Paint.net - Because Photoshop & Gimp are too hard

tutorials
gfx
graphic-design

#1

So, of course everyone & anyone who wants to get into making high quality graphics & photos go around to the 3 big ones. Illustrator / Photoshop / Gimp. For Illustrator, check out @Younite’s tutorial, and for Gimp, you can check out @FearMeIAmLag’s tutorial. Both of these are great alternatives to using Paint(dot)net, especially if you’re a Mac user, because Paint(dot)net is a Windows Exclusive program.

I repeat. This tutorial is only for Windows users. Paint(dot)net does not work on Mac.

Now that that’s all the way, we’ll begin with what you need.

Downloads:

First thing’s first, you’ll want to download Paint(dot)net. I will refer to this as Paint from here on out, to avoid making links constantly throughout this post. To get Paint, go to www.getpaint.net/download.html#download and hit the “Download Now dotPDN” button. Then click “Paint(dot)net 4.1.1” in the top right corner.

Once that finishes downloading, install like normal.

Now, these are optional, but highly recommended.
To open Photoshop files, you’ll need the .psd plugin.
Trust me, you’ll want this, because everyone saves everything in .psd considering both Photoshop & Gimp can use them.

Once downloaded, place the .dll into the "File Types" folder of Paint(Dot)Net


Like so.

Next, I really enjoy this Plugin Pack by Pyrochild.

Download the installer version (the top link) and it’ll automatically install the plugins for you.

Using Paint

So, this your basic setup when you start up Paint:

Toolbox

The Toolbox has all the basic tools you’ll use constantly. In order from top to bottom, the left column has:
Square Selection, Lasso Selection, Circle Selection, Magic Wand, Color Fill, Brush, Pencil, Stamp, Text, and Shapes. The right column has: Move Pixels, Move Selection box, Zoom, Pan, Gradient, Eraser, Color Picker, Recolor, Line/Curve (and Shapes). We’ll go over each of the tools later.

Current Tool Features

When a tool is selected, various options will show up here. We’ll talk more about these later.

Color Palette

The Color Palette is where a majority of the magic happens. If you click “More” on it, you can tweak everything, including inputting Hex Color Codes, changing the RGB, or HSV, and Opacity.


The Green and White in the top left corner, in my case, Green is Primary, White is Secondary. This will start as Black Primary & White Secondary until you change them. To quick change to one of the pre-made colors, left click one for Primary, and right click for Secondary. Any tool that uses color (Line/Curve, Shape, Re-Color, Brush, Pencil, Fill Color, and Color Picker) all use Left Click for Primary, and Right Click for Secondary. Text does not follow this rule. Text can only be the primary color. To switch your Primary and Secondary color, click the blue arrow that points to each of them in the top right of their top left location.

Layers

Layers are how you can get things done, without permanence. If you’re making a 3 color logo, making each color it’s own layer allows you to make easier changes later.


The Checkbox on a layer is used to hide or show a layer, useful for when you want to keep a top layer, but not have it visible while working on a lower layer.
The buttons from left to right on the bottom are: Add new Layer, Delete selected layer, Copy selected layer, Merge down selected layer, Move up selected layer, Move down selected layer, and Layer Properties.
Instead of Move Up and Move Down, you can also click and drag a layer up and down in the layer window.
Copying a layer makes an exact copy.
Merge down a layer, merges the selected layer with the layer below it to form one layer out of the two.
image
Layer Properties allow you to name the layer for easier management, and mess with Opacity and Blending mode. The Blending mode changes how the layer’s color messes with the bottom layer. Try these out and see what each do to get the best effect out of each. (Must have more than one layer.)

Edit History

image
The arrows are used like Ctrl+Z (Undo) and Ctrl+Y (Redo) however you can also click one of the options from the history to go back multiple items at a time. If you go back some, and then make a change, all things after that point will be lost.

Top Right Logos

If you accidentally X out one of these mentioned windows, and want it back, click the icons in the Top Right. You can also X them out this way as well.

Tools

If there is a tool not listed here, it’s because I honestly don’t use it enough to warrant talking about it.

Selection Tools

Rectangle Selection, Lasso Selection & Circle Selection all work fairly the same. When you use them, after finishing your selection, it’ll default to “Move Pixels” If you want to tweak the selection without moving any pixels in the process, use the “Move Selection” tool instead (the White Arrow, rather than the Blue Arrow in the ToolBox, top right). Rectangle Selection is used for rectangles, Lasso Selection, you draw your own shape, and Circle Selection, you can make perfectly circles, or ovals. Click and Hold and then drag, to make any of these. If you use the Move Selection tool, you can resize the selection to specific demands. And then move pixels to move & resize the pixels of the photo. If you want to select the outside of the selection you made, rather than the inside, go to File -> Edit -> Invert Selection, or use Ctrl + i.
Example of a Lasso Selection:


Once you have a selection, you can also manipulate things, only inside the selection, such as using the brush, fill, text, shapes, and others.

Here, I have put a rectangle inside of the selection. As you can see, it does not exceed the lines of the selection.

Lines & Curves

To draw a perfectly straight line, click and hold a spot, and then drag to another spot. Once the line is created, 4 dots will appear on it.


If you click and drag the dots, you can create curves.

You can also change the settings of the line, using the Tool Features area.

Shapes

Using shapes, you can make pre-made shapes. These are the generic shapes you can make:
image
When creating a shape, after making that fancy line, some of the settings from the line have saved for the shape.

Text

Works similar to Text on most programs. Just select the Text button, click an area, key-in your text, and then change the font/size. Then you can use the little move button near the words you put in, to move it into place.

Color Picker

Get the exact color information from an exact pixel of your work. Left click to put on Primary, Right Click to put on Secondary.

Magic Wand

Literally, the most important tool. Magic Wand is used to make a selection, however, you only select a certain color, and that color must be touching. To select all of that color in a picture, hold down shift, and then click that color.
When selecting the Red from the “Roblox” logo here, I got some extra stuff I didn’t want…


To fix this, lower the Tolerance in the Tool Feature area. Play around with this until you get high or low enough for your liking.
When holding down shift, and clicking, I selected all of the Red Available, within that Tolerance level.

You can also select more colors by holding down control and clicking another color to add it to the currently selected area. To select all of that 2nd color, hold control and shift, and then click.

I’ve now selected all of the Red & Yellow in this level of Tolerance. A higher Tolerance would select more of the oranges. A lower Tolerance would select less of the yellow.
And good reason to use the Magic Wand is removing backgrounds from logos, to get transparent ones.

Here, I’ve selected all the white. Hitting the Delete key will remove it, and make this now transparent.

Transparent areas are marked by the checkered background. When removing a background color, I typically use a Tolerance of 65-73% Tolerance, to make sure I get a majority of the background color where it blends with the object color (in this case, the Roblox Red, and Power Imagination black).

There is a plugin mentioned down below, Grim Color Reaper, that does a better job of this.

Fill Color

The paint bucket tool is used to fill the color of any color you select to change it to one of your choosing. Uses Tolerance, like the Magic Wand tool. Will also fill a selection you make.

Effects Tab

Now, looking at some of the Plugins we installed from Pyrochild.
The most important one, is honestly

Outline

You’ll find Outline in Effects -> Object -> Outline
This’ll pop up a brand new screen. Here you can play around with the softness of the outline (the softer it is, the less jaggedy it’ll look when zoomed in), the outline thickness, the outline color, and other features. Feel free to play around with this to get an idea of what it can do. To be more of a shadow, you can make the softness all the way up.


Outline will only affect the selected item. If no item is selected, it won’t do anything. Outline only works on outlining Opaque things, set against a transparent background.

Vignette

This is a Paint Effect, not from Pyrochild. Gives the black border shadow effect for more Cinematic Feel. Can be found in Effects -> Photo -> Vignette.


Only effects opaque items.

Glow

Glow is another Paint Effect, not from Pyro, that is found in Effects -> Photo. Glow gives a neon bloom glow to a selected item. Will place the neon on a transparent background.

Other effects are fun to play with, however, you can explore them on your own. These 3 Effects are by far the most used in stuff, just because they create very unique looks to each.

Smart Practices

So, now that you know the lay of the land, what are some smart practices?

A. Always go big.
When you go to make a logo, or design, or anything really, try to start out as big as possible. If you work with a 4,000 pixel x 4,000 pixel logo, you can always resize it downward, and let Anti-Alias do it’s thing, rather than re-size upward, and it looks pixelized. (To get Anti-Alias resizing, use (at the top of the screen near File)Image -> Resize, or Ctrl + R)

B. File Management -> Layered Versus Flat
Always work in layers for multi-colored logos. If you save each color in it’s own layer, you can change the colors if each individual color extremely easily later. (See C)
Always save two files of your work. One is .psd format (so that layers are preserved) and one that is flat (.png is preferred because it’s higher quality.) This way, you have a uploadable version for Roblox (png) and a layered version incase you need/want to make changes in the future (.psd)

C. Always in color
Even if you’re making a black and white logo, always make it in Color. You can use the Black & White button in the Adjustments tab latter, but adding color to something that is black and white is much more difficult. If the black and white you want isn’t correct after using the Black & White feature, use the Brightness / Contrast levels in adjustments to adjust the exact black & white you want. If you make things in color, you can change them later to a different shade of color using the Adjustments -> Hue/Saturation tool. This is also useful for changing the color, of say, a car in a picture. Use the magic wand to select the color you want to change, and then Hue/Saturation to change it. Avoid using Fill Color because it will be harsh with it’s stopping point of color change.

There are a lot of fairly simple things I didn’t mention. If you’re on the DevForum, you can probably figure it out. Just simple things like how to rotate the image, flip the image, etc, in the various tabs at the top of the program. Just play around with things, and they’re easy to figure out!

And most of all, enjoy just being creative.

BONUS TUTORIAL - How to add Drop Shadow

Provided by @ChipioIndustries

1. Create your object on its own layer.
image
As you can see, I’ve added the text “yeet” in orange on its own layer.

2. Duplicate the layer.
image
You can duplicate the layer using this button at the bottom of the Layers panel.

3. Remove all the color from the bottom layer.
image
With the lower version of the layer selected, go to Adjustments --> Curves** and drag the topmost handle to the bottom. The curve should be completely flat against the bottom.

4. Blur the bottom layer.
image
Go to Effects --> Blurs --> Gaussian Blur, and increase the blur to a level you like. 16 works nicely for this rather small image.

5. Offset the bottom layer.
image
Using the Rectangle Tool image, select the whole area, and then position it using the Move Selected Pixels tool image. This gives the illusion of the light creating the shadow at an angle.

**Editor’s Note from George. You can use Curves+, the Pyrochild plugin as well for this, if you downloaded Pyro’s PluginPack.

BONUS PLUGINS

Here are some other plugins that people have sent over to me that do really great stuff.
Conditional Color Hue / Mirror Over Line / Render Pie Chart Sent by @EchoReaper
Conditional Color Hue allows you to pick out a specific color, and change just that color to any color.

Grim Color Reaper Sent by @EchoReaper
Grim Color Reaper allows you to turn one color into complete transparency, while not having jagged edges like you kinda sorta get from the Magic Wand way I mentioned in my Tutorial

To Add These Plugins:
Download the .dll file, and put into your Program Files -> Paint(Dot)Net -> Effects


Alternative for Photoshop?
Best Applications for UI?
#2

This is a really informative guide! I’ve been using PDN for as long as I remember, and I can say that it’s useful and convenient for anyone that can’t afford Photoshop or other big image editing program.

I would like to suggest making a list of a few useful plugins, such as the Align Object plugin, since you mentioned a few Pyrochild plugins in the OP. Other than that, this was a good read!


#3

I’ve never had Align Object, but based on the name, could be very useful!


#4

Downloaded photoshop and still use Paint,net for quick icons.
I’ll learn photoshop one day but meh.

There alot of community created plugins that work well with Paint,net too. Not sure if you use any.


#5

I started out with Paint(dot)net before I got Photoshop for college. While Photoshop is the industry standard, PDN has plenty of overlap and fulfills most of your average Roblox needs. I generally use PDN for clothing, and Photoshop for textures (since some versions have advanced 3D plugins).

I was my college’s tutor for all Adobe software, and I know it’s not meant for everyone (especially now that it’s subscription-based; I was lucky enough to get it when it was a one-time purchase.) PDN is like the Blender of graphic design software; it’s not the best option, but offers the most value for free and doesn’t take long to learn.


#6

Wow thank you so much! I never knew about the PSD plugin - what a life saver! Now I can cancel my £200+ Adobe license!

(to all those thinking why the heck would you spend £200 just to open PSDs, I have to work with others on projects who have Photoshop on non-Windows machines. I prefer PDN though.)


#7

Very well made guide, also thanks for the shout. I used to use PDN a lot and the only reason I switched to GIMP was because PDN didn’t support Windows 10 at the time. I forgot how many useful tools PDN had that GIMP still lacks.


#8

I’ve been using Paint.Net for well over 10 years now. It’s a fantastic application.


#9

The Affinity range might be able to help you there if you want higher quality than PDN (and more similarity to Adobe software). One time payment that is like $50 USD (I think?). Their programs are what I use and work well.

The software has save/load support for PSD/AI/etc but note that exporting isn’t great atm. They can also use plugins made for the Adobe software.


Alternative for Photoshop?
#10

You’re welcome! Yea, the plugin community for PDN is massive. They have like everything and anything. Downloaded a plugin the other day that lets me open vector files, even.


#11

An easy way to replace that drop shadow tutorial you listed is to use this plugin.

It’s part of a plugin fact, but all the other plugins are super useful as well.

Another plugin I use all the time is Object Align. Allows you to center an object along an axis.


#12

They have kinda different styles though. Your plugin makes it more shadowy. Chip’s way makes it look more like raised off the background. Still a useful plugin though!


#13

That plugin allows you to fully customize the drop shadow.

(I tried my best to replicate the drop shadow he made in the tutorial at the start of the gif)


#14

Ooooo, nvm then. Yes. That is much better than I thought it was lol.


#15

The BoltBait Plugin pack comes with a lot of useful stuff for Paint.Net


#16

Thank you for all of these useful plugins, guys! Keep them coming!


#17

I may or may use a cracked photoshop.


#18

A Cool 3D Effect Without Plugins
I create cool stuff on paint.net, most of it is without plugins. I use ‘Layers’ -> ‘Rotate / Zoom’ a lot, since it creates a cool effect.

What I do is, I put a new layer, and put something on that layer [I recommend dragging it to a corner if you’re putting text on it.]
Now, what I do is, I select the layer, then click image > image button. Make sure the image button isn’t selecting anything.

After you did that, it should pop up this window: image
Now, you should drag the window out of the center, so you can see what the image looks like. You can rotate the circle that is on the top left to where you want the layer to be facing. However, when you rotate it, the layer may be cropped out.
image
You can fix this issue by dragging “+” on the center of this: image to another direction so that it isn’t cropped off.
You can also Zoom the layer in and out with the zoom slider.
When you think it looks good, you can click the “OK” button to confirm the changes.
This is what I got:


You can use some effects to make it look better. For example, I used the “Zoom Blur” effect to make the text look even more better.

Here’s another example of what you could create with that:


Isn’t that cool you can make that without plugins?


#19

Personally with my experience, Photoshop just takes playing around with. I’ve told people I taught GFX to that I can’t teach it and its something they have to learn themselves, it usually takes a week to get used to and after that you can get someone to help you with advanced stuff.


#20

Been using paint.net since 2013, very good program for something that free and easy to use. Good informative tutorial!