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