mtPaint makes painting easy

Pixelized

Article from Issue 177/2015
Author(s):

You can create pixel art in just a few mouse clicks with the paint program mtPaint, and it can even teach your works of art how to walk.

Paint programs are not image editing programs. Instead, the software focuses on features involved in drawing. You cannot, therefore, expect that an application like mtPaint [1] will play in the same league as Gimp. A comparison with MyPaint [2] or Krita [3] would be more appropriate. Nevertheless, you will find many features of classic image editing programs in paint programs. mtPaint loads bitmap images, manages up to 1,000 layers, and allows users to adjust an image's brightness and contrast, as desired.

Whereas Krita and MyPaint tend to emulate intuitive painting, as with real pens or brushes, mtPaint's objective is different: It focuses on pixel art. This art form uses raster graphics and, in doing so, deliberately highlights the limited resolution of screens as a stylistic device. The style makes a – partly ironic – reference to the beginnings of video and computer game screen graphics and of the graphical user interfaces used on computers in the 1980s and the early 1990s. Invader, a French street artist [4], is one of the best known artists of this genre.

Mark Tyler, the developer of mtPaint, says his objective was to write a sleek, reliable, fast, but simple-to-operate program – and this is exactly how mtPaint seems from the start (Figure 1). The application's architecture is clearly arranged, and the painting features are spread over several locations. You will find the most frequently required tools in the toolbar. The program places the typical palettes, from which you can take colors, on the left edge of the screen. A quick selection tool for brushes lies above this palette strip (Figure 2).

Figure 1: mtPaint appears clear, well-arranged, and tidy.
Figure 2: Being able to select suitable brushes is one of the most important features. You can use these to paint on a transparent layer – indicated by the dashed lines in the image.

You can show a dock on the right edge by displaying and editing the layers' properties (F12). Selection of docks and toolbars works by way of keyboard shortcuts, many of which are a little unusual and do not correspond to those usually used by programs (Table 1). Moreover, you currently have no way to change or adjust these settings.

Table 1

Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard Shortcut

Function

Keyboard Shortcut

Function

A

Draw arrow (open)

Ctrl+A

Select All

E

Choose Color

Ctrl+E

Edit [colors] A & B

H

Horizontal Split

Ctrl+G

Grayscale

J

Lasso selection

Ctrl+I

Image Information

L

Layers Window

Ctrl+M

Flip Horizontally

S

Draw arrow (closed)

Ctrl+N

New

T

Paste Text (Free Type)

Ctrl+O

Open

V

View Window

Ctrl+P

Preferences

X

Swap [colors] A & B

Ctrl+Q

Quit mtPaint

F2

Choose Pattern

Ctrl+R

Redo

F3

Choose Brush

Ctrl+S

Save [file]

F5

Show Main Toolbar

Ctrl+T

Outline Selection

F6

Show Tools Toolbar

Ctrl+V

Paste to Center

F7

Show Settings Toolbar

Ctrl+W

Palette Editor

F8

Show Palette

Ctrl+Z

Undo

F12

Show Dock

Ctrl+Shift+C

Transform color

   

Ctrl+Shift+I

Invert Color

   

Ctrl+Shift+S

Save [layer]

   

Ctrl+Shift+V

Paste New Layer

The menu includes the common functions: You will find options for editing loaded images that are partially hidden in the submenus under Effects. Some special functions (e.g., for drawing arrows) are available for an array of special applications (Figure 3). mtPaint deals with patterns much as it does brushes: You can enable a new variant at any time by pressing F2. A separate tool, whose usage is based on Gimp, is available for gradients, which appear perpendicular to a virtual guide line. mtPaint also supports transparency.

Figure 3: Drawing is a fast process in mtPaint, with special shortcut keys for many objects.

The use of layers and channels are also reminiscent of Gimp, although only a few layer modes are available. mtPaint also resembles Gimp in terms of tools: Much of what is offered by Gimp can be found here in simplified form, but often in a slightly different way, making the transition to mtPaint somewhat difficult. You are likely to need the manual in some places (see the "Install Manual" box) to find and use the desired functions.

Install Manual

The mtPaint package does not include the manual in all distributions, such as Manjaro and Arch Linux. To get it, download the package in ZIP format from the homepage and upzip it. Copy the file into the /usr/share/doc/mtpaint/ folder in the local file tree.

Special Features

One special feature of mtPaint is the option to create animations. However, the program only supports the GIF format, which has been seen as obsolete for a long time, although it is experiencing a renaissance on the web. As with Gimp, you first create the individual images and save them in a folder. With mtPaint, these images must be files; layers are not sufficient.

Choose an Indexed Palette with a maximum of 256 colors as the image type. RGB is disqualified because GIF allows only a limited number of colors. The Export Animated GIF menu item under File then generates a corresponding GIF animation from images in the specified folder.

Conclusions

Working with mtPaint is not entirely intuitive. However, the program offers advantages over its competitors when it comes to the very special needs of pixel art. Finding functions and understanding their principles can be difficult without using the manual – which is also available online [5]. The special way of working in mtPaint is not suitable for most graphic projects, but the program cuts a fine figure in its specific discipline.

Buy this article as PDF

Express-Checkout as PDF
Price $2.95
(incl. VAT)

Buy Linux Magazine

SINGLE ISSUES
 
SUBSCRIPTIONS
 
TABLET & SMARTPHONE APPS
Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

  • MyPaint

    MyPaint is a simple, intuitive, versatile paint program. The software, which is designed specifically for use with graphic tablets, promises users an experience similar to drawing with a pen or brush.

  • Pinta Image Processor

    Pinta is a simple, easy-to-learn image processor targeted at occasional users and beginners; more experienced users will miss a variety of features.

  • PaintSupreme

    The market for good image editing programs for Linux is pretty much saturated. Despite this, BrainDistrict has dared to launch two commercial programs: IFX-Supreme and PaintSupreme.

  • Tiling in GIMP

    Graphic artists often face the problem of turning a photograph into an image that will tile over a larger surface. This task is not as easy as it sounds, but if you’re up for the challenge, this tutorial will give you a first-hand look at some advanced tools in the GIMP toolkit.

  • Web Design with GIMP

    Good homepage design is a question of the layout. Sometimes the best option is to use a graphics program to design the page, then translate the result into HTML code. The versatile image manipulation program GIMP can help.

comments powered by Disqus

Direct Download

Read full article as PDF:

Price $2.95

News

njobs Europe
What:
Where:
Country:
Njobs Netherlands Njobs Deutschland Njobs United Kingdom Njobs Italia Njobs France Njobs Espana Njobs Poland
Njobs Austria Njobs Denmark Njobs Belgium Njobs Czech Republic Njobs Mexico Njobs India Njobs Colombia