The days of having to spend big to edit photos on your PC have long gone. Now you'll find all the functionality you need exists in free software, and one of the pioneers of this growing market was Paint.NET. It's been years since it received a major update, but now version 4.0 is here at long last.
The program has a beautifully clean and uncluttered interface, with tabbed files access making it easy to work with multiple images at the same time. One immediate advantage over commercial rivals such as Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop Elements is that it's also lightning fast, although from version 4.0 you'll need a dual-core processor to go with Windows 7 or later to run it.
With support for layers, a wide range of image formats and image editing plugins, everything you need to get started with image editing can be found here. A selection of filters and special effects are built into Paint.NET, and these can be used to enhance image or to get creative with your artwork. The program includes everything you would expect to find in an image editing package, but there are plenty of surprises when you consider that this is free software. The gradient tool is powerful and easy to use, and unlimited levels of undo make it possible to try out several ideas without worrying about losing the original image.
Paint.NET is the personification of what free software should be. The program is of a very high standard and features and automatic update facility so you can always be sure you are working with the latest version - and with a dedicated team of developers, updates are fairly frequent. The program has a large and active following, and there are a range of helpful hints, tips and tutorials to be found in the Paint.NET forums. This may well be the only image editor you ever need.
What's new in Paint.NET 4.2 (see the changelog for more info)?
- New: Support for loading and saving HEIC images (Windows 10 v1809+ and codec installation is required). Please note that the "Quality" slider when saving is limited to a value of 90 (out of 100) while Microsoft investigates and fixes a crash in their codec.
- New: Keyboard shortcuts for changing the current layer. You can see these in the Layers menu with the "Go to ..." commands. Alt+PgUp/PgDown will go to the layer above/below, and Ctrl+Alt+PgUp/PgDown will go to the top/bottom layer.
- Fixed: Optimized rendering engine to remove huge lag spikes (30+ seconds) when zooming or panning very large images (e.g. 32K x 32K pixels).
- Improved: BMP now supports saving in 32-bit (with alpha!) and 8-bit indexed.
- Improved: Added DIB and RLE file extensions to the BMP file type.
- Improved: PNG, JPEG, and TIFF now support loading and saving of much larger images.
- New: PNGs can now be saved as "interlaced".
- Improved: JPEG now has configuration for the chroma subsampling mode (4:4:4, 4:2:2, and 4:2:0). The default is now 4:2:2 instead of the unconfigurable 4:2:0 of older versions. This may result in larger file sizes, but higher quality, as compared to previous versions.
- Improved: TIFF now supports saving at 24-bit and 8-bit color depths.
- Improved performance of saving for file types where "Auto" bit-depth is supported but is not the current choice.
- Improved temporary memory usage when saving images at 8-bit color depth.
- Improved: TGA images now load about 4x faster (thanks @null54!)