Hardware

Review: Paint.NET graphics editor

Anyone who needs a graphics editor, but does not need a full feature set in an application like Photoshop, will appreciate Paint.NET.

Paint.NET is an easy to use, lightweight graphics editor. It is completely free, as are the various plugins available for it. It has many of the features that you would find in a commercial image editor, such as Photoshop.

Specifications

  • Supported Operating Systems: XP, Vista, W7, 2003, 2008 (32-bit and 64-bit for all systems)
  • System Requirements: 200MB disk space, 256MB RAM, .NET Framework 3.5 SP1, 1024x768 screen resolution (minimum)
  • Additional Information: Product Web site
  • For a closer look, check out the TechRepublic Paint.NET Photo Gallery

Who's it for?

Anyone who needs a graphics editor, but does not need a full feature set in an application like Adobe Photoshop, will appreciate Paint.NET. It can handle enough graphics tasks to satisfy amateur and occasional users, but someone like a "prosumer" photo enthusiast or a professional graphic artist would feel limited by it.

What problems does it solve?

Most free image editors are not very user friendly and do not support some of the more upscale features like layers and filters. Paint.NET fills the gap between the typical free graphics tools and the expensive commercial tools.

Standout features

  • Cost: Paint.NET is free, and so are the plugins for it.
  • Feature Set: Paint.NET supports a variety of filters, unlimited undo/redo history, layers, and many of the adjustments that you would find in a more upscale application.
  • Ease of Use: Paint.NET is very easy to use.
  • Plugin System: The system for writing plugins is well exposed, which allows people with a programming background to write their own. Many can be found on the Internet for free.

What's wrong?

  • It's not Photoshop: If you are used to Photoshop (or a similar application), you will feel limited by Paint.NET. For example, it lacks masks and path tools.
  • Limited file format support: Paint.NET does not support file formats other than the most common and well-known formats. You won't be able to edit PSDs or animated GIFs, for example.
  • Free, but not open source: Paint.NET is free, but it is not open source.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

Paint.NET is a good choice for the users who occasionally need to edit images, but not enough to justify spending money on a full-featured commercial product. Developers, occasional Web designers, office administrators working on presentations, and other similar situations are all a good fit for its feature set. Being a free product, it is handy "in a pinch" when you have an ad-hoc need and just need something installed quickly and easily to handle an image editing task.

Hardcore graphic workers will find it to lack many of the features they have come to expect in packages like Photoshop. However, the features planned for version 4 of Paint.NET may change that significantly. All the same, if your job is to work with images for more than a few hours every few weeks, or if you have advanced needs, Paint.NET is probably not your best choice. However, with it being free, there is no harm in trying it out and seeing if it is good enough.

User rating

Have you encountered or used Paint.NET? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

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About Justin James

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

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