporating features much later than its competitors, Paint is free and available with every Windows computer. As a result, any new features will be tried out and mastered by far more users, lowering the bar of entry to design and image manipulation.

Adobe currently has somewhat of a monopoly, with its creative cloud software library making up a majority of the application-development market. Owning its platforms is almost a necessity for creatives — and it isn’t cheap.

Paint’s new features will allow anyone with a computer to give photo editing a try, and perhaps serve as an ideal gateway into the industry for eager beginners. We’ll have to see how the update fares once it is fully revealed.

Originally written by Charlie Coombs for Thred.

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