Paint.NET Review

I remember a time when I didn’t have any image editing software available on my computer, and I needed to create some images for my web site. The image editing software I knew then were Adobe Photoshop and Corel Paint Shop Pro (formerly from Jasc). I was a student then, and cash was tight, and the money saved could be used on something more important. Like feeding myself.

So I used the only available free software I had: Windows Paint. Oh it was terrible! I wanted to draw some circles with antialiasing, and I painstakingly drew each differently shaded pixel in. I moved close to the screen to see the pixels and moved away to see the general effect. Have I mentioned it was terrible?

If only I had Paint.NET then! Well, the .NET framework wasn’t out then, so Paint.NET won’t be too. But YOU! You now have the power to edit images to your heart’s content. Now go download the FREE Paint.NET software and come back here so I can tell you more.

Done downloading and installing?

Ok, so Paint.NET has the basic features provided by Windows Paint, such as colour picker/dropper, pixel pencil and line/curve drawing. I miss the spray can in Windows Paint though… it gave me tons of fun, and if it could be combined with the Gaussian blurs… *sigh*

Anyway, now that I’m a full-blown programmer slash web developer slash designer slash tech documenter, I need to work with images more often. Windows Paint wasn’t cutting it anymore… So what does a polymath programmer who has to juggle many different roles need in an image editing software?

  • Layers
  • Colour selection
  • Nifty effects out-of-the-box
  • Colour swapping
  • Text and arrows

Layer upon layer
Once a secret hoarded by the corporate image editing software companies, and heralded as a distinctive advantage, Paint.NET also grants you this special and mysterious power.

Paint.NET layer panel

Frankly speaking, I don’t know what the big fuss is about. I’ve only maybe used up to 3 layers at any one go. Then again, I’m just trying to create an image that looks good enough in a web application so my work isn’t totally disgraceful.

Perhaps there will come a time where I need to blend transparency, match gradients and create colour swatches with several images to create a final masterpiece. … Just thinking about it makes my head hurl…

Ooohh, look at the purty colours
In my work, I need to rapidly select colours and see how they affect the image I have in my head. Paint.NET does this beautifully, where I can choose from a colour wheel, a standard colour block, or enter the exact RGB or HSV values.

Paint.NET colour panel

I also bring your attention to the hexadecimal input/output box. Very useful for CSS colour values. It was so inconvenient for me to translate red, green and blue values into #rrggbb format at one point in time, that I wrote a program to help me do the translation. This is an awesome feature for me.

Cool effects to liven up your images
There’s a whole range of image effects to give your drab image an extreme makeover. There are blurs and distortions, red eye removal and portrait softening plus edge detection and embossing. Two of my favourite effects are frosting and oil painting, taking this
Clock photograph
To frosted glass
Frosted glass clock photo
Or turn it into an oil painting like this
Oil painting of clock photo

Colour swapping
I have code to write, emails to reply, phone calls to answer, web pages to develop, bugs to squash and documents to create. The last thing I want is to spend half an hour trying to get the colour of a background image for a web application just right.

Sometimes I just need to see how a different colour looks and feels. Paint.NET gives me an easy way, using a slider to shift say a blue gradient
Colour swapping - from blue
To maybe a pink one
Colour swapping - to pink

It’s a quick, easy and painless test for that elusive perfect colour shade.

Words and pointy things
Despite my distaste for writing documents that no one will ever read again (but have to be created to satisfy business requirements), I have found that screenshots alleviate most of the drudgery of presenting information.

Why give your users a screenshot
Choosing an option
And then tell them to click [Effects], then click [Distort] and then choose [Twist]? You can simply provide in-image instructions like this
Choosing options - with inline help

The pointy arrows are a lifesaver. You have no idea how hard it is to draw a line pointing to an area in the image, and then try to draw two short lines to form the arrow head. And it is a simple effective way to communicate to your users the instructions you need them to follow.

Conclusion
Paint.NET is easy to use, and you can quickly learn to apply simple steps to create jaw-droppingly-gorgeous images. For programmers like me, whose companies have uh, limited budgets, Paint.NET is a must-have.

From creating simple icons and backdrops for web pages to creating descriptive screenshots for documentation, Paint.NET takes away your imaging tasks and lets you focus on coding.

I’ve been a follower of Paint.NET since its version 1 point somethings. At my work place, I actually felt sad when Paint.NET moved to .NET framework 2.0. I only had Visual Studio 2003 installed then, which runs on version 1.1, and I couldn’t risk installing version 2.0 in case something happened to my computer. A lot of people depended on my computer in working condition, even if they don’t know it.

So I breathed a sigh of relief when I got the approval from the powers that be, to buy Visual Studio 2005, and hence I can upgrade to .NET framework 2.0 and hence upgrade to the latest version of Paint.NET with all its new and nifty features! I doubt the powers that be read my 15 page proposal, but hey, I got the result I wanted.

So go download Paint.NET now! And did I mention it’s free?

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