Microsoft Paint

In this lab you will learn the basics of how to use Microsoft Paint to open, edit, and save an image file (such as a scanned image that you create with the scanner, or a image that you draw or paint digitally from scratch).

Microsoft Paint is a simple graphics editing program that is included with Microsoft Windows. Although Paint is not very sophisticated, like the Notepad text editor, you may get stuck someplace where you need to do graphics editing and all that is available is Paint. In addition, the features of Paint are included in most graphics editing programs in more sophisticated form, so learning Paint is a good introduction to other graphics editing programs.

Microsoft Paint can paste any object you put in the clipboard that you take from the Internet, although it will only save in bitmap file format. A nice feature is its ability to locate the pixel position by putting the cursor over the desired position. It can also tell the amount of pixels that an object contains by pointing the cursor to the bottom right of the object. This feature allows users to create objects exactly the size they want them to be.

Microsoft Paint can also reduce the size of an image in two ways. The first is by allowing you to shave off sides of the image. The other is by allowing you to decrease the overall image. Paint will let you select a portion of a picture, too. You can copy it to the clipboard and/or entirely remove it from the original. By opening another Paint application, you can paste that selected image to work on.

Microsoft Paint can flip images horizontally, vertically, or in degrees. This allows a person to edit and/or touch-up the side of any image without having to move the image, possibly causing conflicts in size.

The images you create and edit in paint can be copied and pasted into a Word, PowerPoint, or Web document.

Starting Paint

One way to start Paint from the Desktop is as follows. Select Start > Programs > Accessories > Paint. The executable file for Paint is pbrush.exe and is located in the Windows directory, usually C:\WINDOWS.


The Menus

Knowing how to use menu commands is a basic Windows skill. But just in case you’re a real beginner, we’ll do a quick recap.

The Menus appear directly beneath the Title Bar in the window. There are six menus in the Paint window, which I’ve circled in red to emphasize.

They are called "Menus" because they work like a menu at a fast food restaurant. When you want to place an order at a restaurant, you look up on the wall for what you want, and if you see it, then you select it. The computer works the same way. You just look in the menu, then select the item that you want. Because a complete list of all the items on the menu would take up a lot of screen space that could be better used for other things, the menu items "hide" most of the time. To bring up a menu in its entirety, just click on the Menu’s heading, and the rest of the menu will "pull down". To learn more about the menu bar, follow this link: menus.

The Drawing area

When started, Paint displays a default drawing area which is called the canvas.

The Toolbar

Microsoft Paint has an assortment of painting Tools that you can use for drawing shapes and applying color to areas of your image in various ways. You switch between tools by clicking on the appropriate Icon on the Toolbar, which is located on the left side of the Paint window. The toolbox is a floating toolbar that contains icons that change the mode of the program.

By default, the Pencil mode is active.

To toggle the toolbox on and off, select Tools > Tool Box (shortcut Ctrl-T).

The Toolbar Buttons To learn more about what each button does, click on the hyperlinks below:

The Color Palette

To select the color you’re working with, you use the Color Palette. The Color Palette is a part of the main Paint window, and looks like this:

The box on the left side shows the active colors.

The top, overlapping rectangle (currently black) is the foreground color. The foreground color is the color that will be used by the following Tools: Text, Pencil, Paintbrush, Airbrush, Fill, Shapes, Line, and Curve. To change the foreground color, click on the desired color in the Color Palette with the left button on your mouse. The bottom rectangle is the background color. The background color is the default color of any new image that you create. When you use the Eraser tool, the Eraser turns whatever you erase back to the background color. To change the background color, click on the desired color in the Color Palette with the right button on your mouse. Usually, you’ll want to leave the background color alone, but occasionally you may want to make it some color other than white.

Tip: The background is also a secondary color for certain tools, such as the shapes tools. If you set the tool options for the shapes to draw filled shapes, the fill color will be the background color.

Tip: The background color can also be used by the tools if you draw using the right button on the mouse instead of the left button. That way, you can switch quickly between two colors that you are using frequently.

You might think that the selection of colors available on this color palette is rather limited, and you’d be right. In order to gain access to a greater variety of colors, you’ll want to use the Color Picker. We’ll go over this when we talk about the Colors Menu.

Line drawing tips

The "Line" button is used to to draw a straight line. Select the "Line" button from the toolbox. Select a line width at the bottom of the toolbox. Choose a color for the line. Draw a line on the canvas.

  • Use the left mouse button to draw with the foreground color.
  • Use the right mouse button to draw with the backbround color.
  • To draw perfectly horizontal, vertical, or 45 degree angle lines, press and hold the Shift key while drawing the line.

Note that this usage of the left and right mouse buttons seems to violate Microsoft's own user interface guidelines.

The Freeform Select tool tips

To use the freeform select tool, click on its Icon. With the left button, click on your image wherever you want to begin the selection. Drag the mouse around to create the outline of the freeform shape of your selection. Be careful! The mouse is tricky to use. It may help to zoom in using the Magnifying Glass tool. Zoom in close so you can see what you’re working with more clearly, and to control the mouse with better precision.

When you finish outlining your freeform selection shape, release the mouse button. You will notice that the freeform shape that you had been drawing has just mysteriously turned into a rectangle! What gives? Actually, your freeform shape is still preserved; the selection, however, is outlined in a rectangular-shaped guide box. The freeform selection is bounded within this box. If you move the selected portion of the image around, you’ll notice that it still retains the freeform shape that you drew. This may confuse you at first, but you’ll get used to it before long.

The Rectangle Select tool tips

To use the Rectangle Select tool, Click on the Rectangle Select tool Icon. With the left button, click and hold the button to begin your selection. Where you click will become one of the corners of the rectangular selection area.
Drag the mouse diagonally to where you want the opposite corner of the rectangular area to be. Release the mouse button. The Rectangular selection will also have a rectangular shaped guide box around it.

Things you can do with the selected area:

  • Copy or Cut and Paste: To copy the selection, press Ctrl-C. To cut the selection from the image, press Ctrl-X. After Copying or Cutting, you can Paste the selection by pressing Ctrl-V. By Pasting multiple times, you can achieve a mosaic or collage-like effect.

  • Move: Left-click anywhere inside the guidebox and hold down the button to "pick up" the selection, and then drag the mouse to move the selection to another area of the image. It will "float" over the rest of the image, allowing you to position it wherever you want it to be. Release the mouse button to "let go" of the selection.

Tip: If you hold down the Shift key as you drag your selection around, it will paste multiple copies of the image, creating a sort of blurred effect.

  • Stretch: The guide box around your selection can be re-sized. You can resize by clicking on the square-shaped tabs located at the corners and the middle sections of the guide box, holding the mouse button down, and then dragging the mouse to change the size of the selection. Release the mouse button when the selection is the size you want it to be. You can make it bigger or smaller, and achieve a distorted effect by "squashing" or "stretching" the selection to make it either wider/narrower or taller/shorter than its original proportions.

  • Apply Effects: You can apply any of the effects from the Image Menu directly to the active selection rather than to the whole image.

  • De-selecting the area: To de-select the area, either activate a different tool by clicking on it in the tool bar, or make a new selection. You can’t have more than one selection active at a time. Once the selection is de-selected, it becomes part of the image again, and will cover over whatever it may have been laying over.

Capturing Screen-shots

At times you may need to capture pictures of pages (screens), or parts of screens. These can be used to illustrate screens or parts of screens your user may need for a variety of purposes. After a screen is captured and saved as a file.... editing software may be used to modify the capture as needed. When you take a screen shot, you are literally taking a shot of how your screen looks, including any programs visible, layout of the desktop, a snapshot of a live chat room ...whatever you have open. To take a snap shot:

  • Make sure you have the screen looking the way you want it to appear in the image (i.e. Have the right window open),
  • Press the "Print Screen" button on your keyboard,
  • Open a graphics package (e.g. Microsoft Paint),
  • Go up to the "Edit" menu and select "Paste",
  • Resize the image or select certain parts ...manipulate the image however you like
  • Save your image (save your image in JPG or GIF format).

To take a snapshot of the entire screen including icons, and mouse pointer, press the Print Screen button. To capture only the top Window, press the Alt + Print Screen buttons together. The screen capture is loaded into the computer's clipboard. From there it can be pasted into a Word, PowerPoint or Web document, or it can be pasted into MS Paint and edited further.


This image was captured using Print Screen

This image was captured using Alt + Print Screen

Example: What can you do with Paint?

Using selections to combine two separate images. This example uses selections in several ways to achieve interesting results. This page uses a lot of graphics to show step-by-step the procedures used in using the Selection Tools, so I've set it up as a separate page, to decrease the amount of time it takes to download.


Even though MS Paint is a very limited graphics program, it is capable of doing some useful tricks. It is perhaps most useful as an tool for introducing new users to working with graphics programs, as its simplicity and small size makes it easier to learn. Much of what you have learned in using Paint can be usefully applied to learning to use other, more sophisticated graphics programs.

Additional Reseources


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