Paint.NET 3.2 release

My favourite image editing software, Paint.NET, just got upgraded to version 3.2. There are quite a few changes, and the most striking ones for me are the reorganisation of the “Effect” menu and the addition of Julia and Mandelbrot fractals.

Now, all the special effects are categorised into the following

  • Artistic
  • Blurs
  • Distort
  • Noise
  • Photo
  • Render
  • Stylize

The two fractal generation effects are in Render.

I also noticed that during the update installation, there was special mention that Paint.NET is a free software, and is supported through donations via the main web site. Maybe Rick found his software packaged with another commercial software and sold for profit.

Round cornered images in Paint.NET

Skyline gondola I’ve been experimenting with doing some simple image post processing for my posts. Rectangular images with sharp right-angled corners look a bit stark. I’m getting most of the images from iStockphoto (referral link), and it seemed a waste if I didn’t fit photos and text together nicely.

The easiest and fastest way to spruce up a stock photo is to create round corners in the image. I’ll be showing you how to do so in the freely available, fantastic and awesome image editor, Paint.NET (did I mention it was free?).

So, suppose here’s the original photo, after loading it into Paint.NET
Original picture

Then you add a new layer by either clicking [Layers] -> [Add New Layer] option
Add new layer by option
or click on the “Add New Layer” button in the “Layers” panel (placed near bottom right by default)
Add new layer by button in layer panel

Next, you want to focus on the 2nd layer for some editing first. On the “Layers” panel, uncheck the “Background” image.
Focus on layer 2

On the 2nd layer, we wash it over with white colour first, because by default it’s in “transparent” colour. We can talk about the difference between white and transparent some other time… We’ll use the paint bucket tool
Paint bucket
By default, if you haven’t changed the colour selection yet, then the primary colour is black and the secondary colour is white.
Primary and secondary colour selection
What this means is if you click and draw with the left mouse button, black is used. If you click and draw with the right mouse button, white is used.

So after selecting the paint bucket tool, go somewhere in the (transparent-coloured) image, and right-click. This will give you a nice clinical white patch.

We want to draw a rounded black rectangle on this white patch. We use the aptly named “Rounded Rectangle” tool
Draw rounded rectangle with filled shape
Some finger nimbleness will be needed here. Our test image is 160 pixels wide and 110 pixels tall. We’ll have to left-click (for black) in the image, at the cursor position of 0,0 and drag-move to cursor position 159,109. You can find out the cursor position by looking somewhere near the bottom of Paint.NET
Cursor position
We’re at cursor position 11,9 in this case.

You should then get this beauty
Black and white rounded corner

After that, go the “Layers” panel, and click on properties for the 2nd layer
Layer properties
and set the blending mode to “Additive”
Set additive blending mode

Check the “Background” layer back (to make it visible again) and you should see this
Skyline gondola

Save and you’re done!

I think a video tutorial would have done a better job. Anyone want to sponsor the Camtasia software for me?

PS. That “Skyline gondola” sign was taken at the halfway point on my practically vertical climb up the hill in Queensland, New Zealand. I was the only one (stupid enough) climbing up. Everyone else was going down… A story for another time perhaps…

[UPDATE: Use this plugin RadiusFillCorners. Much easier if you don’t mind a bit of jaggedness on the corners. But not noticeable on larger images.]

Creating simple graphics for documents

What happens when you’re tasked with “beautifying” a web site? Or when you need to spruce up a document to add some colour? In both cases, the graphics required don’t even need to
be done by professionals, just good enough to be close to professional quality. The graphics aren’t even the main focus, nor will they make or break a deal.

What you need is an easy way to come up with something moderately good. What you need is Paint.NET. After you’ve set the software up (it’s free), draw some rectangles on the canvas.
Four rectangles

Then use the Radial Blur effect
Radial blur menu

Set it to say 10 degrees
Radial blur option

And you’ll get this
Radial blur result

Or you can experiment with the zoom effect
Zoom blur menu

Set the zoom amount to 30
Zoom blur option

With the zoom result below
Zoom blur result

Maybe you’re in the artsy mood for twisting
Twist effect menu

Set the twist amount to 20 and the quality to 5
Twist effect option

And the final result
Twist effect result

Ok fine, so they don’t look like much. But they can fill in the space for a top right corner of the web page or something. Or as an unobtrusive background of some header text. You can try using block colours, but they really look terrible. With some imagination, you can create some nifty graphics. Go to the tutorial forums of Paint.NET and get some ideas!

Editing screenshots with Paint.NET

Providing screenshots of a step by step process to a user is one of the most powerful guidance techniques. However, dumping a few megabytes of unprocessed image data into an email can crash your user’s mailbox. And if you copied the email to several other people as well? You had better be on very good terms with all of them.

This is where Paint.NET comes in. The software has features rivalling those of professional image editors. There’s the rotation and zooming, standard tool functions from Windows Paint, better colour selection interface, and unlimited * undos!

Doing more than just Print Screen
So you are at the screen for the screenshot, and you’ve hit the Print Screen button. Start up the Paint.NET program and paste the contents. You might be asked to expand the canvas or the working area for your image.
Expand canvas

Image cropping
Then you want to select the image area you are interested in (you are rarely interested in the entire image). Select the [Image] menu item, then [Crop to Selection], and you’ll get something like this:
Cropped image

Box and arrows
Then you make use of the rounded rectangle and line drawing tools on the Tools bar (located on the left by default).
Lines and rounded rectangle tools
You can also add pointed arrows at the end(s) of your lines, making process diagrams easier to draw.
Arrows for ends of lines

Add text for finish
Add some text and you’ll have a self-explanatory screenshot.
Screenshot with explanatory text

Bonus tip: Gaussian blur unimportant areas
You can even guide your user to focus on a certain area for emphasis. First select the area you want to highlight:
Highlighted area

Then do an inverse selection. Select the [Edit] menu item, then [Invert Selection]. Then select the [Effects] menu item, then [Blurs], then [Gaussian Blur] with 2 pixels as the radius. And you’ll get this:
Inverted selection with gaussian blur

So there you have it, simple steps to create good looking screenshots. The screenshots can then be used in documents or placed on the Internet (or Intranet) as part of an FAQ. So go get Paint.NET now!

* limited only by hard disk memory