dna-painter-review

DNA Painter review – Is it the best tool for DNA visualization?

Rating based on our DNA Painter review

7 Facts from our review DNA Painter

  1. Location: United Kingdom
  2. Products: DNA data upload for genealogy
  3. Reports: interactive figures of DNA shared with family members and genealogy
  4. Result delivery: through DNA Painter website
  5. Privacy: only segment data is uploaded to DNA painter (not DNA raw data) which reduces privacy risks
  6. Cost: free to use for 1 genetic profile; $30/6 months or $55/year subscriptions for bulk data import and ability to create up to 50 profiles
  7. Complementary products: Nebula Genomics (30x Whole Genome Sequencing for $299)

Introduction

This is a review of DNA Painter, a free DNA interpretation site that allows you to learn more about your family history and family tree. The DNA site focuses on visualization. It allows you to “paint” large and small segments of chromosomes that you share with your relatives and common ancestors. 

The site was created in 2017 by Jonny Perl, a web and application developer based in the United Kingdom. Perl created DNA Painter after taking his first DNA test. He wanted to make an intuitive tool that would allow for a simple interpretation of DNA results. The website won the grand prize in the 2018 DNA Innovation Contest hosted by Grow Utah.

Are you interested in getting the most complete raw DNA data to use with sites like DNA Painter? Nebula Genomics offers Whole Genome Sequencing for only $299! It is the most complete DNA test that decodes 100% of your DNA and enables the most accurate ancestry reporting. Click here to learn more!

Getting Started with DNA Painter

DNA Painter does not offer a genetic test. Instead, users upload DNA data obtained from other DNA testing kits. 

Please note that the software does not read raw data from an autosomal DNA test. It instead reads data about segments on your chromosomes. 

DNA Painter recommends uploading the raw DNA data to FamilyTreeDNA, Gedmatch, or MyHeritage. 23andme, FamilyTreeDNA, Gedmatch, and MyHeritage report your segments in common with other users. (For 23andme, you will go to the DNA Relatives feature and look at matching segments.). Users can also upload family trees as GEDCOM files.

From those sites, you can get segment data. When you have a sequence of overlapping DNA, upload the start and endpoints for the segment. But if you have a report from Ancestry or LivingDNA, you will need to get segment data from somewhere else first. 

Entering in some matched segments into DNA Painter.
Entering in some matched segments into DNA Painter.

Review of DNA Painter Reporting Features

You can’t use DNA Painter unless you have already identified suspected biological relatives in another genetic database. For example, you would need to use the DNA Relatives feature from 23andme to upload DNA segments that match. 

The softwarer does not work well if you are comparing your DNA to that of a total distant stranger. Segment painting is more useful if you have more DNA matches. This is especially true if your matches are from a more extended family. These relationships let you go further back into your genealogy. 

DNA Painter itself isn’t making guesses about common relations, it’s a platform for you to potentially discover biological relationships. So make sure to keep track of your relationship to each person in the user group. Since the user enters all the information, they also need to keep track of connections. 

If you don’t exactly know the relationship, DNA Painter can help. The website does provide a tool to help you guess relationships based on how many “centiMorgans” you share with a match.

A sample chromosome profile showing matched segments believed to come from different ancestors. The legend on the right shows the user’s self-defined ancestral sources for these segments.
A sample chromosome profile showing common DNA segments believed to come from different ancestors. The legend on the right shows the user’s self-defined ancestral sources for these segments. 

Since DNA Painter compares DNA between people who share many segments, you can’t go into the deep past. You won’t be able to learn about millennia-old ancestors like you can with chromosomal haplogroups. 

The software does provide cool genetic genealogy tips and features. In the default DNA Painter tool, there is no special analysis of mitochondrial (or mtDNA) haplogroups or Y-DNA haplogroups. However, on the Tree tool, you can add in these haplogroups and incorporate data from mitoYDNA.org

Aside from segment painting, another interesting visualization DNA Painter provides is a fanned out version of your family tree. While in the fanned-out view, you can apply filters to look at how your family tree’s DNA is shared. The “chromosome browser” function is easy to read.

One filter is particularly useful for the visualization. The site offers a filter that helps find common ancestors from whom you have inherited DNA. You can also highlight paths focusing on just X- or Y-chromosome DNA, as well as one focusing on mitochondrial DNA. 

If you’re new to genealogy, especially using DNA information, you may find DNA Painter a bit hard to use. The site has a somewhat steep learning curve. Fortunately, this is also supplemented with a lot of background information and tutorials. Unfortunately, this means you could spend hours reading everything on the site before you actually start painting matches with confidence. 

When starting with DNA Painter, the interface and tools may be a bit ambiguous. It took some time to learn things. For example, editing a “match” really means editing all information about the segments you share. Similarly, “group” refers to all segments suspected to come from a single ancestor, not a group of ancestors.

A fanned-out view of a family tree, highlighting confirmed genetic ancestors in brighter colors and black outlines. 

Review of DNA Painter Costs

DNA Painter offers two levels of membership – Free and Subscriber. Free members have access to all the analysis and interpretation tools Subscribers have. They are more restricted in features for large-scale data input. 

Free members can only make 1 chromosome map profile (e.g. yourself), and 1 family tree that can go back to your 4x great grandparents. 

Subscribers can make up to 50 chromosome map profiles. They can also make 50 family trees that go back as far as they want. Subscribers can also make unlimited bulk data imports, and import as many generations as desired of GEDCOM data. 

Subscriptions are $30 for a 6-month period or $55 for a year. Since DNA Painter analyzes data from other sources, you will need to factor in the cost of your original DNA test. 

Review of DNA Painter Privacy

User data such as shared segments, profiles, and trees are stored on the DNA Painter database. Segment data only contains information about where an overlap is (measured by the shared cm tool). This includes the chromosome number, start and endpoints, and the number of centimorgans and SNPs in the segment. 

Because users don’t upload raw DNA data, DNA Painter does not know the specific gene sequences users or relatives have. By default, user data are private and only accessible to the user who created them. However, users can make profiles “shared”, and anyone with an appropriate link could open them. 

The privacy and security section doesn’t mention sharing user data or using it for other purposes. The terms and conditions of use also don’t cover this but mention the site can change the terms at any time. Since the tool doesn’t know the actual gene sequences of users, it would have more limited use for research purposes. The site does retain the ability to revise the terms of use at any time without notice to users. 

Users can delete their account at any time by emailing a request.

DNA Painter In the News

DNA Painter Wins RootsTech DNA Innovation Contest 

DNA Painter Reviews

Pros and Cons of DNA Painter

Pros

  • Unique visualizations allow for an easier and more intuitive understanding of shared DNA compared to many sites
  • Ability to generate and test your own hypotheses about biological relatedness 
  • Ability to work with many kinds of DNA tests
  • Good resources to get started with DNA Painter, such as this guide by Blaine Bettinger

Cons

  • Somewhat steep learning curve – interface interactions and terms can be ambiguous at first
  • Most effective when you have DNA test results of several known relatives

Nebula Genomics

If you’re interested in using DNA Painter, you will need to have to purchase a DNA test. Consider using Nebula Genomics, which offers the most complete genetic test on the market.  

Whole Genome Sequencing

Nebula Genomics offers 30x Whole-Genome Sequencing, the gold standard for genetic testing. Most other commercially available DNA tests only read about 0.02% of your DNA. Nebula Genomics reads all 3.2 billion positions in your genome 30 times. 

This gives you an incredibly accurate and complete understanding of your DNA. This is 10,000 times more data than other commercial tests. And we did this while bringing the cost of whole genome sequencing below $300 per test. 

Privacy First

If you use Nebula Genomics to analyze your DNA, you have control over your personal genomic data. Users have full control over how their data is used, and it is secured by new blockchain technology. Our anonymous testing service reduces the risk of your personal data being affected by any security breach. 

Deep Ancestry

30x Whole-Genome sequencing provides the most comprehensive ancestry reporting on the market. We sequence the entire Y chromosome (for male users) and all mitochondrial DNA (for male and female users). This lets us discover all the genetic variants present. 

Our ancestry reporting is produced in collaboration with FamilyTreeDNA. This gives our users access to the world’s largest Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA database. 

DNA Painter Review Summary

DNA Painter is a unique service for DNA interpretation that focuses on visualizing ancestry through DNA painting. The service uses segment level data from companies like FamilyTreeDNA instead of raw DNA data. The goal is to show users how their DNA matches with their relatives. Importantly, this does not provide deep ancestry analysis from haplogroup analysis. The free service works great but does have a bit of a steep learning curve. 

DNA Painter isn’t meant to be a tool for everyone. But it can be a great tool for genealogy “power users” trying to expand their understanding beyond known relatives. Redditors who like the tool use it to get past genealogy “brick walls”. If you find a suspected relative and can match segments to other relatives, you could combine your family trees.

If you’re interested in DNA Painter, why not use data from the most advanced test? You can have the most comprehensive genetic data and access to the largest Y-DNA and mtDNA databases. Test yourself with Nebula Genomics.

Did you like our DNA Painter review? Then also take a look at our GEDmatch review and MyTrueAncestry review. Also, check out our GEDmatch tutorial to learn how to use it to learn more about your genealogy!

Take also a look at this blog post that gives an overview of other DNA upload sites.

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