16 Aug 2012

Pinta: Painting Made Simple

What’s it like for Black and white photography?

Simple approaches to complex problems: time and time again this earmarked cliché returns to shake up the software industry. Now, another newcomer looks to break the simple mould - this time, on Linux. Pinta - Painting Made Simple is an open-source application built for Linux, Windows and Mac. It offers image manipulation and drawing - but its real beauty is in its simplicity.

Pinta is layer-based and offers Photoshop-esque levels of power. Well, maybe that's overstating it a bit, but it is a pleasant feature to have - masking, merging and comping are all within reach. Again, this layer-based process boasts a simple interface and functionality.

Image manipulation is not new to Linux - GIMP has been fulfilling most needs shy of Adobe's premium offering for Windows and OS X. So, to put it to the test, I thought I'd see how their image manipulation played off against one another.

To check this for print, I used a mono laser printer to extract maximum possible clarity from the documents. This choice limited me to black-and-white, but that's typically a great test of any image manipulation software's capabilities. Poor black and white filters do little more than de-saturating the image in question, whereas a more fully-featured software package takes a holistic approach to presenting the image, adjusting RGB levels for a 'realistic' black and white image. The 'laser' in the mono laser printer was also handy - no inkjet printing means the field stayed level. Laser printers are less prone to interaction with the external environment than inkjet printers, meaning the images will be comparable.

First up, let's choose my sample image:
Original colour image

I've chosen an image that I know will look good in black and white, but offers a bunch of ways to change exactly how that happens. So, first up is GIMP.
B&W conversion by GIMP
GIMP's results are, as expected, quite spectacular. There's a reason that they're so well-established!

OK, next up is Pinta.
B&W conversion by Pinta
Pinta does a good job of merging the image's RGB color scheme and producing a realistic black and white photograph. Notably, though, Pinta seems to have upped the contrast in the photo and dipped the black level, making the image darker. This is a nice effect for my photograph: the furrows on the dog's head are deeper, and it was reflected well on my printout (the deeper blacks gave the printer something to dig its teeth into), but I would have liked to have a little more control over when and how this occurred.

So, verdict: Pinta is impressive for being so young. It's nice and simple, and will do what you ask of it with little fuss. However, it's up against some mighty competitors across the OS field, and its success is far from certain.

Its aim - to bring Paint.net to Linux - is valiant, but for photography, there are more competitive options available - for now.

Joanna Stevenson studied mechanical engineering in London, and currently works for an energy research and consulting firm. She enjoys writing tech and business articles in her free time. She aspires to be an intrepid tech and gaming enthusiast with the exploratory spirit and witty prose of her favourite author of Robert Louis Stevenson. Treasure Island for the tech world.


  1. Hi, I think that some unnecessary text got pasted to the body of the article, and it doesn't make too much sense.

  2. Pinta uses too much mono for me, and its just as heavy as Gimp in memory use once you actually start using it....