Now that it’s been a while since I switched from Sketch to Figma, I thought I’d try going back to my first design tool, MS Paint. As there is so much debate on what design tool to use, I wondered why we ever moved away from such a great tool in the first place.
Have you also ever wondered what has really changed in design tooling?
For our experiment, I’ll try designing a screen in Figma and MS paint to test the features, and see which design ends up prettier. The designer and their process don’t matter, it’s all in the design tool. Right? Right.
Let’s say I am working on a new project, it’s a new app to shape your future with MS Paint and become Bill Gates. I have all my wireframes and research done, now it’s time to design the UI. As I design each element of the app screen I will let you know my comparison.
I will use the following criteria to compare the two tools:
- Colour Picker
- Shape Tool
- Adding Text
- Filling in Abstract Shapes
Let’s kick things off by comparing what kind of bills we gotta throw for these design tools:
MS Paint: Free, comes free and preloaded with your Windows 95 computer, along with minesweeper.
Figma: From $0-$45 per editor/month depending on the plan.
Winner: MS Paint, because who doesn’t love bundles?
Figma: Awfully similar to MS Paint, both have easy to use toolbars on the side.
MS Paint: The icons are very easy to understand so new users aren’t overwhelmed. Additional points for Paint because you can chose the colour directly from this screen at the bottom of the interface, instead of going into a colour picker. Handy.
Winner: Paint for simplicity.
MS Paint: Has all the basic functionality you need.
Figma: Besides having the ability to add gradients (which aren’t cool anymore anyway) the colour picker is eerily similar to MS Paint.
Good artists copy; great artists steal
Winner: Tie, these both have the same functionality where you have a rainbow of colours to chose from and can save colours into boxes. I’m leaning more towards MS paint as they are the OG of this style.
MS Paint: Has a rounded corner shape tool you can easily select to use. Unfortunately, there are no shadows and you can’t round the corners to your liking.
Figma: There isn’t a rounded box to chose from, but other shapes. There is more customisability when rounding the corners. Figma has the tools to align and space everything evenly, but then, is it art?
Winner: Paint, because I have less buttons to press, it already knew I wanted rounded boxes, seems like they have integrated some really smart AI.
MS Paint: It was a hard decision between Comic Sans and Papyrus, so I settled with Arial Black. I was trying to find WordArt but they don’t have it integrated in Paint.
Figma: The font editor panel is similar to Paint but with saved styles and more customisation.
Winner: Figma. It has Comic Sans, Papyrus (but maybe I downloaded these for my last project? I can’t remember) and more fonts available. MS Paint lost points for not including WordArt in this product or they would’ve won.
MS Paint: There are no artboards/frames, and when I add something it feels set in stone, like painting in real life. The only way to edit or move something is to cut and paste. Luckily you can chose between a solid background and transparent background when pasting.
Figma: Figma has frames and layers so you can easily move things around and remove things.
Winner: Tie. Depends what you want to do, if you want to have fun then Paint is the answer. Layers add layers of complexity.
MS Paint: How much more fun is it to just sit and hold a spraypaint can on one spot to make a (non-smooth) circle instead of using a circle tool?
Figma: Doesn’t have this god-almighty tool, how have we been living without it?
Winner: I think this is self-explanatory.
Filling in abstract shapes
MS Paint: Works easily, super clear based on the icon you’re just pouring the paint in like cement. Using MS paint is the only way you’ll keep up with the trends, like filling your abstract shapes or doodles in.
Figma: I’m confused how to do this. I didn’t know it even had this feature until double clicking and finding this icon, then could only fill with one colour. Boring.
Winner: MS Paint fills my heart.
Our final product
I did some last finishing touches, and 🥁
Both Figma and MS Paint have great qualities. It depends on the person and what you want to achieve.
Throughout this project it was interesting to see how many things have remained roughly the same for 25 years, like the colour picker and the eyedropper tool. It’s so usable it doesn’t need innovation. Whereas things like collaboration is such a key feature of Figma, so that you can work with your teammates in real time. We now have easy to use Design Systems and can create reusable components that speed up our design time and can quickly make prototypes with animation right in Figma.
I wonder how design tools will look in 25 years from now?
If you want to try out Microsoft Paint, this is what I used for our experiment. If you’re interesting in using Figma, you can get it here.
Thanks for joining me on this journey! Next up: Why we Should Ditch VS Code for Notepad and Battle of the Screensavers, Bouncy Morphing Shape or Brick Maze.
Disclaimer: This was all in good fun, I really was just interested in how design tools have evolved. I’m a total Figma fangirl, but also have a Windows 95 cursor tattoo as it was my first computer, so, love to both ❤️. I will keep using Figma for the time being though.
Thank you to Alex and Tulio for feedback and editing.
Surprisingly, I get paid to be a Product Designer. Check out my portfolio at jayceeday.com. If you want to chat or design something together you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.