Why Microsoft Paint is worth saving

Microsoft’s U-turn to end its design programme Paint shows the power of nostalgia. A Paint expert tells us why he continues to use it to this day

Maggie Suen |

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Hines created a realistic portrait of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates using the often-forgotten programme.

After decades of providing people with a platform to draw funny doodles, Microsoft made the decision to turn its iconic Paint into an application instead of a built-in function. Its original discontinuation triggered a mass revolt from nostalgic netizens; so much so the tech company ultimately “saved” the function.

Your Microsoft Paint skills may have deteriorated after years of not using it (or forgetting its existence in the face of so many new apps that have the same function), but its most recent update may bring back some fond memories.

Paint is a part of many people’s childhoods, but some, like Patrick Hines, have taken the programme to the next level. Young Post caught up with Hines over Skype recently to chat about Paint. Hines has a talent for creating artwork using Paint – artwork that doesn’t look like it was made on the ageing programme. He doesn’t consider himself a professional artist, but has become somewhat of a Paint expert.

Hines taught himself how to use Paint back in 1995, and is now an avid user of the easy-to-use programme. He has created a graphic e-book called Camp Redblood and the Essential Revenge, as well as artwork including scenery from his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts.

“One thing I enjoy doing is creating [artwork] that doesn’t even look like it was created in Paint,” he said.

People are surprised to discover Hines’ detailed artwork is made on Paint. There are often many layers of blue used for the sky; multiple shades of brown for the mountains; intricate shadows on a character’s hair; and tattered graffiti on a barely-noticeable corner of a wall in his finished pieces. His dedication to Paint shines through in all of his work.

It takes the artist up to 20 hours to complete a cartoon, and sometimes even a couple of months to finish a realistic portrait.

Creating an intricate piece of art on Paint is time-consuming.

It is Paint’s simple tools that makes the programme his favourite.

“Other programmes have line tools, but in earlier versions of Paint, you just ‘click, click, click’ and it creates the shape,” he revealed.

Unlike other drawing applications, Paint doesn’t have an overwhelming list of functions. Its features (or lack of) have allowed Hines to create his own style of art.

His creation process starts with a rough draft using the pencil tool, which he then solidifies and adds shape and definition to with the line tool, before making everything more striking with the colouring tool.

With such focus on art, you might be wondering why Hines hasn’t turned to other applications. He has, in fact, tried Photoshop but found he was overwhelmed by its unlimited possibilities.

Hines went back to Paint, but insists it does not limit his creativity.

After rumours began swirling that Paint would be killed off, Hines panicked.

He assumed he was the only user of the old-school programme, and he was surprised to see the flood of ‘RIP’ posts flood social media.

Microsoft wants to modernise and build in new features in to their new Paint app, like 3D painting. Hines, who was invited to be a member of the 3D creation counselling team, said he is happy with the new, but familiar-feeling, interface.

On the other hand, he added, he still prefers the regular version; 3D art requires more time and effort as users have to paint the difference faces of every object.

Hines is not too optimistic about Paint’s future as he does not envision people going out of their way to download it.

It is still unclear whether Paint 3D will eventually take over, but no-one can deny its predecessor’s historic and iconic place in many people’s childhood – and its place as being, for many, their first foray into digital designing.

Edited by Andrew McNicol