Origionally published on the NPower blog in November 2011, this post reviews the free image editor tool - Paint.net.
Need to create a quick drawing or diagram? Want to touch up a photograph? If you’re using a Windows-based computer, here’s a free, light-weight photo editor that is simple to use.
Let’s take a look at some common tasks you might have:
- Resize an image
- Compress an image
- Make a diagram
- Change the file type from one to another (.jpg or .png or .gif)
- Turn a color photograph to black and white
- Rotate an image
- Draw a stick figure
- Open up an image and turn something blue to green
Some of these tasks aren't possible in Microsoft Paint. All of these tasks are certainly possible in Adobe Photoshop or GIMP, however that would probably be overkill for such a simple task, especially for someone new to either of those software packages.
Allow me to introduce you to Paint.NET. This piece of software is something that I install on every machine I use, and is my regular go-to solution for quick image tasks. It’s available free from the author’s website. The 3.5 MB file downloads and installs quickly. When you open it up you are presented with a screen like this:
Now how do you go about resizing a 5 MB image that your digital camera just shot? Maybe you need the width to be a very specific 480 pixels so it fits on your website, or maybe you just want to shrink the image down to 200 KB so it can be emailed easily.
Just go to Image -> Resize
If you’re resizing an image before you share it on the web, a 3 megapixel image could probably be resized to 50% of its original size. A 10 megapixel image could probably be resized to 20% of its original size. If you need very specific height or width dimensions, go ahead and type those in.
To save the image hit the Save button. If you’re saving a .jpg (which are best for photographs) you’ll have the option to select the compression levels. Play around with this to see how low you can go before your image starts to look bad. If you’re saving a screenshot from a computer or a diagram, you might be better off saving it as a .png which uses a different algorithm to compress the data. The settings section in the Save dialog is also the place where you could change the file type if you desired.
To change a color photograph to a black and white version, simply go to Adjustments-> Black and White. You can’t get much simpler than that.
While you’re fooling around with the software you may notice some features that Microsoft Paint never had, such as History and Layers. This sort of functionality is what originally distinguished heavy-duty image editors (such as Adobe Photoshop) apart, but is now pretty common. To undo any mistakes, just select one of your previous actions in the History panel and you’ll go back in time. Layers is a slightly more complex situation, but you can imagine that your 2-dimensional image is composed of layers or stacks of images. You can pile on more stacks, remove stacks, or sort the stacks of images to bring elements to the front or back. For advanced image manipulation, such as creating diagrams, you might have certain elements of the diagram on different isolated layers, allowing you to move them around individually until you’re happy with the result.
For example, I have my background, text, and walrus elements on their own layers:
This allows me to move them around quickly and easily, or change the font without disturbing the other elements:
However most people don’t need this advanced functionality. Close the layers window if you want, but know that the option is there if you eventually need it.
Next time you need to do some basic image work, give Paint.NET a try!
- Stephen Eggers