Microsoft Paint (usually shortened to MS Paint) is a picture editing program that has been included as a free tool with Windows since the very first version (although it was named "Paintbrush", rather than "Paint", during the Windows 3.x era) and always maintained alongside later versions. It is a relatively simple program, offering the bare necessities to create and alter pictures. It has been offered free with the single most popular operating system series in computing history, so naturally it is also the most widely familiar picture editor. Due to its simplicity, however, it is not used by professionals (Unless they're going for that sort of thing).
Due to the birth of many better, more complete image editing programs, MS Paint is now mostly known for its limitations (at least until its major upgrade in Windows 7 and above), which tend to negatively affect the quality of the results:
- Until Windows 7, due to lack of support for digitizer tablets, things tend to either look really wobbly due to the awkwardness of drawing with the mouse or too straight due to usage of line tools (a variety of techniques with the Curve tool have been developed to mitigate this).
- Due to a lack of practical gradient shading and the difficulty of manipulating patches of colors that aren't exactly identical, colors tend to be flat.
- Resizing images tend to look shoddy due to the program handling it by adding or subtracting identical rows/columns of pixels; though since at least the XP version, at least some measure of interpolation is done when sizing down, which can be exploited to make gradients◊.
- Copy and paste elements not created by the program tend to look glaringly out of place due to a lack of tools to adapt said elements. It also generally discourages using multiple elements due to its use of a single layer.
- At least until Windows 7 it's impossible to zoom out a image, meaning also that when working with large pictures it's impossible to select something larger than what can be seen on screen at a time.
- Paint also has problems with image compression:
- The GIF format would be appropriate, but uses 256 colors and Paint does not provide color quantization algorithms: Even in pictures with fewer than 256 colors, Paint systematically uses the system palette and screws up the colors. Besides, GIF transparency support fails in the Windows XP version and all subsequent ones (including Windows 7 and above).
- The PNG format is handled mostly correctly, and should present no problems for most users, although the compression is pretty sub-optimal for advanced users. Windows 7 Paint defaults to PNG.
- The JPEG format is not appropriate◊ for most "print screen" captures and drawings with flat colors and clean edges due to its lossy compression which is more suited to photographs. While this is a universal fact not limited to Paint, the problem is that Paint in Vista defaults to it, a problem compounded by Paint's fairly intensive JPEG compression making artifacts more likely to appear.
- Early versions had the opposite problem of saving all images as uncompressed bitmaps. That means that a 2048x2048 expanse of white could easily take up over 8 MB of space, a huge amount of space back in the days of hard drive storage in the megabytes/low gigabytes and "1.44 MB"* floppy disks.
All of this tends to give it a very computerized look. Anyone that has used the program should be familiar with how it generally looks by now. In the context of art and webcomics, MSPaint is used as a term to refer to both an artwork style and an implied resulting quality.
The term generally gets applied to things that exhibit this (usually unintentional) art style, but has also seen use as an insult against artists. Referring to something as a "Microsoft Paint picture" when it is clear that it couldn't have been made by that program is to suggest that it has a banal simplicity, a rushed feel or both. Conversely, actually bad artists (particularly those that make bad sprite comics) will blame the low quality of their work on "only having Paint." On the other hand, however, showing how you made a complex picture with MS Paint is one of the best ways to score massive artistic cred.
The majority of pure Sprite Comics use Microsoft Paint. It is one of the few fields where using Adobe Photoshop or some other program doesn't really offer much of an advantage. Some Pixel Art Comics use Paint as well, but due to such images being completely new artwork, pixel artists usually want the features of something more advanced. Microsoft Paint also lends itself well to extremely simple designs, especially if you're looking to avoid anti-aliasing and/or feathering. It's also useful if you're just trying to save or crop a picture without having to wait for a more advanced program to load up and fumble through all the compression options.
Webcomics that specifically use the MSPaint style include:
- MS Paint Masterpieces
- Kate Beaton's nonsense comics.
- MSPaint TV, a fan comic that parodies House and Lost.
- MS Paint Adventures (only its very first panel, though).
- On a related note, Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff a Stylistic Suck webcomic ostensibly created by Dave Strider. Though it's instantly recognizable as a parody of crude MS Paint comics rife with JPEG artifacts, it also isn't actually made in Paint, and it couldn't look nearly that bad if it were owing to its fairly intensive techniques to achieve such a level of suck.
- A sizable portion of "fan adventures" on the MSPA forums are done in Paint owing to a lack of easy availability of anything else. A standout example is Her Name was Alia, which is drawn with Paint on a tablet (see last spoiler of post). It looks gorgeous and very much averts the typical traits associated with Paint work.
- Com'c is a Pixel Art Comic drawn in MS Paint.
- Daddy Long Legs's creator uses Paint for their comic.
- Octocat Adventure is largely animated using bitmap frames clearly made in pre-Windows 7 Paint, evident by the gratuitous use of the brush, spray and fill tools, and a color scheme exclusively derived from Paint's default color palette.
- Bitmap World. The main artist uses Paint Shop Pro. The co-writer and secondary artist does his strips and touch-ups of the main strips in MS Paint.
- The DOOM Army, "the RPG webcomic nobody reads".
- Some strips of The Comic Adventures Of Left And Right
- Stickman and Cube
- Adventure Dennis
- Arthur, King of Time and Space
- Man Of Skull
- The Mind-Numbingly Boring Webcomic
- Chicken Maker, while not a comic, claims to be "The Original MS Paint Blog!"
- The Best Page in the Universe uses what appears to be MS Paint for its images, to create a deliberately crap look.
- The first sixteen comics of Deities were made entirely in MS Paint.