I know that I’ve mentioned this week’s pick before, but I don’t think a couple of brief sentences really does it justice. I was reminded of this yet again when I had to deal with a couple of graphics for a website that weren’t behaving themselves and needed more than the lightest bit of fiddling. So if you can’t afford Photoshop but need something more powerful than basic photo editing software, allow me to introduce you to Paint.NET.
Paint.NET is an image editor that does most of what other image editing programs — both free and commercial — do. You can rotate, resize and crop images, adjust colours, reduce redeye, all the usual things. What lifts Paint.NET above the competition are it’s intuitive interface, support for layers, the easy-to-implement image effects, and the multitude of plugins available for dealing with proprietary formats such as Photoshop files (.PSD).
One of the great things about Paint.NET is that when you boot it up, the secondary windows for tools and layers remain transparent, so that you can always see what you’re working on, eliminating the need for multiple windows. Once you start fiddling, if like me you suffer from “fat finger syndrome,” you have unlimited undo, so you can get your image back to the way it looked before you started playing with it. There is also an action history, so you can figure out exactly how you achieve the effect you did if you don’t quite remember.
If all you’re ever doing is tidying up pictures and images before using them elsewhere, Paint.NET has got you covered. But if you’ve ever harboured dreams of becoming a whizz at graphic design, you’re in luck. In addition to a comprehensive help and tutorial section that doesn’t require you to visit a website to get the answer to your query, Paint.NET also has a thriving user community where even the most obscure question can be answered. Many of the users also contribute plugins to the program, so if you’re in need of a killer tool that you can’t track down, somebody will be able to point you in the right direction.
Paint.NET is Windows-only, but is good to go for Windows XP and up, including Windows 7. You will also need the .NET framework, which is also free, and at least 200MB of hard drive space. That may seem like a sizeable chunk, but for that you get a fast, smooth image editing program that more than holds its own when compared to Photoshop. True, the mighty cross-platform GIMP is a little more powerful, but I’ve found that it can be intimidating to new users, and its interface isn’t half as friendly for those who aren’t already experts. So my vote for free image editing goes to Paint.NET over any other. Try it out today and see how much it can do.