I’ve had a few people ask me recently just what program I would recommend for painting with on the computer. Now there are all kinds of programs out there that a serious artist can obtain for using in this particular manner, and one is really only limited by the type of art you plan to do, and the amount of money that you wish to spend. Since I’m in no way a professional artist, I’m reasonably certain the people asking me this question, are not planning to use my advice as the basis for shelling out hundreds, or even thousands of dollars for some top-of-the-line art program best suited for a modern-day Rembrandt, Picasso, or any one of those other guys whose names I have great difficulty spelling. I suspect the people that are talking to me want something that they can do reasonable work on, something that has all the standard bells and whistles, and if at all possible, comes in at that one price that me and all of mine always find so attractive, free, or with your choice of donation to the worthy cause. And personally, having done some basic programming at times in my life, any person, male or female, who has programmed an entire art program, and is willing to let me have it for free, is a VERY worthy cause.
So with all that said, and it being understood that I actually have several free art programs on my computer, some used at one time, some used at another, the one I find myself going to most often, and most often coming away from with the most satisfying results, is a lovely little program known simply as Paint.net. I’ve used this program for several years now, and as I fired it up today in preparation for this article, it alerted me to a new update, which I proceeded to download and install, so whatever I use it for in this here article, it will be the first time I’ve used it with this new edition.
I remember the first time I opened Paint.net, I immediately liked the nice, clean, opening screen that was such a pleasant change from so many other art programs that had so many things happening when you first opened them. You had windows here, windows there, floating pallets everywhere, and information boxes stacked one on top of each other. Even though you knew you could just shut them all down, by the time you did, you were so tired out, who the hell wanted to paint? When Paint.net opens, it brings with it the basics, and you’re good to go. Here, take a look for yourself. (You may have to click to see my entire laptop screen.)
If you recall, a while back I did a post that featured a step-by-step illustration that I made, of a famous photograph that was used for a National Geographic Cover. If your memory is anything like mine, and you want to refresh it, the article I’m referring to can be found right about here. Well, that entire series of paintings, and of course, the final result, were all done using the Paint.net program that we are discussing at the moment. The main feature of this program that I used in painting that series was the magnifying feature. As I looked at the information contained in each of the squares that I had drawn on the original magazine cover, by magnifying the square that I was drawing INTO by 600%, once the image was shrunk back down to normal size, any errors I made were so small as to be much less noticeable, leaving me with a reasonable facsimile. I have since found several other ways of using that same technique to good advantage.
Another frequent use I make of the Paint.net program is when I’m working with my fractal generator, which you have also seen some samples of in the article entitled “Fantastic Fractals”, which can be found right about here. I don’t use Paint.net to paint the fractals, however, as the fractal generator takes care of that on its own. What I do use Paint.net for is when I feel like adding something extra to the fractal, and this can be done in several different ways. Since Paint.net has a “Layers” feature which allows for different images to be layered one on top of another, sometimes I simply combine a fractal with a regular picture, and perhaps use the eraser to eliminate portions of one image or the other. Or sometimes, I’ll make use of the “blur” features (there are several types), or the various kinds of rotations with each of these effects giving their own special results, a couple of which are shown below.
There is one other really cool feature within Paint.net, which is actually two features in one, that I would like to show you just before we go. It is one of those features that you won’t always find in some of the other art programs that are out there, and though it may seem kind of tame at first, over the years I’ve come to really appreciate it as a feature that has a lot of uses if you apply a little imagination to it. To demonstrate its use, we first have to open a picture from from one of our files. For the first demo, it doesn’t really matter what the picture is of.
The next thing you want to do is find the top tool-bar, click on “Effects“, then “Artistic”, and then “Ink Sketch”. If you left the controls set to the default, or any higher, you should end up with an image similar to the one below. But, and this is where I think the magic lies, if you set the “ink outline” and the “coloring” controls to zero, then the picture you end up with will very likely be
much more like this one down here. And why do I think that this has some magic to it? Because even if you can’t really see it here on this little screen, when you print it out on a piece of paper after magnifying the image a suitable amount, you have a wonderful coloring page that you can make as easy or as complex as you desire simply by choosing the correct photograph from your album, plus that which you are coloring is an image that you yourself created. Images of favorite places, or loved ones, there are all kinds of possibilities, and it depends only on how much effort you wish to put into it. If you decide to keep it on the computer screen, then you can use Paint.net’s own magnifier to bring even the most intricate pieces of any picture into the range of your eyesight, and once you bring it back down to normal viewing range, any small errors that might have crept in will be adequately miniaturized beneath the level of anyone’s notice.
I find that simple images of bunnies and flowers and Christmas Trees and such, either printed off on paper, or right on the computer screen are excellent ways to keep the younger children occupied while Mom is busy with the Holiday dinners, and Dad is trying to figure out why all the easy-to-assemble Christmas gifts aren’t. I also recommend using the pencil sketch settings for these easier-to-draw pictures as the drawing areas they leave are larger and the lines absorb more in the way of minor errors. Anyway, just a glorified way of doodling and killing a little time, or keeping the children occupied during the busier times that the holidays can bring. I hope everybody’s preparations are coming right along, and I hope the weather is turning for the better wherever you may be. Here on the coast it’s finally warming up. So everybody stay safe and warm, and we’ll see you all next time. Until then.