Kid Pix and MS Paint masterpieces are easier to find than you might expect

Simplified art programs like Kid Pix and Microsoft Paint aren’t well known in the art community for their ease of use. There are no layers, the undo buttons only work a limited number of times, and blending brushes are sparse. However, with the help of social media and a well-timed port of Kid Pix, over 30 years after those programs’ release, artists are taking on Kid Pix and MS Paint as a challenge: a test of perseverance, creativity, and, in Kid Pix’s case, some very silly ones sound effects.

Since MS Paint was released for free alongside Windows in 1985, the program has received relatively little support, receiving only a few aesthetic updates mostly lacking in new features. That hasn’t stopped massive online communities from flocking to the program. The subreddit r/mspaint has over 220,000 members posting everything from quick sketches to recreations of classic works, and #mspaint on Twitter is full of masterpieces.

The road to making Kid Pix popular again, on the other hand, was not so easy. Since Kid Pix was first released as public domain software in 1989, newer iterations have been monetized, while older versions have become relatively incompatible with modern operating systems.

In 2021, however, Kid Pix has been made just as accessible as it used to be Vikrum Nijjar, who ported the first Kid Pix to release a free web version. The port was originally a gift for Nijjar’s daughter, although after posting the port on Twitter it grew much larger than he expected. Craig Hickman, creator of the original Kid Pix program, even noticed the port (and let his grandson try it).

“The summer of 2021 has been quite a rough one for everyone, so it was a welcome change to have a moment for people to lovingly relive their nostalgia,” Nijjar wrote via email. “There were so many tweets with people talking about how Kid Pix sparked their interest in design and computers, teachers saying they use the app in their classrooms, and people sending me links to their streams where they use the app.”

Unexpectedly, the port of Nijjar became a turning point in Kid Pix’s modern history, re-introducing the software to many artists who once enjoyed using the program in their schools’ computer labs.

“Having it online also helped me a lot to experiment with it,” the Twitter user said nomiusing Kid Pix’s online port and its wide range of stickers to create colorful portraitswrote via DM. “Thanks to [the port]my life feels a little more colorful now.”

Due to the port of Nijjar, Kid Pix has slowly regained its place as a slightly more fun MS Paint sibling, with its kid-friendly interface and playful blending modes taking center stage.

“Honestly, it’s hard not to have fun when the program is constantly making silly noises in you,” artist Amanda Carney wrote via email. “Even a mistake makes me laugh when I have to hit the undo button and a cartoonish ‘YIKES!’ Also, the best thing about Kid Pix is ​​the ways you can crush and melt your work when you’re done.”

In 2021, Carney accepted the challenge Recreate classics like Vincent van Gogh’s “Skeleton Skull with a Burning Cigarette” in Kid Pix. And as she recreated these works, she was initially forced to confront the wild uncertainty of the program’s mad brushes that would eventually become a driving factor in her creative process.

“I’ve been playing with this for years and I’m still not sure why one tool changes one color to another or what random squiggles it creates when I press the mouse in a certain direction with another tool,” Carney wrote.

For many determined artists like Carney, while overcoming these limitations, creating photorealistic art in both Kid Pix and MS Paint has become something of a crowning achievement.

Pat Hineswho creates art under the name of CaptainRedblood photorealistic paintings and entire illustrated books of MS Paint for almost 20 years (so good that Microsoft flown it into its campus in 2017). For Hines, MS Paint presents a challenge that forces him to think outside the box.

“Paint has no layers and you can only undo so many times, but that forces you to get smart,” Hines wrote via Reddit DM.

The combination of these programs’ low-resolution brushes and the difficulty of controlling a brush with a mouse also creates an instantly recognizable style for artists, with some relying on these limitations to gain an artistic advantage.

In some cases, artists have used the art styles of these two programs as a gimmick. Twitter user @KPalbumcovers has spent the last few years recreating album covers in Kid Pix with an impressive level of dedication to his work – since the account’s inception in 2020 he has recreated hundreds of album covers with a hilarious yet charming style.

For artists Isabel Buenaventura, MS Paint’s limited brushes and inability to blend colors lends itself to a colourful, impressionistic style distinct from the art style she uses in other media. For them, using MS Paint is an act of defiance.

“Anything is possible with this type of software,” Buenaventura wrote via Twitter DM. “It’s not necessarily about using software or applications; It’s about believing in yourself and improving your abilities.”

Whether artists use these programs to sharpen their skills or just to make art more entertaining, perhaps the best part of these programs’ resurgence is their ability to take artists back to a simpler time — a time when they were in an elementary school Settling down in the school’s computer lab was the best part of her day.

“I get incredibly nostalgic every time I open MS Paint,” wrote Buenaventura. “It’s always wonderful to revive some of those memories.”

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