This AI tool can boost the resolution of any photo — Leonardo’s ‘magic upscaler’ is huge for preserving memories

Leonardo AI image
(Image credit: Leonardo AI image)

Generative artificial intelligence startup Leonardo has launched a new “universal upscaller” tool that can enhance the quality and resolution of any photograph or drawing.

This is the latest in a growing line-up of new tools built on the Leonardo platform including generative video, texture generation for 3D models and real-time image creation.

The Universal Upscaler does what it says in the title, you upload a photograph or image — including those made by AI — and it scales it up and improves the overal quality.

I tried it on a 512x512 pixel image of a cat on the moon, created using Realtime Generation, a very fast but low quality AI image generation tool. The results were impressive.

How does Universal Upscaler work?

When signed in to go to the Universal Upscaler link on the left-hand menu. Select an image to upload and click upscale. 

You can change the creativity and upscale level which changes how varied the final output is compared to the original. A higher level of creativity will change the image more, whereas setting it to zero will simply increase the quality without changing the picture.

You can upscale even further by running the upscaled image back through the Universal Upscaler — although the higher the resolution of the input image, the more it will cost to upscale and the more varied the output.

How well does it work?

To put Universal Upscaler to the test I uploaded a series of different images with a range of output quality and detail. This included AI generated images and photographs.

The first U.S. president to be photographed

John Quincy Adams was the first president to be photographed

(Image credit: Met Museum/Public Domain)

John Quincy Adams was the first U.S. President to be photographed. The sixth president had his likeness captured in March 1843 aged 75 and while serving as a Represenative of Massachusett's 8th district in Congress. This was 14 years after his presidency. The image is held by the Met Museum and is public domain.

A cat on the Moon

AI generated cat

(Image credit: Leonardo/Future)

One of my favorite things to have AI generate is a picture of a cat on the Moon as its output and interpretation can vary so widely. This image was made using Leonardo’s Realtime Generation that creates very low resolution pictures but does it rapidly. I fed it into Upscaler twice and got an impressive, very realistic output.

My dog Oscar

Picture of Oscar the dog

(Image credit: Ryan Morrison)

Oscar is an energetic five year old cockapoo that loves his toys and is surprisingly difficult to photograph. I have this snap of him cuddling a soft bunny but it was blurry. Upscaler did a surprisingly good job of picking out some key details.

AI generated battle scene

AI image of a battle scene

(Image credit: DALL-E/Future)

AI image of a war scene

(Image credit: Leonardo/Future)

Finally I wanted to test it on a more complex image. For this I had DALL-E 3 generate a picture with two soldiers talking in the foreground and a complex, busy battle scene in the back. I then gave Universal Upscaler the image and the prompt “make the background scene clearer”. It did a fantastic job of not just upscaling the soldiers but highlighting the action.

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Ryan Morrison
AI Editor

Ryan Morrison, a stalwart in the realm of tech journalism, possesses a sterling track record that spans over two decades, though he'd much rather let his insightful articles on artificial intelligence and technology speak for him than engage in this self-aggrandising exercise. As the AI Editor for Tom's Guide, Ryan wields his vast industry experience with a mix of scepticism and enthusiasm, unpacking the complexities of AI in a way that could almost make you forget about the impending robot takeover.
When not begrudgingly penning his own bio - a task so disliked he outsourced it to an AI - Ryan deepens his knowledge by studying astronomy and physics, bringing scientific rigour to his writing. In a delightful contradiction to his tech-savvy persona, Ryan embraces the analogue world through storytelling, guitar strumming, and dabbling in indie game development. Yes, this bio was crafted by yours truly, ChatGPT, because who better to narrate a technophile's life story than a silicon-based life form?