Most of us remember the good old days of early Windows versions. Playing Space Cadet 3D Pinball and messing around with Microsoft Paint were some of the fun things that you could do, and what made those even better was that you didn't need Internet access to use them. There is a lot of software out now to create art, like Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator, and Procreate. But, what if you'd like to relive some of the hours of simple fun of Microsoft Paint but also add in some updated features for more advanced artwork? Paint.net is the program for you.
Its user-friendly interface and variety of tools will allow beginners to easily learn their way around the software to create a simple flyer for a school project or stunning pieces for personal and professional use.
A simple and nostalgic answer to difficult digital art software
Paint.net has an incredibly easy setup. Start by choosing which version you would like - the free version from dotPDN, or paid from the Microsoft Store.
There is no difference in what is offered in each version. After you'd downloaded the software, extract it, and run the installer. At this point, like many software downloads, you can choose the language, whether you'd like to install the Express, recommended version, or the custom. With the custom version, you can change where on your computer the software will be installed to and edit the frequency in which updates will be added and whether or not you just want to check for them manually. Agree to the terms (and read the fine print if you'd like!) and the program will install. The download time was pretty fast, only taking around two minutes.
When the program first opens, you'll see a really simple layout with the main cavas in the middle and four boxes in each corner. You can move the boxes around your screen as you see fit. Along the top is the main toolbar, with tabs that will look familiar to those who use Microsoft programs often. In the four boxes are the toolbar, a color wheel, your file history, and a box where you can view layers. On the canvas is where all of your creations will come to life. The default size is 800x600 pixels but if you click the image tab in the top toolbar, then 'canvas size', you can edit it to make it any size that you'd like. In the side toolbar you can add text boxes, shapes, fill in with the paint can, use the color picker, and zoom in or out. The color wheel has a full range of every color under the sun, but you can also create your own color wheels, picking certain colors to create your own presets. The history box keeps track of every change you make to your art, which is very useful if you'd like to go back and edit something that you've done.
Maneuvering around the program is pretty straightforward. Left click and hold to drag boxes around or to draw on the canvas. In the top toolbar, all of the actions in drop down menu for each tab have the keyboard shortcuts listed on the right side. It's not a necessity to know them all, but memorizing them will save you a great deal of time as you are creating your art.
If you'd like even more features than what comes with Paint.net, on the website you can find a decent amount of plugins to choose from. These plugins are developed on the Paint.net forum and allow you to add new functions like more brush types, color ranges, blend modes, and more.
Where can you run this program?
You can run Paint.net on any computer that runs Windows.
Is there a better alternative?
Depending on the type of art you’d like to do and what functions you’re looking for, there are many alternatives to Paint.net. This program is best for beginners to digital art, and if you’re looking for software that is more advanced or can be used on a variety of different devices, Adobe Photoshop, Procreate, and Corel Painter are just a few of your options. All of these programs offer what Paint.net does and more. With all of them there will be a significant learning curve and none of them are free, but they are amazing tools to help you create a ton of different types of artistic work.
We think Paint.net can provide endless hours of fun for users looking to create for leisure, and also those who are looking to get into digital art and need a platform where they can learn the basics. Everyone who has used Microsoft Paint will have no problem finding their way around the program.
Should you download it?
Yes, Paint.net is an awesome tool to have. It's free, the interface is simple, and the entire program is user-friendly even for those who have never created art digitally before. The forum is a huge resource full of plugins that will help you take your pieces to the next level, and is the home to artists all over the world that can help you if you get stuck, or are looking for a little inspiration.
Installation of the program and the plugins are a breeze, and Paint.net seems to have frequent updates that don't change the core of the program, so there won't be any unwelcome surprises. Long story short, we definitely recommend this program to those who are just starting out, or aren't looking to spend a lot on art software just yet. We found that a lot of different types of projects can be created with Paint.net and it's a really reliable substitute for the more expensive programs. It is definitely worth checking out for users of all skill levels.