The two programs I have used for developing visual aids for writing my books are Microsoft Paint and Pixlr. Both are free (which is why I use them), and they have different advantages and drawbacks which I’ll mention here:
Both programs have a wide array of fonts to choose from, and both have bold and italic functionality.
Pixlr — Many fonts, but you can’t edit each word individually for style or size in the same window. Each word creates a new layer, so it can get a little cluttered if you’re working with a lot of labels. The best part is that you can go back into each layer and move, edit, and change them at any point in time.
Paint — Many fonts, but you can’t go back and edit anything after you click away from the font window. You also have to redo any font if you want to change the background colors or information. You can, however, use any number of fonts, sizes, and styles in a single font window.
Both allow the inclusion and use of outside images, but the method of using them is different.
Pixlr — If you find a picture you’d like to use from le internet, you can copy the URL and then use the drop down LAYER menu and copy URL image as a new layer. The copy/paste function still works, but only within the program itself. If you want to use a photo or picture that doesn’t have a URL, you have to save the picture on your computer and then upload the file.
Paint — You can copy anything from anywhere–internet, photo library, files. Using the Windows Snipping Tool, you can essentially copy anything that you can get to show up on your computer screen. This makes it a lot easier to add in photos and pictures from other sources. The drawback of adding the photos, is that they become a part of the entire picture once it is positioned and you click away from it.
Ease of Use:
Pixlr — This program is a bit more complicated, and has a few drawbacks which almost make it not worth it. Yet the layering capability and continual editing of text and image layers make it better for more complex projects. Pixlr uses online facets, such as online image library access and Skydrive compatibility. If you have the pixlr editor loaded, you can still use it offline. If you want to access your work from multiple computers for editing, then this program is for you. Pixlr also has a great many more features and tools than Paint, such as smudging tools, different types of drawing tools (among them charcoal and splatter), sharpen and blur.
Paint — This program is simple at its core, and it is a default program on all PCs (not Mac, but I think Mac users have their own version of Paint). It’s very intuitive to use, and the controls are simple and easy to manage. With the addition of Skydrive on most new computers (and the ability to use them on old ones), work produced by Paint can be accessed on other computers. You do not, however, have to be online to use the program.
Overall, it breaks down like this: Pixlr has some drawbacks, but it’s a more comprehensive editor, which means that you should use it for files that you think you’ll want to edit over time or that are more complex. Paint is a simpler program which you should use if you’re looking to make something quickly, or if you don’t want to spend the time to learn a new program, or (if you’re like me), you want to make something simple and don’t need a fancy editor to accomplish what you want to do.
So who wins the epic battle betwixt Pixlr and MS Paint? It’s up to you.
While you engage in a personal debate about which to use, my best advice is to just try both of them out. I use both for different things. I encourage you to experiment with them and find your own comfortable arena in which to work.