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I think we should talk about Alpha Masks

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Hello everyone,


In all my years using Paint.NET (around 15 now!) one thing that I noticed to consistently struggle with the most is dealing with transparency. Simply put, I don't think the app has enough tools to deal with alpha. We have like, the eraser and the ability to delete things. The most obviously missing thing is an alpha mask feature. I'm sure this has been requested hundreds of times and I'm sure there are pretty good reasons as to why it was never added. I assume that this is due to technical reasons- depending on how intricate the desired implementation is, it might even require a total rework of the pdn file format or layers (for instance, adding yet another widely requested feature: layer groups).


However, I don't see a reason as to why we couldn't have a way more simplified implementation. Would it be too hard to add a new layer Blend Mode that, you know, interacts with alpha whatsoever? For example, a "true" multiply mode that multiplies even the alpha channel. I don't know how the blending is implemented, but if it's like some standard shader code, it should be easier to implement a multiply with alpha rather than what we currently have.


I'm well aware of Alpha Mask plugins, such as the one in BoltBait's pack. However, as it is merely an effect, it's not really an option in situations where constant change is required. I hope you can understand why constantly flattening an image, copying a mask texture, applying an effect and saving an image is not exactly scalable. It's a lot of rework for something that should be instant and easy.


There are a lot of use cases for tools that more easily deal with alpha- from design to game development, it's a vital feature for any image editing software. And I don't think it's particularly healthy for a feature to rely solely on plugins.

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Just hasn't been considered and prioritized yet due to time, I think. A blending mode might actually be possible now, depends on the code. From what I've seen, Rick prefers making unified changes, so probably no layer mask without layer groups or whatever other highly layer-related features belong together. I hear you, though. Alpha masks are a common and commonly-used feature in a lot of similar software.

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Alpha mask stuff is also dependent on some foundational stuff that hasn't gone in yet. There isn't really any need to "have a talk about" alpha masks, it's not like it's being omitted for any reason other than it's just not at the front of the line yet. It's not waiting for enough people to ask for it, etc. I want to do this but I want to do it right, and not make it harder to do other things in the future.

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