Thickening Words in Paint.NET

I stumbled upon Paint.NET back in college when I was looking for a free image editing software for poster creation. It has now been my go-to software whenever I need to do some image/photo editing.

A while ago, I helped a friend to thicken/bold some handwritten words in a scan of a concert poster so as to make them more outstanding. This post explains how I did it without the use of external libraries/plugins – YMMV depending on the type of image/poster you have. For example, a poster with a complicated background may make it hard for some features to properly identify the item to select.


For this post, I am using Paint.NET 4.0.21, and will demonstrate using an image of a road sign with a handwritten note on it. You can see the before and after here:

Before (left) and After (right) comparison of handwriting thickness in the “FROM” field


Step 1: Select and copy the message to be thickened onto a new canvas

The copied message will exist on the Background Layer (i.e. first layer)

Step 2: Use the Magic Wand tool to select the background you do not wish to be included

I recommend selecting the tolerance value to be the exact percentage that works for you. This will ensure that noise in the background will be removed completely.

Step 3: Once you have all the background selected, invert the selection so that you are only selecting the text in a freeform shape

This can be found in menu “Edit > Invert Selection” (or shortcut key “Ctrl + I”)

Step 4: With the selection still active, create a new layer, and select it 

This will be called “Layer 2”

Step 5: Draw a shape with the “Draw Filled Shape” mode, using the color of your choice

Step 6: Disable the “Background Layer” 

You should end up with something like this:


Now that we have the just the writing itself, let’s thicken it

Step 7: Select the entire Layer 2 and copy it 

Step 8: Create a new layer (Layer 3) and offset it in the NW direction 

Use the keyboard “Up” and “Left” keys to do the offset by one or two presses

Step 9: Create a new layer (Layer 4) and offset it in the SE direction 

Use the keyboard “Down” and “Right” keys to do the offset by one or two presses

Step 10: In the Layers option, merge Layers 3 and 4 into Layer 2 using the “Merge Layer Down” feature

You can repeat Steps 7 to 10 to repeatedly thicken the text. You should get something like this:


Step 11: Select the now thickened text on Layer 2 and copy it back onto the original image. 

And you are done! While not perfect (as the thickened process is repeated, some closely written letters have merged into each other), it is certainly quick and simple for basic/uncluttered images.


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