A couple of weeks ago news hit the internet that Microsoft had decided that MS Paint would not be available on the upcoming Windows 10 update. The announcement was everywhere, from tabloid newspapers to design websites, multiplied by thousands of Twitter outcries demanding for the staple program to remain. The reaction appeared to come as a shock to Microsoft who quickly retracted its decision, announcing the next day: “MS Paint is here to stay”.
During the 24 hours where the internet was panicking about a future without MS Paint, It’s Nice That reached out to a bunch of illustrators asking them to pay homage to a program where many had their first steps with a digital paintbrush. Despite the thankful news that MS Paint would continue, we’ve decided to share the outcomes the illustrators gave us. Contributors range from Japan to Chile and our home in England, showing a global fondness for the universal program.
However, to be honest and regardless of our own fuss about the news, today MS Paint users are far and few between. Most in the design industry use Macs rather than a Windows PC, and the capabilities of MS Paint are more limiting than inspiring. Yet, the nostalgia caused by the news overcame the practicality of it. The entire ordeal, which lasted less than a day, in someway proves that in this fast-paced, digitally-improving world, we still hold a flame for the beginning of it all. It’s a laughable process now, unplugging your parents phone line to go on MSN, giving the computer endless viruses by downloading songs from Napster, or making virtual friends via Habbo Hotel, but they’re affable memories.
Below, each of the contributing illustrators share their own stories of using MS Paint, in tribute to one of the first creative programmes some of us may not be here without. Many thanks to our contributors: Jeremy Sengly, Stefanie Leinhos, Amanda Baeza, Seb Agresti, Cecile Dormeau, Oscar Bolton Green, Camila Huinca, Klaus Kremmerz and Summer House.
“My earliest memory of using MS Paint was sitting in a friends attic using a giant grey PC while wearing BK Knights and basketball shorts,” says illustrator Jeremy Sengly. “It was the first I’d ever drawn in a computer, and I remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe they draw Spawn like this’."
For Jeremy, it was always the spray paint tool that his mouse hovered towards, claiming it’s the thing paint does better than anything else. His reaction to the news was simply: “Why?”
German illustrator Stefanie Leinhos explains she “was more into pen and paper” as a child. However, this experience of drawing a tribute reunited her with MS Paint choosing the ‘Free-Form Select’ tool as her favourite. “I used it a lot for these drawings,” she explains. “I like how the drawn shape repeats when you cut it out of your image and place it somewhere else. I think the quality of MS Paint is that it feels a lot like trial and error — at least for me. It’s not very accurate and you don’t have many options. That’s quite refreshing I think.”
Upon hearing the news of MS Paint’s uncertain future Stefanie says: “To be honest, it didn’t bother me that much. I probably wouldn’t have worked with it ever again if it wasn’t for this tribute. So much the better that I got to discover it again this way!”
During the school summer holidays illustrator Amanda Baeza stayed at her cousins house, “they showed me their computer and what they could do with it,” she reflects. “We spent some time drawing a landscape together, with lots of trees, flowers, clouds and multiple suns. We tried using the airbrush for everything!”
Consequently, Amanda’s drawing sets this scene, two characters, one with her hand on the mouse and the other clasping to the desk in anticipation, drawing a classic square house, very green glass and of course, a super yellow sun.
Back in the year 2000, Dutch illustrator Seb Agresti and his best friend “used to draw comics using MS Paint based on our adventures in a game called, RuneScape,” he tells us. “Looking back, with its eye-blinding choice of primary colours, RuneScape looks like it could have been made in Paint." This example of using MS Paint is evocative of the early 00s, a pre-laptop era where friends or siblings would sit at the family desktop, bums balancing on one office chair, fighting over the mouse.
Looking back, Seb says “I remember liking the spray can tool, although I never knew what it was for,” hence his image glorifying the strange, but always handy tool. “I mostly ended up using it after getting bored with my drawings and trying to destroy them with my digital tagging.”
On the recent news of MS Paint’s possible departure from our desktops, the illustrator encourages us to “take this moment and say a final goodbye to MS Paint, before it comes back to us in a weirdly updated version with snapchat elements or sound effects".
When we got in contact with French illustrator Cécile Dormeau about contributing to this feature she didn’t know that MS Paint’s future was in creative jeopardy. “I didn’t know it may be removed… it can not! It’s historic and there are too many nostalgic memories for many of us,” she says.
Cécile also states that she is not a Paint expert, and so stuck to its trusty tools: “I just used very basic tools, brush (in large!) and ‘fill with colour’. Enough for me. But I must admit that the airbrush tool was very satisfying to use too, it gave me the ability to make crazy effects and experiment with texture.”
Oscar Bolton Green
Illustrator Oscar Bolton Green editorial illustrations feature thick black lines, vidid colours and sharp shapes, making us assume he was Paint aficionado. To our surprise, Oscar admitted: “I’m afraid I don’t really have any connection with Microsoft Paint. Honestly I don’t even remember using it. I didn’t have a computer at home until I was 11. I drew on that a lot, but even then it was a Mac.”
Nevertheless, Oscar’s tribute references his usual style but with wobbly outline that instantly reminds you of a shaking mouse painstakingly trying to draw objects.
Camilo Huinca’s main attraction to MS Paint was its interface, “so user friendly and easy to understand, it didn’t require any training to use it”. Therefore, the illustrator’s homage to the program puts him in situ, eagerly working away on the desktop.
In terms of tools Camilo says: “The pencil for me is my favourite, it’s enough to sketch and compose images that can be more complex.” This process is something the illustrator continues today, “I still draw things, in a simple way, in black and white, just devoting myself to the meaning of form.”
The news of possible ending for MS Paint filled Camilo with “a lot of nostalgia,” he explains. “It seemed to me that they were closing a creative window for children.”
Illustrator Klaus Kremmerz had a very firm reaction to the news of MS Paint’s removal and then reinstatement: “I always look forward and never look back.” The illustrator expands on this point saying: “I believe this is the fate of every single program sooner or later”.
Of course, Klaus is probably right, but he still created a piece in homage to the program that highlights its bizarre quirks. By layering the colours on top of each other with the pen tool (a scratchy but stylised process we all had a go at), the illustrator displays the hypnotic quality of MS Paint, working and reworking a drawing for hours. Looking back, Klaus says he remembers “using just the main brush at art high school, it was so hard to make a straight line with that”. But it’s the wobbliness of Klaus’ paint illustration that makes it so charming – just look at that dog!
For Japanese illustrator Summer House his childhood household were Macintosh users, and consequently “MS Paint was not my first experience of using digital paint software, it was Kid Pix,” he explains. “Those memories are still vivid so I don’t remember the early days of MS Paint — I preferred to play Solitaire and Minesweeper.”
A few years later in high school, the illustrator got his own Windows Laptop, “it was huge and heavy, almost junk, but I was really happy as there was no need to share with my family”. During that time, he began using the program a lot, stating his ultimate tool as simply “Undo, it is the key difference between digital and paper. Also the airbrush tool is iconic”.
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.