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How to use Microsoft’s Paint 3D: Creating cool 3D scenes has never been so much fun

I’ll admit it—I simply can’t draw. Stick figures push my creative limits. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found that creating 3D objects and dioramas is actually easier in Microsoft’s Paint 3D than drawing two-dimensional art in Microsoft’s legacy Paint app.

Though it shares a name, Paint 3D isn’t really like the familiar Microsoft Paint app at all. Paint 3D’s entire purpose is to create fun, cartoony 3D objects and scenes—and share them. A major part of Paint 3D’s appeal is the Remix 3D community, where you and other members can import, edit, then share digital objects and ideas. Another is the awesome Magic Select tool which functions as a free Photoshop-like editing tool for 2D and 3D content. Don’t forget about the new Mixed Reality Viewer app, either!

You may not have seen Paint 3D yet—but if you haven’t, make it a point to! Microsoft first launched the app in conjunction with the Windows 10 Creators Update, shipped with the Creators Update last year, and it now plays an even more important role within the Fall Creators Update—as both a tool for 2D, 3D, and mixed-reality content. You can do a ton with Paint3D, so make sure to use our table-of-contents links to jump to what interests you most. Let’s go!

ufo screenshot Microsoft Paint 3D IDG / Mark Hachman

Creating this 3D scene took me about three minutes with Paint 3D.

Getting started: Know what you want to do

You can accomplish three main tasks with Paint 3D: constructing your own 3D objects, placing them within a scene, as well as using Paint 3D’s Magic Select tool as either a 2D or 3D editor. Remember the dioramas you made in elementary school? That’s Paint 3D in a nutshell.

Microsoft’s current version of Paint 3D ditches the somewhat confusing introduction it had before and tosses you right into the deep end. No worries—we’ve devised a better grand tour ourselves. Click the big New button and let’s dive in.

paint3d welcome screen IDG / Mark Hachman

Both videos at the bottom of the Paint 3D welcome screen are worth watching, but the challenge at the top could be better implemented. And why is the “Paste” button there?

It’s not immediately obvious what you’re looking at the first time you open Paint 3D. A white space sits on a very faint grid at the bottom of your screen. Is this a workspace? A window? No, it’s the Canvas, a flat, 2D digital backdrop to your scene. You should see some familiar painting tools to the right. Try clicking the crayon, then drawing a wavy blue line across the bottom of the Canvas. Aha! This could be an ocean background to a nautical scene.

paint 3d opening view cone through canvas IDG / Mark Hachman

The Paint 3D interface. In the background is the Canvas, with a simple cone protruding through it. Surrounding the cone is the interface to rotate and resize it.

The Canvas, in fact, is the only 2D object in Paint 3D—it’s just a plane, with no actual depth. As you’ll quickly learn, Microsoft has its own ideas about how you should proceed, and they’re not always in line with how you’ll want to do things. In fact, even though the Canvas will probably be the first thing you interact with (or delete), the Canvas tab is fifth in the row of icons at the top of the screen. But you’re not here for 2D, are you? Click the cube-shaped 3D Objects icon to open up the 3D screen.

3D object creation: the meat of Paint3D

Creating and manipulating a simple, primitive 3D object is relatively intuitive, just like it is in the traditional Paint app. Click on an object in the menu on the right—a cone, for example—and left-click it into existence. You can resize it any way you’d like.

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