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A Beginner’s Guide To Paint.NET & How Does It Differ From Photoshop?

While Adobe Photoshop continues to be the gold standard for image creation and editing, it has two barriers to entry that make it unattractive to many users – cost and complexity. Photoshop is a hard-to-learn monster, with tons of features and options that most users might never need.

If Photoshop isn’t for you, you need to look for alternatives. You can try GIMP if you want professional-grade features at no additional cost, but it is still a difficult-to-learn option for users. This is where Paint.NET comes in, offering a free, powerful and easy-to-use Photoshop alternative for Windows users.

If you’re itching to scratch your design itch, this beginner’s guide to Paint.NET should get you started.

What is Paint.NET?

As the name suggests, Paint.NET was created as a replacement for Microsoft Paint. Paint is a simple tool for simple tasks, but most users won’t want to use it beyond simple drawing.

This is where Paint.NET comes in. Originally created with support from Microsoft as a potential replacement, Paint.NET is now a standalone project supported by a single developer, with tools and features that make it closer to GIMP and Photoshop than its namesake.

Paint.NET shines with its simplicity. Rather than focusing on an endless number of advanced features, Paint.NET has a simple and straightforward user interface that allows users to easily select, create, and edit digital images.

However, if you really want to create complex images, Paint.NET can do what you need – if you tweak it a bit. With a strong community supporting the project with third-party plugins, you can use Paint.NET for just about anything professional tools like Photoshop can do.

Paint.NET is completely free and available for download for Windows users. For macOS and Linux users, you need an alternative like GIMP

Comparison of Paint.NET and Photoshop

Paint.NET and Adobe Photoshop exist for the same purpose, but comparing them is like comparing apples and pears. Sure, they are both image editors, but serve different markets.

Photoshop is a professional-grade image editing tool. If there is a tool or function for editing images, it probably exists in Photoshop as a primary function or add-on. This is evident in the price, where an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription is required to use this premium software.

Paint.NET, by contrast, is a completely free alternative. It’s easy to use, but includes the features and tools you’d expect from a premium editing tool like canvas layers, image effects, and other customizations.

If you want a basic tool that’s easy to understand, but with various add-ons to extend its functionality, Paint.NET is a great option. However, for professional users, Photoshop will still be the tool you need to get started.

Create basic images in Paint.NET

Paint.NET is available as a free download, although you can support the project by purchasing the Microsoft Store version for a few dollars. After installing Paint.NET, you can start using it to create basic images.

Design images on Windows and other platforms

In the middle between Photoshop and Microsoft Paint is Paint.NET, the only image editing tool many users will need to create and edit their images. With its easy-to-use interface and Photoshop-style features like layers, it offers users a low entry threshold for creating and editing images on Windows.

Paint.NET is for Windows only, so you need to look for alternatives for other platforms. Basic image editing apps exist for Android and iOS if you have a mobile device at your fingertips. Mac users can be helped by free basic photo editors like Photoscape X. Or you can try Google Draw for free cross-platform drawing.

Also be sure to watch our YouTube video where we cover several different photo editing tools for Mac:

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