Last week I made a very interesting discovery in the form of a free image manipulation program called Paint.NET.
Unfortunately, it only runs on modern versions of Microsoft’s Windows operating system including Windows XP and Windows Vista. It apparently needs the Microsoft.net framework which developers use when they produce their own programmes, to save them having to keep reinventing the wheel all the time, and it would be a huge task to convert it to other platforms.
I came across Paint.NET when I read on a news website that it had received a couple of awards and, now that I have installed and played with the programme, I can quite understand why it won them.
It can be downloaded from www.getpaint.net and is only a couple of megabytes big so it doesn’t take all that long, even with our relatively slow download speeds. Installation is quick and easy but I would advise you to take the custom installation option because the default, unfortunately, goes ahead and makes Paint.NET the default for opening various image types.
It is surprisingly sophisticated for a programme which was originated by a bunch of undergraduate students and which currently is being developed and improved by a small staff of only two people. It has such it has all the usual special features that similar programs might have but, unusually, allows you to create and work on images with more than one layer.
Another unusual and interesting feature is that it doesn’t have a limit, apart from the size of your hard drive, to the number of undo steps it stores in case you make a mistake and need to go back.
The program was developed as a free replacement for Windows’ venerable old Paint program and, as such, will look quite familiar to many user. It has a full set of drawing tools for use in creating original artworks or embellishing pictures from a camera or off of the Internet.
You can perform all the usual manipulations including flipping a picture, rotating, resizing, and whatever else you might need to do. Adjustments you can make to a picture include auto-levels, levels, brightness and contrast, curves, hue and saturation, and many others.
You can invert a picture’s colours, you can posterise it, or turn it into black and white or sepia . Other special effects include making the picture look like an ink sketch, adding various blurs or distortions, and many other interesting things including an excellent soft portrait effect.
Even if there were no other features, it would be a very capable programme for using to manipulate images but there is a large community hard at work developing plug-ins which give it any number of extra abilities. Judging by the number of these available on the Paint.NET forum, I’d think that there is likely one for most things you might want to do.
To my mind, it can can be used as well by the kids as a more capable version of the Windows Paint program they already know, as by more sophisticated users looking for a program to fix their digital pictures.
I must say that I am very impressed with Paint.NET and I would certainly use it in spite of a few little problems that I have. It does not currently allow you to hide, or mask, parts of a layer and its brush strokes have an unduly hard edge for my taste.
These small criticisms aside, Paint.NET really is a most capable program and, sometime in the next couple of months, a new version of it is due for release. That will apparently have most of the capabilities it’s missing.
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