New features for Paint.NET 4.0

It’s been awhile since I talked about some of the smaller features that have been implemented for Paint.NET 4.0. So, without further ado …

Light Color Scheme

Paint.NET 3.5 uses a blue color scheme. For 4.0, you can still use that but the default is now the “Light” color scheme. The differences can be subtle but change is nice to have. The light theme also uses a gray canvas background (#CFCFCF to be precise), which can be important for color matching.


Color Picker Enhancements

Ed Harvey, who wrote and has been maintaining "Ed Harvey Effects,” one of the most popular and interesting plugin packs, has contributed some more features to Paint.NET 4.0 recently. The first two are in the Color Picker and give you the ability to set the sampling size as well as whether it will sample just the current layer or the whole image:

Copy Merged

Ed Harvey is also responsible for implementing another highly requested feature, Copy Merged. When you have a selection active, Edit->Copy will take the pixels from the current layer, while Edit->Copy Merged will use the whole image. In Paint.NET v3.5 you could do this but it required you to 1) Flatten the image, 2) Copy, and finally 3) Undo the Flatten. Paint.NET 4.0 will let you do that in one keystroke, and mirrors Photoshop’s functionality and keyboard shortcut. It also means you don’t have to wipe out your Redo history.

Tool Blending Modes

Paint.NET has always had an option to let you choose between Normal and Overwrite blending. The latter is necessary if you ever want to use anything but the Eraser tool in order to “draw transparent pixels.” This has been extended to include all of the layer blend modes, and still includes Overwrite. Currently this only works on the tools which have been upgraded to the new rendering system, namely the Pencil and Gradient tools, but all the others will be upgraded in due time. (I have already started upgrading the shape tools, for instance.)

Here’s an example comparing Normal and Xor blending modes with a rounded rectangle*:

Layer Reordering with Drag-and-Drop

In Paint.NET v3.5 you have to use the cumbersome Move Layer Up and Move Layer Down buttons to change layer ordering. Paint.NET 4.0 adds what you would naturally want to do here, namely the ability to just drag-and-drop the layers to reorder them. In addition, there are some nice animations for this and all the other things that can change the contents of the Layers window.

Antialiased Selections

Whenever you have a selection active, all drawing is clipped to it. Paint.NET 4.0 can finally do this clipping with antialiasing. This results in a much smoother edge. This was actually quite simple to implement with the new rendering engine that’s in place for 4.0. (Note: Feathered selections and other gizmos are another matter entirely and will hopefully make it into a post-4.0 release without too much of a wait.)

The first option gives you the same rendering that Paint.NET v3.5 and earlier uses. The second uses 2×2 super sampling on the clipping mask, and the third uses 3×3 super sampling. I experimented with 4×4 super sampling but the improvement wasn’t very noticeable; in addition, performance went down and memory usage went up.

Here’s an example of the quality levels with a circular selection that’s had a gradient drawn inside of it:

Right now the default is Antialiased (2×2 super sampling). I’ll be doing some further experimenting, and decide whether the default should be High Quality and whether the “normal quality” option should even be present.

Anyway, that’s all for now!

* Astute readers may notice that the rounded rectangle’s corner radius does not match what 3.5 uses … yes, this will finally be configurable. Right now I’ve just got a test tool that renders a fixed size, but in short order the shape tools will get some fantastic upgrades, including configuring the corner radius for a rounded rectangle.


68 thoughts on “New features for Paint.NET 4.0

  1. MrFawlty says:

    It’s a way over-used term, but it is looking awesome!! Or, to put in the words of Agnes in Despicable Me:

    It’s so fluffy I’m gonna DIE!!

  2. drakaan says:

    Anti-aliased selections looks like a big deal…

    The tool blend modes; does that apply only when they’re initially used, or are pencil lines and gradients becoming persistent objects with attributes? (Seems like there’s more drawing/vector functionality finally starting to creep in to PDN).

    • Rick Brewster says:

      There’s no such thing as persisted objects in Paint.NET 4.0. You can think of a drawing tool as operating in 4 states: idle, drawing, editing, and committing. Idle means you haven’t done anything yet, drawing is when you’re doing the first click-drag operation to begin, editing is where you can change any of the properties that affect the drawing (and also edit it via other means like move, scale, rotate), and committing is when it applies it to the layer. After that it’s pixels. Every edit shows up in the history window and you can go back and keep tweaking it, but you can’t draw “object 1” and then “object 2”, then undo “into” object 1, makes changes to it, and then redo back into “object 2” — the redo history is wiped out once you perform a new action, just like always.

      • drakaan says:

        OK…just curious. I remembered reading some things about the updated shape tools that I think you gave the same response to.

        I still hope for vector functionality some day, but regardless, I’m excited to try out each and every new thing you’ve mentioned. PDN is still my favorite piece of software (and the one I most frequently recommend).

  3. Trevor says:

    I am very excited about the long-awaited upgrade. It sounds like some “retooling” were done for the v4.0. Keep up the excellent work. The wait will be worth the while.

    • Rick Brewster says:

      Glad to hear it. There’s a brand new rendering engine in place, complete with hardware acceleration and progressive rendering. I’ll now be free to add all sorts of cool rendering stuff without worrying about blocking the UI thread and making the application unresponsive. For example, once I’ve got the new brush tool stuff, making it apply a blur will be quite simple.

  4. Fitoschido says:

    I do not understand why you changed some menus to be “IE9-style” and you kept the other menus as “classic” style. What’s your rationale?

      • Fitoschido says:

        For example, you removed the “Help” menu and replaced it with a “?” icon aligned to the left that does the same.

        • Rick Brewster says:

          No the icon is aligned to the right. The menus were moved around in order to save space and to keep things cleaner looking. It provides more room for the image thumbnail list, for one. I’ve also moved the image list up by 1 row, which ensures tools can use their entire row for toolbar commands, and also means the image list won’t get bounced around as you switch between tools. I also moved the zoom/view-related commands to the status bar.

          • Fitoschido says:

            OK, fair enough. And yes, when I said “left” I meant “right” (rarr). I agree it’s cleaner now.

  5. takis123 says:

    I really cant wait to see all the new features. If you want to make a list of beta testers please count me in

  6. John Tasler says:

    One feature that I’d really like to see is to have an “artboard” (or desktop) that is larger than the canvas. Often I want to work closely with something on an edge or corner of the canvas, but I can’t scroll it any further. Instead, I have to move the tool windows in order to get them out of the way of the canvas. If the art-board was larger than the canvas, I could just simply scroll beyond the canvas so that the corner/edge was more in the middle of the window workspace. Does that make sense? Is it something you might have already done in 4.0?

    P.S. I sent you some high-praise messages last summer’ish within the evil empire’s corporate email. 🙂 I’m consulting elsewhere now, so no longer on that exchange.

    • Rick Brewster says:

      To fix up the terminology, you want a canvas that is larger than the image. Right? This is a popular feature request, “I want to be able to scroll past the edge of the image.” I completely rewrote the canvas renderer in 4.0 (Direct2D and background rendering and everything) and this is now possible for me to implement, although I’m not sure if I’ll get around to this for 4.0 itself. Maybe soon after. In 3.5 it’s just not possible because the code is 1/3rd new, 1/3rd weird, and 1/3rd old.

  7. Alex says:

    Hi Rick,

    Is this the right place to inquire about or suggest PDN features?


  8. Ben says:

    I love the very slight change to color scheme, not necessarily because one (immediately) strikes me as better than the other, but because you clearly care about details that most programmers would never bother with, but are more important than they ever realize.

    Looking forward to 4.0; thanks for all the time you’re donating to us end-users, Rick.

  9. ILa says:

    Hi Rick,

    In your post, you’re wondering whether or not to keep the aliased clipping. Well I’m all for keeping it, as I have been using it quite often when touching up small images like icons. When doing pixel-perfect drawing, a clipping region is quite often faster than using the 1-pixel pen.

    Keep up the good work; you inspire me!

  10. Nova says:

    My suggestion for the color picker and the antialiased selections: make it more flexibel. It should be possible to use 8×8 super sampling, with 8^2 = 256 differences no kind of improvement would be possible anymore. “Ultra high Quality” 🙂
    The sampling size for the color picker than could be used with all values: 1×1, 2×2, 3×3, 4×4, 5×5, 6×6… 19×19, 20×20, 21×21, 22×22… up to the highest value possible (= the height and width of the image).

    Greetings from Germany, Nova 🙂

        • Rick Brewster says:

          8×8 super sampling, really? Firstly, each rendering tile for the alpha mask would take 1MB of memory instead of 16K (no AA) to 144KB (3x AA), and would just be dog slow even on a brand new Dual Xeon. Secondly, you’re asking to add a level of configuration that just isn’t needed. I’m leaning towards two settings: on and off. And that’s all the just about any user really cares about, and any discussion about “3×3 versus 8×8 super sampling” is going to be boring nerdspeak. You’d use AA on for almost everything, and AA off when there’s a specific need for it. Same goes for the other idea: it’s just supreme overkill.

          • Brad says:

            Why don’t you adapt the AA quality during “optimizing for your system”? i.e. bad computer would get 2×2 and a good one 3×3. If you do only pick one option for all systems, I vote for 3×3 since the quality is a huge improvement over 2×2.

            • Rick Brewster says:

              Why even bother adding that level of complexity? Then you have to worry about what happens when someone upgrades their computer, etc. It’s like when people demanded that I add some font cache to make working with a large # of fonts faster because the drop-down box in the toolbar was too slow. No, that adds way more complexity than it’s worth, and I came up with a far better solution that just used background threads to trickle in the preview bitmaps.

  11. Lorenz-gr88 says:

    Will Pressure Sensitivity be back?
    (I hope we dont get on your nerves with this too much…)

  12. fuuuu says:

    Will it ever be released? 4.0 i mean… The “original” ETA was late 2011, if i recall correctly, then got pushed to early 2012, no is about middle 2012 and still nothing… It seems like it will never be released 😦

    Why don’t you collaborate with other devs to do things faster, i’m sure there are many people who will want to give a helping hand to the project.

    Anyway, good luck with your work, and I hope the long awaited update will be released soon…

    • Rick Brewster says:

      Maybe you should relax and let me do my thing. Comments like yours are not productive, and saying things like “Will it ever be released” and “Why don’t you collaborate with other devs” etc. is a bit rude especially since you have no idea what the development process is actually like.

  13. metadings says:

    Dear Rick,
    cool that you didn’t stop working on Paint.NET. I’ve seen some code in a previous version, where I believe you have made an abstraction for different types of layers. So because you don’t like to share your source anymore, I want to request you a feature to have a difference in pixel and vector layers. So instead of committing a vector/text to it’s pixel representation, we could have the power to change things without having to delete and recreate them.
    Best regards, Uli

    • Rick Brewster says:

      Sorry but that just isn’t likely to ever happen. Paint.NET is a raster graphics editor, and that’s what it focuses on. I wouldn’t want to add some half-baked poorly-done vector editing, as there’s really no good way to cram in all the gizmos that are necessary for this to be a good feature. Better to be rock-solid awesome at one thing than mediocre at two things. If you need vector editing you’ll be better served using something like InkScape (which is free).

  14. Tom Robinson says:

    I love Paint.NET, because it does one thing well.
    It’s probably a bit late for 4.0 feature requests, but here goes:
    1. Option for 64-bit color while editing and in .pdn files. Working with grayscale images, 24-bit “color” gives only 256 levels of gray, leading to banding effects.
    It would be great to work with 16-bit R/G/B/A channels, then dither or posterize to 8-bit channels when saving to certain file types.
    2. Support the most popular Alpha manipulations natively, obsoleting most of the Alpha plugins.
    3. Change the default “Tolerance” from 50% to 0%, or let me change the default.
    4. When editing Layer properties, let me switch to another layer with one click.
    5. User-configurable size and background for Layer thumbnails. Some of my layers have only tiny subtle effects in them, so their thumbnails basically look like nothing.

    • Rick Brewster says:

      As for 3, you can already change the default in v3.5, it’s just not easy to find. In the toolbar, where it says “Tool:” click on that button and then select Choose Defaults. In v4.0 this is integrated into the new Settings dialog.

  15. joaonc says:

    Not sure how 4.0 will be, but one thing that I love about 3.5 is how fast it loads.
    I actually have Photoshop installed but use PDN for lots of quick things, which turns out is about 50% of the time.. cropping, resizing, quick color fixes, etc..

    So please keep the loading time fast! 🙂

    Also, not sure what’s the deal with it, but saving JPG on Paint.NET is way better than in any other software, including Photoshop. When I use, say, 90% quality on PDN it’s similar quality but about 2 to 3 times smaller file than quality 10 (out of 12) in Photoshop.. This is awesome for PDN!!

  16. Mark Biernat says:

    I would have to agree with the above comment. The loading time of PDN is superior to any program out there including Photoshop and GIMP. I keep trying to find a PDN replacement, but because the ease of use and speed, I keep coming back to PDN.

    My dream program would be a combination of and MyPaint. I have found I can do more with the brush panel in MyPaint than many advanced photo editing features in Photoshop.

    I am sincerely thankful you continue to work on this program and will be patient for 4.0 as I know it is a lot of personal effort.

      • Romanos Nianios says:

        I am not pushing anything, I am just a big fan of you and your creation. I use it almost every day and it have saved my ass a lot. It would be very nice to see a beta of version 4 before the end of the year. 😀

  17. joaonc says:

    This is reminding me of when I first saw the Lord of the rings trilogy trailer.. 1 year before the 1st movie came out, announcing 1 movie per year, ie, it took 4 years for me to see them all.
    That was a long wait, but it was worth it!

    No sneak peeks? Alpha build, video showing it off, more pics?


    • Rick Brewster says:

      When it’s ready you’ll see it here. Progress has been both slow and fast, but all the big under-the-hood stuff is done. Things that enable antialiased selections, tool blending modes, upgraded Gradient tool, upgraded Move tools, etc.

  18. circuitpeople says:

    If you don’t mind me asking, what’s the story on Plugins for 4.0? I have some (ok, two with narrow niche applications — one file type and one for effects) written that I’ve been sitting on for quite a while because of .Net 4.0 dependencies. With the under-the-hood work being done, is support for plugins still there?

  19. djuni says:

    I love Paint.NET, it’s the best tool for my purposes. Everything works fast and as expected. You don’t have an overloaded GUI but there’s a big functionality.
    I am using it in game development, editing 3d renderings and creating GUI-elements.
    It’s to bad that Paint.NET only works on Windows. There’s no real alternative for other platforms. I’ve tried many many other editors (free,open,commercial) but I’ve found nothing comparable. Other tools are also doing their work but there are always many inconveniences.
    From the new features I like the blending-menu and the anti-alaised selection most.

  20. Paul says:

    I’m feeling sad that from this version on,

    it won’t be supporting windows xp anymore.

    • Rick Brewster says:

      C’mon man. Windows 7 has been out for 3 years … if you’re *still* using XP, then your system is probably on the verge of dying anyway, simply from old age. And please don’t scratch at me over something I give away for free, it just makes me not want to anymore.

  21. Kenneth Nielsen says:

    I just want to give you my Thumps up here from Denmark, and keep up the great work.
    So long it works I have no problems about waiting for a new version, good free things take time and that I respect and understand.

    // Kenneth

    • Rick Brewster says:

      Thanks! 🙂 I’m hoping to show off some really cool new 4.0 features soon, things that no other image editing software is capable of (even Photoshop).

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