Fresh Paint is very simple, and it really requires a touchscreen - ideally a Windows tablet - to be of any use. But it is fun and beautifully built, and it shows off the creative possibilities of the tablet format. If you're looking for an equivalent of Paint, however, this is not it. For a start it is a much more sophisticated creative environment. And secondly, in Windows 8 you can - drum roll - take screenshots without having to paste them into Paint in order to create a file. (Hit Windows+PrtScn and a PNG appears in your Pictures file.) See all: Windows app reviews.
No, Fresh Paint is a nicely rendered painting simulator for Windows 8 that is great for casual fun use - kids will love it - but is sophisticated enough to let you create art. Open the app and you'll see a gallery of your previous masterworks - anything you work on is saved automatically. Hit the new button and you see a pristeen canvas, with a simple but brilliantly intuitive painting view. (See also: Windows 8: the complete guide.)
Fresh Pain for Windows 8: UI
At the top of the painting screen when you first get there is a range of brushes, crayons, a pencil, a blender and an eraser. Choose one of those, select a thickness of stroke, and mix up a colour from the palette at the top right of the screen, and you are good to. The palette is brilliant, with a selection of swatches, a bowl of 'water' and a mixing area with which you can mix up colour for use with the brushes.
Cleaning your brush in the water is fun, as the 'liquid' turns the colour of the paint you dumpred in it. Select a pencil, however, and the palette becomes a selection of whole colours in a series of squares arrayed over three rows. That's the frivolous fun side. Should you wish to be more exact you can choose a shade from the colour picker wheel.
Also in the top pane of options is a selection of canvas styles and a link to the Gallery. The latter is self explanatory, the former offers access to various types of canvas and paper in a selection of colours. You can also use use a photo as a base for your opus.
A much thinner ribbon at the bottom of the canvas screen allows you to 'dry' or 'center' your artwork, as well as offering 'Undo' and 'Redo' (remember that you are unlikely to be using a keyboard here, so Ctrl-z would be awkward). Finishing off the interface, at the bottom right there are 'New' and 'Save as...' options. When you click into the Fresh Paint canvas to actually, well, paint the options disappear, but you can call them up any time by swiping from the top or from the bottom of the screen.
Fresh Paint for Windows 8: who's it for?
There's a mixture of fun and serious artistic capabilities about Fresh Paint that appeals. Colour and texture are taken very, very seriously, so that you can just pick up a brush and slap some paint about, or mix and stain exactly the right shades. The way that colours interact is very realistic - you'll get a tiny thrill the first time two strokes run in to each other and smear together into a different shade. With a bit of practice such multicolour streaking is a useful artistic tool. It's also where 'Dry' comes in. Hit this and the colour you just laid on the page dries instantly, so that it won't run into the next colour layer you apply.
Used by hand Fresh Paint is fun, but a stylus does add precision. Mouse use is possible, but really this is an app for touchsreen devices such as our Samsung Series 7 Slate. The way brush strokes are rendered is very realistic, allowing talented artists to achieve precision in their work, and useless hacks to have fun (see my screenshots to see which one I am...)