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Compatibility with Photoshop

Many people use the plugin to open .PSD files that they did not initially create. Ultimately, Paint.NET is a much simpler program than Adobe Photoshop, so there will be some features that do not translate.


In many cases, we can preserve the visual fidelity of a file when loading it in, even though it uses features that do not exist in Paint.NET.

  • Other colorspaces can be loaded in, but are converted to RGB:

    • Bitmap
    • Grayscale
    • Duotone (color information discarded, treated as grayscale)
    • Indexed color
    • CMYK
    • Multichannel (each channel loaded as a separate layer)
    • Lab
  • Raster layer masks are merged into the alpha channel on load, and are not preserved separately.

  • Higher color depths can be loaded, but Paint.NET can only represent 8 bits per channel internally.

    • For images with 16 bits per channel, the dynamic range remains the same, but the additional 8 bits of tonal resolution are lost.
    • For images with 32 bits per channel (High Dynamic Range), the extended dynamic range is not preserved or tone-mapped. Instead, the colors are truncated to the visible range.
  • Text layers load in as raster images. The image will look correct, but the text will no longer be editable.


  • Insufficient memory due to too many layers.

    Photoshop stores only the non-empty rectangle from each layer. Thus, graphic designers are in the habit of creating new layers to make adjustments to small portions of the image. It is not unusual to encounter several hundred layers on a fairly simple image.

    However, every layer in Paint.NET occupies the full dimensions of the canvas. A Photoshop file with many layers may blow up by 100x or more when loaded into Paint.NET.

  • Color profile mismatches

    Photoshop is a color-managed application. However, Paint.NET is not aware of color profiles. Thus, files in non-RGB colorspaces, especially CMYK and Lab, may look dramatically different in Photoshop than in Paint.NET.

    • Fewer problems tend to occur with RGB images, as the sRGB profile is fairly close to the way colors display on most uncalibrated monitors.
  • Vector masks and other non-raster features

    Although Photoshop started as a raster image editor, it has slowly been acquiring vector features over time. However, Paint.NET is a raster-only image editor.

    • Thus, all vector features are lost when loaded into Paint.NET. For example, the loss of vector layer masks may cause parts of the image to appear visible when they should instead be masked out.
    • Workaround: Rasterize any layers that use vector features in Photoshop.
  • Layer effects, such as shadow or background color, are lost.

  • Layer group visibility and blend modes are preserved. However, Paint.NET does not have hierarchical layers, so the sublayers are treated as individual layers. Depending on the blend modes used, the composite image may not look correct in Paint.NET.

Maximizing Compatibility

Paint.NET ships with layer support in only the native .PDN file format – other file formats will flatten the image. Thus, the Photoshop .PSD file format provides a convenient way to move your work between Paint.NET and other graphics applications. Photoshop files are widely used in the graphics community, and many non-Adobe applications also have the ability to read and write .PSD files.

To maximize compatibility:

  • Tick the “Maximize Compatibility” checkbox when saving files in Photoshop.
  • Stick to the common layer blend modes, as listed in the section below. If you work with a program other than Photoshop, you may have to limit yourself further, as some of them implement fewer blend modes than Paint.NET does.
  • Use Photoshop as a raster image editor. Avoid the vector features.

Layer Blend Modes

The following blending modes are common to both Paint.NET and Photoshop:

Paint.NET Blend mode Photoshop blend mode Photoshop blend mode key
Normal Normal norm
Additive Linear Dodge (Add) lddg
Color Burn Color Burn idiv
Color Dodge Color Dodge div
Darken Darken dark
Difference Difference diff
Lighten Lighten lite
Multiply Multiply mul
Overlay Overlay over
Screen Screen scrn

The following Paint.NET blend modes are not available in the Photoshop file format specification, and are therefore saved as normal layers:

  • Reflect
  • Glow
  • Negation
  • Xor

The following Photoshop blend modes do not exist in Paint.NET, and are therefore loaded as normal layers:

Photoshop blend mode Photoshop blend mode key
Color colr
Darker color dkCl
Dissolve diss
Divide fdiv
Exclusion smud
Hard light hLit
Hard mix hMix
Hue hue
Lighter color lgCl
Linear burn lbrn
Linear light lLit
Luminosity lum
Pass through pass
Pin light pLit
Saturation sat
Soft light sLit
Subtract fsub
Vivid light vLit

Last edited Nov 11, 2013 at 9:53 PM by taoyue, version 13