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Ed Harvey has made quite a name for himself on the Paint.NET forum by consistently releasing some of the best and most comprehensive effect plugins. He has just released an updated version of his effects plugin pack that supports Paint.NET v3.20 and uses some of its IndirectUI capabilities.

I highly recommend this plugin pack, so go and download it! In all, there are over 20 effects that go into the Blurs, Distort, and Color effect menus. Here’s a preview:

Original (Olivia Wilde)

Dents (one of his coolest and most popular effects)

Crystalize

Multi View Warp

Simplify

“Ash,” a member of the Paint.NET forums since December, has been impressing everyone with what he’s been capable of doing with Paint.NET. For starters, his avatar picture is this image:

And yes, it was made completely in Paint.NET! You can find the full size version, along with several other of his “100% Paint.NET” creations, at his website here: http://ashpdn.googlepages.com/

In any event, Ash has posted a tutorial on the forums titled: “Easiest way to make realistic eyes“. He makes use of the Shape3D plugin I mentioned before in order to produce the following:

Yes, this was created with Paint.NET! There aren’t very many steps required in order to make the eye, and you don’t even have to be very artistically inclined. The Shape3D plug helped a lot with the difficulty level, of course, but it’s very interesting to see plugins having such an enormous contribution to the utility of the program.

Here are some of the other noteworthy tutorials that Ash has published:

Paint.NET v2.6 added an adjustment called Curves. A member of the forum, pyrochild, has recently released a new plugin called Curves+ that takes the source code for Curves and builds on it to add several cool new features. In fact, this is the first plugin I’ve seen that copies code from Paint.NET and uses it as the basis for a new plugin.

A number of new features have been added to this enhanced version of Curves:

  • Histogram underlay in the transfer map (forgive the screenshot above – it doesn’t do this feature justice)
  • HSV, CMYK, Alpha, and “Advanced” transfer map modes. The “advanced” mode lets you map any input channel to any output channel (virtual channels, such as hue and intensity, are included).
  • Ability to save and load settings to XML files. This will be a boon for tutorials – instead of posting a screenshot and telling the user to “make it look like this,” you can just post the XML file and have them load it.
  • Simple linear interpolation mode (“straight lines”) for the transfer map, in addition to the standard spline interpolation.

In the screenshot above I’m using the HSV mode. Notice how the line for Hue isn’t just monochromatic, and follows the full range of colors in the hue spectrum. Personally, I think that’s pretty cool and creative J

If you follow the pages in the forum post for the plugin, you’ll see that numerous features, tweaks, and performance enhancements have been made due to conversation and collaboration with other forum members. They seem to want this bundled in the next version of Paint.NET … but if you’ve been following my previous blog posts or have been paying attention on the forum, then you will know that my goal is to make discovery, installation, and updating of plugins like this much easier. Why bundle when you can delegate! J

All in all, this is a big upgrade for Curves and gives the user many new ways to manipulate images. The HSV mode in particular, while not necessarily intuitive, produces some very powerful results.

I’m hoping this will be the first of many “spotlight” blog posts. I think the forums have become, interestingly enough, an integral feature of Paint.NET (“Web 2.0 meets Desktop 2.0?”), where a large selection of user-generated tutorials and plugins have been made available for free. Free is always good, and can do amazing things for the virality of your product (yes, virality, not “virility”, although in this case the two are kind of related. And no I’m not sure if it’s even a word).

This first spotlight will be on a plugin that was just published yesterday by a new forum member, “MKT”. It is called Shapes 3D and has the most complicated user interface I’ve seen to date in a plugin:

Despite this complexity, and the fact that it’s in Japanese, it has quickly soared in popularity and already has 5 pages of responses. Everyone seems very excited about this plugin, and my hope is that it will inspire other new plugins and tutorials.

I can’t read kanji, but I played around a bit and was able to make the following based on a photo of Mandy Moore:

Pretty cool for about 30 seconds of “work”. You can get the Shapes3D plugin at the forum here: http://paintdotnet.12.forumer.com/viewtopic.php?t=5271&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0 . When combined with other plugins, such as Drop Shadow or the Object Reflections, this makes it very easy to do things like software boxes or other perspective-based designs.

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