Use Microsoft Paint in Windows

Windows comes with a basic, easy-to-use image creation program called Microsoft Paint. Formerly known as Paintbrush, Paint allows users to use draw, paint and editing basic image features without having to use advanced (and expensive!) software like Photoshop. Though Paint has a reputation for being weak in power, it’s surprisingly rich in features if you know where to find them.


Getting Around the Program

  1. Launch Paint.[1] Opening Paint, like other features, varies slightly across different versions of Windows.
    • Windows 10: Click the start button, then the magnifying glass icon. Type paint, then select “Paint” when it appears in the search results.
    • Windows 8: Swipe inward from the right side of the screen and select “Search.” Type paint. When “Paint” appears in the search results, click it.
    • Windows Vista and 7: Click the Start button, then expand the “All Programs” group. Open the “Accessories” menu and select “Paint.”
  2. Opening an image file. Paint can open up many different image types, including *.bmp, .gif, .jpg/.jpeg, .tif/.tiff, .ico, and .png. To open a file in Paint, click “File,” then “Open.” Navigate to the folder where your image file is stored and click “Open.”
  3. Understand the canvas. When Paint launches, you’ll see a white “canvas” appear on the screen. Imagine this canvas as a piece of paper for you to draw or write on. You can adjust the size of the canvas before you start creating your masterpiece.
    • Windows 7 and later: On the Home tab, click “Resize.” Select “Pixels” and type the desired size in the “horizontal” and “vertical” boxes. Or, if you’d rather adjust the size by percentage, select “Percentage” and enter the percentage by which you’d like to increase or decrease the current canvas size. For example, if you’d like to make your image 50% of the size it is now, type 50 into each box. To double the current size, type 200 into each box.
    • Vista: Click “Image” and select “Attributes.” Enter your desired canvas size (in pixels) in the Width and Height boxes.
  4. Crop an image.[2] With an image open in Paint, click the “Select” tool at the top of the screen. Click once at the top left corner of the part of the image you want to preserve, then drag the mouse down toward the right until the dotted box encloses just the part of the image you want. Let go of the mouse button, then click “Crop.”
  5. Resize an image. Click “Image,” then select “Resize/Skew” (if you’re using Windows 7 or later, just click “Resize” on the toolbar). Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+W to bring up the Resize/Skew dialog. Type a new size (in pixels, or by percent, as you did when creating the canvas) to increase or decrease the image size.
  6. Rotate an image. To flip an image upside down (or some other direction), use the Flip and Rotate tools.
    • Windows 7 and later: On the toolbar, click “Rotate” and choose a direction in the menu.
    • Vista: In the “Image” menu, click “Flip/Rotate,” and select a direction to flip or rotate your image.
    • You can also press Ctrl+R to bring up the Rotate tool on any platform.
  7. Zoom in and out. Click the magnifying glass icon to enable the Zoom tool. To zoom in, click anywhere on your image with the left mouse button. To zoom out, click with the right mouse button. Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+ PgUp to zoom in, and Ctrl+ PgDn to zoom out.
  8. Learn how to “undo” mistakes. If you make a mistake using any of these tools, you can “undo” your action by pressing Ctrl+Z.
  9. Save your work.[3] Click “File,” then “Save As” to choose a filename and saving location. You’ll also see the option to choose a file format. This depends based on what you plan to do with your picture. JPG is a good option for photographs or images with lots of colors. If you only use a few colors and not much detail, GIFs are versatile and have small file sizes. If you’re only planning to use this image in Paint, you can save it as a Bitmap (.bmp), which is the default file type.

Drawing and Painting

  1. Get to know the color palette. The assortment of colored squares at the top of the screen is the color palette. Clicking a color will select that color as the foreground (main) color for any tool you use in Paint. You can also set a background color for when you start working with shapes.
    • Windows 7 and later: The foreground is called “Color 1,” the background “Color 2.” To choose a foreground color, click “Color 1” and select any color from the palette. For a background color, click “Color 2” and click any color.
    • Windows Vista or below: Find the two overlapping colored boxes to the left of the palette. The front box is the foreground color, the back box is the background. Set the background color by right-clicking the color of your choice.
  2. Draw a straight or curved line.[1] Depending on your version of Windows, you’ll find the two different line tools (Line and Curve) on either the top or left bar.
    • To draw a straight line, click the Straight Line tool, then choose a color from the palette. Click anywhere in your canvas. While holding down the mouse button, drag the mouse away from that first click in any direction. Release the button when the line is as long as you want it to be.
    • For a curved line, click the Curve icon (a squiggly line). Draw a line as you would with the straight line tool. When you lift your finger from the mouse button, click somewhere on the line and drag it in any direction. The straight line you drew will curve in that direction.
  3. Draw freeform with the Pencil tool.[4] The pencil is a freehand drawing tool, much like an actual pencil. The width of the line can be adjusted by clicking the Size menu and selecting a different line width. To draw, simply press the mouse button as you move the mouse on the canvas.
  4. Paint with the Paintbrush tool. The Paintbrush is more versatile than the Pencil, as you can choose different brush “tips” for more unique lines.
    • In Windows 7 and above, click the down-arrow beneath “Brushes” and choose one of the brush tips. You can adjust the size of each brush tip by clicking the “Size” icon.
    • In Windows Vista and earlier, click the Paintbrush icon, then choose a brush tip shape from the menu that appears just below the toolbar. Select a color from the palette and drag the mouse to draw a design on the canvas.
  5. Using the Spray can. This tool works similarly to the Paintbrush tool, but the look is more in line with that of can of spray paint.
    • Windows 7 and newer: this tool is located in the “Brushes” menu.
    • Vista and earlier: Click the icon that looks like a can of spray paint. Draw as you would the pencil or brush tools.
  6. Erase your imperfections.[5] To erase something you’ve drawn with any tool, click the Eraser icon and draw over the area you’d like to disappear. Like other tools, you can adjust the width of the eraser with the Size menu.
    • Note that the background color (“Color 2” in Windows 7 and later) will appear wherever you use the eraser tool. If you’re erasing a red line on a white background, for example, make sure the background color is set to white.
  7. Create shapes. Select any shape from the toolbar to draw that shape. Once you’ve chosen a shape, you’ll notice some options for the shape’s appearance.
    • In Windows 7 or above, click the “Outline” and “Fill” menus to view your (slightly more varied) options. If you’re using Windows Vista or an earlier version, you’ll see an outline of a shape, an outline of a shape around a filled-in color, and a solid-colored shape.
    • Select your preferred outline and fill options, then click the canvas where you’d like to place your shape. Hold down the mouse button as you drag the cursor to enlarge the shape. Let go of the mouse button when you reach the desired shape size.
    • If you chose a shape with an outline, the color of the outline will be the current foreground color. If your shape has a solid filling, the fill color will be the background color.
  8. Fill an area with color. Also known as the “Paint Bucket,” the Fill tool will paint an entire defined area with a single color.
    • Click the icon that looks like a spilling paint bucket, then choose a color from the palette. Now, click the canvas to fill it with the color you selected.
    • The Fill tool will fill the space between all closed lines. Try creating a square or circle with the shape tool in one color, then use the Fill tool to change the color of just that shape.

Mastering Additional Features

  1. Learn the different selection tools. There are two different tools you can use to select parts of your image: Freeform Select (a dotted outline of oval-ish shape) and Rectangular Select (a dotted outline of a rectangle). Freeform allows you to draw your own freehand selection line around an image, while the rectangular selection tool lets you draw a rectangle.
    • In Windows 7 and later, click the arrow beneath “Select” and choose “Rectangular” or “Freeform.” In Windows Vista and earlier, you’ll see both on your toolbar.
    • To use either tool, start by clicking at the top left corner of your image, then hold the mouse button as you trace your way around. The rectangular selection will be fairly quick, but you’ll need to be more deliberate to trace manually with the freeform tool. Let go of the mouse button when you’re done selecting.
  2. Copy and paste your selections. Copy the selected area by pressing Ctrl+C. Paste it somewhere else (in Paint or in other compatible programs, like Microsoft Word or Power Point) by clicking a new location and pressing Ctrl+V.
    • If you don’t want the background color to be a part of your selection:
      • Windows 7 and later: Check “Transparent Selection” in the Select menu.
      • Windows Vista or earlier: Find the two icons that feature multicolored shapes with a “selection” rectangle on top. Click to highlight bottom (transparent) of the two icons. To disable this later, click back to the top selection icon.
  3. Add text. Select the Text tool, which is signified by the letter “A,” then double-click somewhere on the canvas to start typing.
    • A dotted text box with square boxes on each corner will appear. Make sure the text in the text box is exactly the way you want it before switching to another tool (you’ll be unable to edit text after closing the text box.
    • To increase the text box size (which will give you more room to type), hold the mouse over one of the square corners until the cursor turns to an arrow, then drag the box to a larger size.
    • Choose a font face and size from the top of the screen and begin typing. To change the color, size or face of the text after you type, highlight the text, then choose the new color, size, etc. When you’re typing, click somewhere outside of the text box to leave the tool.
  4. Stretch or skew an image. You can distort an image with the “skew” feature. Click “Image,” then select “Resize/Skew” (if you’re using Windows 7 or later, just click “Resize” on the toolbar). To stretch/distort the image by degree, type a number (in degrees) in the boxes marked “horizontal” and “vertical.
  5. Try the Color Picker. The small eyedropper icon represents the Color Picker tool. Click this tool, then click somewhere in your drawing. The area you click will now become the foreground color for your next tool of choice.
  6. Create your own colors. You can edit any of the colors by adjusting their hue, brightness and other options in the Paint color mixer. Click “Edit colors” or “Define custom colors” to enter the color mixer. When you’ve decided on a color you like, click “Add to custom colors.”
  7. Try using a ruler or grid. Drawing symmetrically isn’t easy when you’re using a mouse, so you may want to give yourself some guidelines. Click the “View” tab, then put a checkmark next to “Ruler” to see horizontal and vertical rulers around your canvas. Put a check next to “Gridlines” to create a grid on your canvas. You can turn either of these items off at any time by removing these checkmarks.
  8. Learn keyboard shortcuts.[6] Keyboard shortcuts can greatly increase your productivity. Here are some of the more common ones:
    • Rotate: Ctrl+R
    • New Canvas: Ctrl+N
    • Cut: Ctrl+X
    • Paste: Ctrl+V
    • Copy: Ctrl+C
    • Save: Ctrl+S
    • Delete: Del
    • Print: Ctrl+P
    • Undo: Ctrl+Z
    • Highlight All: Ctrl+A
    • Open: Ctrl+O
    • Redo: Ctrl+Y
    • Hide Toolbar: Ctrl+T
    • Open Attributes: Ctrl+E
    • Stretch And Skew: Ctrl+W
    • Hide Color bar: Ctrl+L


  • To create thicker lines with any tool, select a tool and press Ctrl++. To decrease the width of a tool, use Ctrl+-.
  • To restrict your straight lines to 45-degree angles, hold down the Shift key as you draw your line. If you want the shapes from the Shape tool to have the exact same dimensions on all sides, holding down the Shift key as you render the shape will create this effect.

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Sources and Citations