Free Photo Editing Tool from Paint dot Net
Another day comes and goes and another Freeware app begs to be reviewed and called to the forefront of somebody’s consciousness, somewhere. Today we’re going to break away from the trend we’ve followed so far in which I present you with various System Utilities (remind me to subcategory the freeware before we get too deep here). Starting today and continuing for the next few days we’re going to take a look at some free art software, and we’ll begin with what is perhaps the most commonly used and needed type: Photo Editing, with Paint dot Net.
Our app today is called Paint.Net, and is a freeware application originally built to show off the power and flexibility of Microsoft’s .Net framework (back when we all thought that someday we’d be using Windows.Net). You can best think of this software as a lightweight, free Photoshop clone for your home PC. Off the top you should know a few things: First, it is not as full featured as Photoshop, but it doesn’t need to be for the average user. Second, it’s very small, clocking in at a mere 15MB download size. Last but not least you should know that while the software isn’t the end all, be all of feature completeness, it IS extendable with a plugin architecture, so the odds of finding a plugin to add commonly desired functionality are actually pretty decent.
Paint.Net offers a wealth of features. Virtually anything that your average user would need for photo editing is here: Scale, rotate, modify, select, cut, paste, and saving to multiple formats are all supported. Want to make a collage? No problem. Need to scale down your image or crop it for web use? Easy money. Want to apply a filter to make your image look a little more like an oil painting, or maybe give it an old time look with a simple Sepia filter? You can do that too. Oh and in case you were wondering, yes, the software allows you to separate numerous pieces onto separate layers and even offers an impressive array of blending modes that you can choose on a per layer basis.
Curiously though, Paint.Net does miss at least one obvious feature that I was surprised isn’t included in the default package: Drop Shadow. Luckily there is a free plugin available to add that functionality, but I do have to ask why such an obvious and commonly used tool isn’t in the box (err, installer package) straight from the start. This brings us to that all important topic: Plugins, and where the heck can I find some of my own? I’m happy to say that Paint.Net makes finding plugins quite easy, as the Help menu offers a link to the forums on their website, immediately whisking you off to a veritable cornucopia of goodies that you can use to extend your photo editing experience–again all for free–into something tailored exactly to your needs. The forums appear to be quite robust in their level of activity and most of the major plugin types are not only well represented but appear to be updated and improved on a fairly regular basis. Who’d have thunk there’d be a market for free photo editing tools?
Installing plugins is a bit tedious and not nearly as intuitive as I feel it should be for the average user. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no technical nightmare, but at the same time it’s not as easy as it ought to be. Upon downloading a plugin archive (a zip file), the user needs to extract the contents of the zip to a folder, then open the Paint.Net program files folder, locate the appropriate subfolder (Effects or FileTypes, depending on what sort of plugin you download. Some users may be confused by this), and then copy the plugins files into that folder. A simple close/open of Paint.Net will enable the plugin if all has been done right, but I can’t help but think that this should be more intuitive for the non-technical user. Something akin to the plugin installer for WinAmp might make sense.
All in all, however, Paint.Net is worth considering for the vast majority of users as an alternative to a paid application from a major vendor. It’s both robust enough for most simple home use and extendable enough to give those users who need a little more “oomph” from their image editing software a good chance of achieving what they need to. It won’t be a replacement for professional artists anytime soon, but if you happen to be a professional you shouldn’t feel bad about recommending this app to your less savvy friends and family who don’t really need the power of Photoshop, both because you’ll be saving them money in a time where it’s tight for everyone and because it’s similar enough to Photoshop that you’ll be able to give them a hand without too much hassle.
Final Judgment: An excellent free image editing application. Has some drawbacks, but for most users in a non-professional capacity it offers great features for free.
Website and Download: Paint.Net
Plugins: Paint.Net Plugin Publishing Forum
Tutorials: Paint.Net Tutorial Forum