Pikazo, Inc.
Based in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Founding date:
November 12, 2015


Press / Business contact:



3407 South Jefferson Avenue
Saint Louis, Missouri, USA 63118



Pikazo is a new way to join the art world, no beret needed. The app lets anyone create incredible art starting with any image, using a highly advanced neural network AI designed to mirror the visual cortex. An artist - a term that rightly includes anyone using Pikazo - submits two images: one a subject, one a style. She taps “Paint!”, and moments later a completely original, always surprising, often beautiful work of art emerges. Behind the scenes, the neural network has analyzed the features of the subject and retold them using the details of the artistic style. Pikazo artists often tell us this tool has given them the gift of making what they see in their mind’s eye real. The world of art has been opened up to them for the first time.


Early history

Pikazo was developed in 2015 using neural style transfer algorithms. It is a collaboration between human, machine, and its creators' concept of art. A universal art machine that paints any image in the style of any other, Pikazo produces sometimes- beautiful, sometimes-disturbing, always-surprising artworks.

Who founded Pikazo?

CTO Karl Stiefvater created Pikazo. He worked on the Myst games, followed by the Matrix films, the movie 300, and Second Life. Lisa Donahue is a co-founder, with experience in project management and business development. Noah Rosenberg co—founded Pikazo and was an early influence.

How'd they get started?

Karl started exploring the idea of using AI to generate graphics back in 2000, but the available computers were only able to generate 16x16 pixel images. He sat on the idea until Google released Deep Dream in July, 2015 and lit a fire under the AI graphics community, inspiring a variety of projects. On September 14th the Washington Post published “Here’s what it would look like if Picasso had painted the presidential portraits,” a series of Karl's images repainting the American presidents using Picasso styles. The response to that article inspired him to build the app and cloud backend that would become Pikazo, enabling anyone to experiment with this new art form. Noah joined in October to help hone the product, marketing and growth strategy.

After that

As of May 2016, Pikazo has raised over $500,000 from strategic angel investors. In three months Pikazo has processed almost 1,000,000 images. Something like 150 exaflops of computation (that's 1.5x10’20th) in about 75,000 computing hours on the fastest available GPU cluster. Phew!

Differentiators: not a filter, and much more than a painting app

One of the first things we hear when we show what Pikazo can do is, “Whoa, this isn’t a photo filter, is it?” and it’s true. Pikazo doesn’t adjust the source image at all. It actually uses a simulation of the human visual cortex to reimagine the image in the target style. After processing, nothing from the original image remains–it's a wholly new creation that feels like the original, but looks like the style image. The circuit is closed in our own minds, when we look at the artwork and find familiar elements in it. It feels like magic, and it’s only possible because the system mirrors the way our brains process images. Pikazo differs from other neural network painters in how we foster the craft and soul of our artists. We know that art isn’t just something you do - it’s something that’s inside you, and once its flames are fanned, it never dies. Through the Pikazo Salon, our artists share their work with a community of peers that help them thrive and grow. With high-quality, curated stylepacks, our artists have access to weekly inspiration and new tools for creating fresh masterworks. With hi-res downloads and gallery-quality prints, our artists can truly own their own work, choosing to hang it, sell it, gift it, or incorporate it into a bigger project. We love nothing more than seeing the unexpected, brilliant things our artists do with their creations. As an organization, we also care deeply about access to artistic creation, and we believe in empowering our artists with the confidence-building success that comes from making a beautiful, original work of art. Especially for those who have been too afraid or embarrassed to even doodle since grade school, something incredible happens when a stranger sees their art and says “Wow!”

Should artists be worried?

Pikazo is definitely covering new ground when it comes to art. Anyone can use it to create something that feels startlingly gallery-worthy. As the technology improves and our artists show us the ingenious ways they use it, it continually surprises us with new applications. Think retouching photos, correcting perspective in drawings, and entirely new types of art that we don’t yet have names for. But no matter how much the technology behind Pikazo advances, it will never replace any artist. In fact, it’s already creating new ones, as we’ve learned from listening to the bartenders, accountants, and doctors in the Salon who never thought of themselves as creative - until now. Every Pikazo creation requires an artist to choose both a source and a style image, and not every combination is guaranteed to be a winner. This means our artists plan what to create, choose how to execute it, and decide between their creations which is worthy of sharing with others. These are fundamental components of art that belong only to the artist. We’re often reminded of Guitar Hero and the way it encouraged so many teens to pick up a real guitar. But we think it’s bigger than that. Unlike most games, Pikazo immediately gives its users the chance to create something no one has ever seen before, completely unique in the universe. And when they do that, they become not players, but artists.

What’s the business vision?

Pikazo lets anyone participate in art. Looking around our lives, there are almost unlimited opportunities to customize and participate in artistic creation around us. From the obvious – sofa prints, t-shirts, and phone cases – to the more exotic. Imagine: A major art museum announces an upcoming exhibit of Renaissance masterpieces. As part of the publicity, they partner with Pikazo to give artists a set of styles based on the masterpieces, incorporating the new creations into the exhibit’s digital complement. A respected NGO has new data that coral reefs are in trouble, and they tap Pikazo artists for help. A set of styles inspired by the colors and textures of an undersea paradise are released into the wild. Each shared creation that uses them builds awareness for the cause. A popular musician releases 8 new Pikazo art styles based on her upcoming album cover - while the actual cover is kept top secret. Pikazo artists use those styles to create and share original artwork – promoting the album and fanning curiosity while feeling more like an artist collaborating with their idol than like an ordinary consumer. A teenage boy, disabled from birth, is able to create a beautiful, completely original image that other people genuinely love, for the first time in his life.



AI: How Tech’s Next Revolution Will Change Lives — SXSW 2017 YouTube

Pikazo Neural Style Video Tech Demo YouTube

The Mona Lisa Repainted in Over 100 Different Ways - Pikazo Ready-Made Styles Demonstration YouTube


download all screenshots & photos as .zip (13MB)

There are far more images available for Pikazo, Inc., but these are the ones we felt would be most useful to you. If you have specific requests, please do contact us!

download logo files as .zip (161KB)

Awards & Recognition

    Selected Articles

    Pikazo Salon
    See what Pikazo artists are creating and sharing. facebook.com.

    Team & Repeating Collaborator

    Karl Stiefvater
    Founder, CTO

    Lisa Donahue
    Founder, CEO

    presskit() by Rami Ismail (Vlambeer) - also thanks to these fine folks