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Controlling the Zoom Tool

Zoomed picture of an appleOther Pictures, Problems and Procedures

If you're using Paint in Windows 7, reading this page is largely unnecessary. Zoom options are easier to manage in 7. The tutorial for Paint in Windows 7 is here.

"Zoom in" usually means 2x

If directions for doing something in Paint say "zoom in" without specifying 2x, 6x or 8x, they almost always mean 2x.

Zoom Options

98 XP zoom options Vista zoom optionsIn 98 and XP your Zoom Options are shown as at left. You click on the zoom level you want (unless you want 4x, which is only available through the view menu through View > Zoom > Custom).

In Vista, there's a slider. You pull it up to get a closer view or drag it down to get a smaller view. You can also choose a zoom level from the View menu.

View menu in Vista


For positioning your cursor exactly on a one pixel line, 2x (or 200%) is usually adequate.

Positioning the cursor

cursor on crossed lines in normal viewAt normal view, the cursor sitting on crossed lines looks like this.

cursor on crossed lines at 2x viewZoomed in to 2x, you have a fighting chance of seeing where the cursor is sitting. It makes the part of a line that it's sitting on look blurred, or white or quite different in some way or other.

If you can see all of the line that's meant to be under the cursor, as in either of these drawings, the cursor is to the left of the vertical line the cursor is above the horizontal line the cursor is not exactly on the line. (Just to avoud confusion—I cheated with these drawings. The cursor does not look bigger when you zoom in. The lines of your work do look bigger, though.)   top

Getting a close view

When you open Paint, the Zoom tool is usually set to 2x, although sometimes the program remembers the last zoom you used in the previous session and uses that instead.

click on the part you want to seeIf 2x is what you want, click on the zoom tool and then click directly on the picture.

An oblong is shown around the magnifying glass to give you an idea of what will be displayed when you click. This area will be in proportion to your window, so if you feel that not enough will be shown, make your window larger.

Window and Workspace

small workspaceWindow and workspace aren't the same thing. Your window is the part that you can see at one time; your workspace may be much bigger or much smaller.

Here's a very small workspace—someone is making an icon—in Paint's smallest possible window, which on my computer is about 190 by 270. The rest of the window is just blank space.

That's just big enough for Paint to show its color palette, toolbox and options, but it is not wide enough to show the information on the right-hand end of the status bar. For me to see that, the window has to be at least 500 pixels wide.

The windows shown below do not show all of the workspace. You can move other parts of the workspace into such a window by dragging scrollbars or by clicking the arrows at the ends of the scrollbars.   top

Having the close view just where you want it

Many times you'll find it easier to see what you're doing if you're zoomed in to 6x or even 8x, but this can be tricky. If you click the zoom tool and then click 6x or 8x in the options box, Paint won't necessarily give you a larger view of the exact part you're working on; it may give you a close view of a different part of your workspace.

This can be quite bewildering; you probably start dragging scroll bars to try to find the bit you want. You might be lucky.


The thing is to move your scroll bars before you zoom in.

wanted area at bottom right wanted area at top leftUnless you click the zoom tool directly onto your work, the zoom will always show the top left corner of the window. Therefore, see that the part of which you want a close view is in that position.

If you zoom in with the window as it is in the left-hand picture, you'll see nothing but plain white.

If you drag the scroll bars so that the part you want to work on is in the top left corner, as in the picture on the right, the zoom will land where you want it.

You only need to worry about this the first time you change to a different zoom level. After that, clicking directly on the picture with the zoom tool does the trick.   top

Another way to hit the right spot

If you'd rather not resize your window or drag the wanted area to the top left corner, try this.

  1. Click the Zoom tool and then click 8x or whatever, or, in Vista, drag the slider.

    position cursor

  2. Hit the Zoom tool again and choose 1x.

  3. Hit the Zoom tool a third time and click the Zoom cursor over the area you want to work on.

Choose your tool AFTER you've zoomed

Watch what tool Paint returns you to after you zoom in or zoom out. You might expect it to be the last tool you've used, but sometimes it isn't. It's annoying if you presume that you still have the Rectangular Selection tool, for instance, and you suddenly find that you've drawn a thick red line. If that sort of thing does happen, press Ctrl+z or go to the Edit menu and choose Undo.

a much closer view

At 8x view, you can see individual pixels of color. This makes it much easier to edit tiny details.

The Text tool doesn't work in any close view. All other tools do work. You can also flip, stretch and skew while zoomed in.

Thumbnail View

thumbnail windowWhen you are zoomed in, it's possible to see a real size view of the part that you're working on. As you scroll up, down or sideways, the thumbnail view changes to reflect your current position.

This thumbnail window can be dragged by its title bar to anywhere you want it.

It can also be re-sized. Just hover over a side, the bottom, or a corner until a double ended arrow appears, then press your mouse button and drag in or out, up or down, to get the size you want.   top

To open the thumbnail window

finding thumbnail viewClick View on the menu bar. A menu drops down.

Click Zoom. A second menu flies out.

Click Show Thumbnail.

If the thumbnail window doesn't appear

If you have other windows open while you're working in Paint, the thumbnail window will sometimes get lost amongst them.

minimiseJust send each of the other windows down to the taskbar by clicking its Minimise button, the one that looks like a plain straight line.

Show grid

the gridOn the same menu as Show Thumbnail is Show Grid.

Clicking this invokes a grid dividing the screen up pixel by pixel. Possibly it may help you in placing individual pixels of color.

This is only available in 4x, 6x and 8x views. (Yes. 4x!)   top

400% view

There's a strange thing about the Zoom menu in XP. Click on Custom and you get a little dialogue box. It includes one zoom level that is not included in the options when you click the Zoom tool—400%.zoom customcustom views offered


Views are expressed differently here—as percentages. What goes on? Why is this particular zoom view hidden away? Did someone go to heaps of trouble drawing up the graphic options to show when the Zoom tool is clicked and then see that they'd left one out? Curious!

Anyway, 4x might just be the very view that you sometimes want, and now you know where to find it.


Other Pictures, Problems and Procedures


Questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you, especially if you have helpful suggestions regarding any one of this set of pages. They were begun in response to some reader questions and I've arrived at solutions through trial and error. As I went over the exercises and tried to follow my own instructions, I several times saw a quicker or easier way to do something and it's likely that readers may still see some better solutions.
My email address is here.

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