Windows 7 Paint

Windows 7 Paint

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  1. The venerable paint program has been with us since Windows 1, and has been improving slightly with each release of Windows.  The version with Windows 7 has, I think, finally reached the point that it is truly useful.  I finally find myself reaching for it instead of other, supposedly more powerful programs, due to both its simplicity and power.  Of course, the best part is that it comes free with the operating system.

    View Versus Size Versus Resolution

    These three things often confuse people, so let’s start by examining them.


    The resolution used by Windows 7 Paint is the resolution set for your screen.  By default it is 96 dots per inch.  If you have set this to medium it will be 120 dots per inch.  Since you can adjust this to whatever you want, within reason, you may find it has some other value.  Whatever value it has, it cannot be altered within Windows 7 paint.  It simply determines how densely the picture is drawn on the screen, and thus how smooth it looks.  Obviously, the higher the number the smoother it looks, and the more processing it takes, which means the slower it makes your computer.

    To view the resolution you are currently using, use the menu in the upper left hand corner of Paint, that has no name, and select Properties.  You will see a dialog box similar to the below:


    The number following “Resolution” with “DPI” following it is your resolution.


    The above dialog box can also be used to change the size of the image.  The size can be set in inches, centimeters, or pixels, with pixels being the default.  A pixel is a picture element, or one of the “dots” in DPI.  If you intend to print out the picture, you probably don’t want to set its size in pixels.

    In the above example, since the resolution is 125 dots per inch, and since the size is 124 pixels by 124 pixels, the picture will be printed out at 124/125 inches x 124/125 inches or approximately 1 inch x 1 inch.  Instead of having to calculate this each time, using the inch or centimeter measurement would be much easier.  Note too, that if you change the DPI setting on your computer, and your picture size is set in pixels, then the picture size will change, while it will remain the same if it is sized in inches or centimeters.


    Another name for view is the zoom level.  It’s merely the magnification at which you are examining the image as you work on it.  When working on the fine detail of an image, it often helps to zoom in on it as much as you can.  Windows 7 Paint will allow you to zoom in as much as 800%.  Changing the view will have no effect on how the picture will print.


    Resize is closely related to size. The resize button is actually the word Resize on the toolbar, with the two sheets of paper to the left of the word.  Clicking on it will bring up the resize dialog box shown below.


    Since you are changing the size, you can either change it in Pixels, or by a percentage.  If you use a percentage, you can use one larger than 100% to make it larger, and smaller than 100% to make it smaller.  Percentage is the default.  If check the Pixels radio button, it will fill in the Horizontal and Vertical boxes with the current size for you.


    Since the resize dialog box also controls skew, let’s examine that now.  We will start will a simple picture, that is 3 inches by 3 inches and skew it horizontally 30, vertically 30 degrees, and then both horizontally and vertically 30 degrees at the same time:


    Horizontal: 0, Vertical: 0, Width: 3″, Height: 3″


    Horizontal: 30, Vertical: 0, Width: 4.74″, Height: 3″


    Horizontal: 0, Vertical: 30, Width: 3″, Height: 4.74″


    Horizontal: 30, Vertical: 30, Width: 4.74″, Height: 5.74″

    As you can see, the skew definitely affects the height and width, so it really does belong on the resize dialog box, as strange as that may seem.

    There are few problems when you are reducing something in size, but as you increase its size, you lose some resolution.  Windows 7 Paint is remarkably good at upward resizing, comparable to, or perhaps even better than, some commercial programs.

    Acquiring Pictures

    Before you can work on a picture, you have to get it, so let’s see how to do that in Paint.  The un-named main menu allows you to open a picture, to create a new picture, and to acquire a photo from a camera or scanner.  Basically everything the commercial programs have.  At this point you can go two ways with Paint.  You can use it to create or edit graphics, or you can use it edit photos.  In the past you might have hesitated before reaching for Paint to work on photos, but no longer.  Let’s start with photo editing.

    Photo Editing

    For our test photo we will use the below picture and crop it to just the flower:




    To crop the picture to just the flower we:

    • Use the rectangular selection tool to select the portion we want
    • Control-C to copy it to the buffer
    • Un-named main menu/new to create a new picture, saying no to saving the old one
    • Un-named main menu/properties and set the picture size to one half inch by one half inch
    • Control-V to paste the section we copied out of the other picture into this one

    Fitting the Canvas To the Contents

    Because we created a new picture, we got a picture with a canvas size totally unrelated to the size of the image we want to paste onto it.  Paint will create a picture with a size to match the size of the last picture open in it.  When we paste a picture into Paint, it will make sure the canvas is at least large enough to hold it.  However, if the canvas is larger than the picture we are pasting, it will not shrink it to fi the picture.  By initially setting the picture size to a half inch by half inch, we are assuring that the canvas size starts out too small, rather than too large, so that Paint will adjust it to the correct size for us.

    After Cropping


    As you can plainly see, Paint did an excellent job in cropping the picture for us.

    Free-Form Selection Tool

    There is also a free-form selection tool, though it has limitations.  One, you cannot rearrange your selection outline after you have finished your selection, so if you don’t get it exactly right you have to start over, and two, if you zoom the object to see it better, and it doesn’t all fit on the screen, there is no way to scroll the screen, and continue the selection process; what you see is all you can select.


    After cropping, the next most commonly used photo operation is flipping the image, usually to make it right side up.  Paint supports the full complement of flipping options you would expect.

    • Left 90
    • Right 90
    • 180
    • Vertical
    • Horizontal


    Besides working on photos, Paint can be used for drawing, as you would expect. 


    Paint comes with a complement of artistic brushes.  I’ve created a series of squares below, each filled with a different artistic brush so that you can see the differences between them.




    Paint comes with a complement of pre-drawn shapes you can use in your drawings.  Below is an example of each:


    The last three shapes are special.  They are, in order, the line tool, the curve tool, and polygon tool.  They can be outlines, or they can be filled with any of the brushes and available colors.

    Line Weights

    Paint gives 4 line weights to choose from.  I’ve shown them below so you can see their relative weights.  They are not labeled with any identifying text; you just select them from a menu.


    Other Tools

    Paint provides a few other useful tools we haven’t discussed yet.  It of course has the eye dropper for selecting a color, and the paint bucket for filling that is found in virtually every other paint program on the planet.  It also has an eraser tool.  Its size is determined by the current line weight selected, and its color is determined by the current background color (Color 2).  Finally, there is the pencil too. Its size is determined by the current line weight, and its color by the current foreground color (Color 1).  You can think of it as a free hand line tool.  However, the pencil tool becomes something special when you set the picture properties to have the width and height measured in pixels.  Then the pencil tool allows you turn individual pixels on and off.  This is the finest grain control you can have over a picture.


    Paint has come a long way from version 1.  This actually has some people upset, because as it becomes more powerful, it assumes more of the editing jobs, making your job easier, but also giving you less fine control.  There will always be arguments over exactly where the dividing line should be between ease of use and control, but there is no denying that the version in Windows 7 is a lot better than the version in Windows 3.  There is also no denying that it is powerful enough now that it is worth considering for some of your graphics and photo jobs.

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