which is the best image and photo editing software for you

Paint.NET vs Photoshop : which is the best image and photo editing software for you ?

XPPen 2023-08-22 16:52:30 6 min read

It's a matter of personal preference on which program people think is better or prefer to use. I personally enjoy paint.net more than most other photo editing software because...
1. It's FREE. 
Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Paintshop pro, or the one I own Serif's PhotoPlus, none of those advanced photo editing programs are free, in fact, Photoshop and Paintshop pro are very expensive. I prefer fun and free.
2. Paint.net has an easy User Interface and the program is pretty easy to learn. I often feel overwhelmed or clueless in programs like Photoshop, Gimp, Serif's Photoplus, etc.
For many people, the learning curve for the advanced programs is, well, advanced and steep compared to paint.net. Many of the features in the more advanced programs are buried, for example the color “Adjustments” in photoshop is in a sub category rather than being directly in the Menu Bar like paint.net's “Adjustments” is. Which means, in the other pograms you have to do more navigating to find and use what you want to use. Also, because many of the features are buried, relying on shortcut keys almost becomes a necessity in photoshop in order to have a smooth work flow. Using shortcut keys in paint.net is very helpful, but most of the time I can play in paint.net with only one hand and a mouse.

3. In paint.net, most of the tools let you see what you are doing while you are doing it, for examples the gradient tool and the line/curve tool. If you have ever seen the gradient tool in photoshop, gimp, serif's photoplus, etc, their gradient tools don't draw live gradients. The gradient tool in those programs has a skinny line that represents where the gradient will be, and then when you let go of your mouse button the gradient is drawn (do an internet search for photoshop gradient tool videos). Gradient tools like photoshop's can cause you to do a lot of undoing and redoing till you get the gradient the way you want it. Like-wise, the pen tool in photoshop is the same way. In paint.net you have the bendy line/curve tool that has a paint width, end caps, and the tool can even act as an eraser with the right settings. With the pen tool though, you draw paths, which are skinny little lines that are flexible, and then after you have drawn a path you can “stroke” it with paint. The issue with this is the paint width is a different width than the pen tool's paths, which means tracing an image with the pen tool might not turn out the way you expect, but you can't move/bend any paint, you have to undo the paint stroke, and then edit the path, and then re-stroke. Sorry if my explanation is confusing, but the pen tool is a confusing tool, and it's tedious, and it does take practice to use, unlike paint.net's line/curve tool. The line/curve tool might need a few things pointed out, but other than that it's mostly self-explanatory with just a little bit of fiddling. This is because paint.net's tools function as a type of “what you see is what you get”. What you see yourself drawing, is what you are drawing, it's that width, it's that color, it's that pixelated, it's that precise, it is what it is. There are no skinny lines as representations and then afterwards you see your gradient or stroke your paint. In paint.net you see what you are drawing/coloring right as you're doing it.

The visuals of “what you see is what you get” of live functioning tools is something I have struggled to find in other programs. I like being able to position my line/curve tool exactly where I want it, without having to play the undo/redo game with a bunch of stroking. And I also like being able to see my gradient as I draw it. Drawing a gradient based off of a skinny line is like drawing a gradient blindly and it feels like those kinds of gradient tools heavily rely on trial and error.

4. Another big reason I like paint.net is because I like it's effects and plugins. You might have heard the popular saying "There's and App for That." Well, when it comes to paint.net, "There's a Plugin for That". All the plugins are very fun, and even without the plugins, paint.net's base effects are ones I use all the time, like dents and clouds. Because of paint.net's plugins, there are some things you can do with just a couple of clicks and you're done. Whereas with photoshop, sometimes it requires you to do a number of manual steps to get results or special effects. (and vice-versa, which is why I like multiple editing programs)

Unfortunately, there are some effects and plugins that paint.net has that you can't find anywhere else. For examples the Dents effect and Object plugins like AA's Assistant. With the object plugins, you can do things like feather an object's edges without having a selection.
To understand the value of object plugins, let me try to explain. In advanced photo editors, the main way to smooth rough edges is to use a selection and then use their advanced selection feather feature. Their selection feathering is a powerful feature, but I have felt stumped on complicated objects that have rough edges and no easy way to make a selection, or making a selection in order to smooth edges feels tedious compared to paint.net. For example, lets say I type some custom font but the font has rough edges, in paint.net all I have to do is use the feather plugin and the AA's assistant plugin and I'm done. In photoshop, I would first have to make a selection around the text, and then I would have to go find tutorials on how to use the advanced feather feature, and then I might spend five minutes tweaking the selection and feathering settings. My trouble wouldn't end there though, every time I would want to smooth edges, I would have to return to the tutorials until I finally remember how to properly use the selection feather feature, which varies for every image and object. Now, that's not to say the selection feather feature is a bad thing, because in an overall perspective, I really like photoshop's selection abilities to feather, expand, contact, refine edge, etc. I like photoshop's selection abilities so much I wish paint.net had those abilities despite them having a learning curve. However, even if paint.net could do what photoshop can do, I still see myself using the quick and easy object plugins, where selections aren't even needed.
5. I also like paint.net because I feel the work people accomplish in paint.net is a greater accomplishment. Photoshop can do a lot of fancy, super, shiny stuff, so when you do something amazing in photoshop it sort of loses it's “wow” factor, because, well, that's just what photoshop does, it's photoshop, it's expected to do shiny and cool things. But, in paint.net, making things amazing can be like, “What?! You made that totally awesome picture in that basic paint program?”. It takes a good handful of creativity and some skill to make something in paint.net that can rival programs like photoshop. Photoshop is a program made for professionals with a crazy expensive price tag fueling its development, while paint.net is FREE, and yet, paint.net can loosly do what photoshop can do.

In other words, I really like paint.net because it feels like a simple and basic program, but, it can surprise everyone and produce awesome computer-art and/or photo manipulations, which then shows just how much this program is a diamond in the rough. Artwork made in paint.net can feel more special, rewarding, and fun versus things made in programs that have high expectations and corporate money battles.
6. Although you are wanting to know which program is better, it is important to take into consideration that Paint.net and other photo editing programs can be interchangeable, as they can both do some of the same tasks. For example, you can use either paint.net or another software to remove blemishes from a person's face, to crop an image, to make a forum signature, to adjust colors, brightness, or contrast of a picture, and, you can cutout images and remove backgrounds, but keep in mind the different programs use different techniques, and paint.net has plugins that mirror some photoshop abilities.

7. I would like to mention that I love paint.net because when you use paint.net, or make things with paint.net, you get to be a part of the paint.net community! Yay! :cake:
It's fun to make something with a photo editing program, but it's even more fun with others. Yes, there are communities for photoshop, but I personally am intimidated by most of those communities. People that do things with photoshop always seem like professionals (probably because they are) or their works of art are real art, not just a hobbyist's doodles. Here at paint.net's forums, there are plenty of people who's art is very good and their skills are something to admire, however we aren't all professionals or artists, we are a mix when it comes to skills, and talent, and we all use paint.net for different things. I like the mix because then I can enjoy looking at artworks from a variety of talents, and I can enter contests with my own not-so-pro works of art and not feel awkward. I think most of us are basic average users, but regardless of how good or simple we are with the program, it's still fun to just share artwork, share tips and ideas, participate in contests, or contribute in the tutorials section or plugins section of this forum. It's fun to contribute to a favorite program and be involved with it, rather than just be a user of the software. And I do have to give a nod to the plugin contributors, they have a talent all of their own. So, for me, the paint.net community really adds to the paint.net experience and fun. Though, I will have to admit, the forums can be a little slow in activity sometimes.

If I had to choose a photo editing program, I would choose paint.net, and I have chosen paint.net. 

Here is a sum up of all of the above :
* Paint.net is Free.
* Paint.net has an easy User Interface and the program is fairly easy to learn.
* Paint.net has live functioning tools. “What you see is what you get” such as with the line/curve tool and gradient tool. Live functioning tools are hard to find in most programs.
* There are lots of super, fun, great, plugins. Some plugins, as well as effects, are unique to paint.net and not found in other programs, such as some distort effects and edge smoothing plugins.
* The work people accomplish in paint.net could be viewed as is a greater accomplishment. Paint.net doesn't have high expectations like other software, so artwork can be both fun, relaxed, and yet it also has potential to exceed expectations and make great art.
* Paint.net and other advanced photo editing programs can both do some of the same tasks, like crop images, remove backgrounds, image touch ups, etc.
* Paint.net has this online user community where you can share your artwork, share tips and ideas, participate in contests, or contribute in the tutorials section or plugins section of this forum. The paint.net community welcomes all users, whether you draw stick figures, shiny jewels, or have a talent for HDR photography.

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