When Prisma, the Russian-built AI-enhanced photo-filtering tool that makes your pictures look like the work of famous artists like Mondrian and Van Gogh, made a splash on the Internet a few weeks ago, its creator, Alexey Moiseenkov, showed the effect on a video in his VK social network page. The popular photo app PicsArt has come out with its own art-creating filters, called Magic Effects, along with a separate app, Magic Video, that does the same for, you guessed it, videos.
But PicsArt's AI filters have a trick not possible in Prisma: You can apply them to just a selected area of a photo. So you could have a model's eyes look natural, while everything else looks like it stepped out of a Mondrian painting. And PicsArt is a far-more all-encompassing photo and art app, with its own social photo-sharing community of 80 million active users. Beyond art filters, PicsArt may be the app that lets you do more with your photos than any other, offering tools ranging from standard lighting and color adjustments all the way to Photoshop-style layer effects and drawing tools.
"They're the first totally customizable AI-powered photo effects," said PicsArt's Nathan Tyler about the new Magic Effects, "but our call to action is to go beyond the filter. That's the amazing thing about the new Magic Effects: They can be fully customized to express yourself."
Another major differentiator in the PicsArt sharing community compared with bigger names like Instagram and Flickr is that it encourages users to "remix" each other's work. A user can designate an image as remixable, letting other users go to town on it. The service now even offers Remix Galleries, and a daily starting challenge image, so you can see myriad versions based on the same seed photo.
PicsArt applies its Magic Effects using your phone's local processing. This means that, unlike with Prisma, you don't need an Internet connection to use it. But do note that, since they are highly processing-intensive, they take longer to render than most photo filters. In my brief testing, they averaged about 15-20 seconds to finish. That's about the same time it takes to apply Prisma filters. But another advantage of this approach over a cloud-processing system like that used by Prisma is that you'll never get "server overloaded" messages.
The most important thing, however, is how impressive the results are. I will say that they do look beautiful, and you can adjust their strength if you tap the filter tile again. You also get a choice of blending modes reminiscent of those used by Photoshop layers. So you can choose Normal, Multiply, ColorBurn, Darken, Lighten, Screen, Overlay, SoftLight, HardLight, and Difference blending modes. It's fun to try these out, but I find that the default setting often looks best. Prisma offers more basic art styles—30 compared with PicsArt's 10, and some of these are more impressive than PicsArt's, though company representatives told me that more would be added.
Because of the processing required, the new video filtering app, Magic Video, starts by having you select 6 seconds of a clip (perfect for Vine!) or trim a longer one to that length. It offers the same adjustability as the photo AI filters, but with a slightly different choice of filters. As you'd expect, the video effects take longer to apply—over a minute in my testing. And the results are a bit flip-movie like, with a reduced frame-rate. They also included a PicsArt watermark on my tests using a pre-release version of the app.
The PicsArt update including Magic Effects and the Magic Video app are available on the iTunes App Store starting today. (They'll roll out to Android users in the coming days.) For more on the full-featured, PCMag Editors' Choice-winning photo app, read our in-depth review of PicsArt.