Corel Painter IX
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 10 (October 2005)

Corel Painter IX

As digital artists and content creators, we’re longtime users of Painter, Corel’s painting and illustration software solution. Like no other program we’ve used, it provides us with digital materials-paints, brushes, inks, pencils, papers, and more-that closely mimic those used in the traditional creative process. Corel refers to these digital tools of the trade as “Natural Media.”

We installed Painter IX on an Apple Power Mac G5 equipped with dual PowerPC G5 processors, Mac OS X, and a Studio display. We also set up a Wacom Intuos3 pen tablet and 6D Art Pen, as well as Corel’s Art Pen Brush Pack, a collection of six brushes designed to take advantage of Wacom’s six-dimensional pen stylus.

Painter IX greets the user with a new, clean, and organized welcome screen on start-up that provides quick access to saved files, brush and color-management settings, and tutorials. Like previous versions of Painter, the software ships replete with resources, including libraries of nozzles, brushes, paper textures, stock photos, patterns, and gradients. Provided in electronic format are the User Guide (PDF), Help files (HTML), and tutorial videos. The tutor-ials, devised by creative professionals, are tremendous assets that impart a wealth of tips we wouldn’t get from the user’s guide or online help. And the Help system proved faster than in previous versions.

Painter IX and the Wacom tablet and 6D Art Pen assist Dan Rodd in adding depth to his eye-catching imagery.

Corel worked with Apple, Intel, and AMD to improve the stability, speed, and performance of Painter. It responds more quickly to brush strokes and key commands. When using previous versions, we often would make a brush stroke and wait, not only for the system to display the stroke, but also for the paint to “dry” or stop running-this was especially true when working with large-size brushes and runny paints. We want to see our strokes in real time, and now that’s possible. In general, the brushes are at least twice as fast, but we would like the very large brushes to be more efficient, as a delay is noticeable.

Painter IX’s enhanced productivity was evident, especially working with Digital Watercolor. In fact, we seldom opted to use watercolor in previous versions of Painter because it was slow and unresponsive. That system has sped up, and we envision using watercolor far more often now. Painter’s newfound stability is obvious; it has not once crashed our system.

The Artist’s Oil Painting System equips the brush with a finite amount of paint, lending to more realistic digital artwork. The paint thins out along the stroke, and runs out as we end the stroke. In past versions, the amount of paint laid down throughout the brush stroke was constant, and it ended abruptly where the stroke ended. In the past, we could mix paints in a palette, but not on the actual canvas or paper. We’ve liked picking up a color from inside the palette, moving it around, and having it interact with other colors, but we couldn’t find a way of actually doing that on the artwork. Now paints blend together on paper, as they would in the physical world.

On the topic of paints, Digital Watercolor is great in Version IX. At any time, we could start a new layer, add as many layers as we like, and edit them by making one more transparent than another, for instance. And we could use a command for drying the paints, or we could leave them wet and complete the painting later. In short, Digital Watercolor is more forgiving than it was in past incarnations.

Painter IX offers various image effects. For turning photographs into paintings, Quick Clone worked well and quickly, in a single action. As for filters, there’s all kinds and they can be layered. And Version IX marks the first time the following KPT effects plug-ins have been included with Painter: KPT Gel, KPT Goo, KPT LensFlare, KPT Lightning, KPT Pyramid Paint, KPT Reaction, and KPT ShapeShifter.

Painter has the blessing and the curse of having a million options. It takes a while to familiarize yourself with all of them, their customizable attributes, and how they interact. Painter IX gives you as much control as you’d ever need. It’s easy enough to get started and do decent work, but it takes time to become accomplished. It’s an ongoing adventure.

Dan Rodd and Chris Hipp are professional illustrators well versed in a wide variety of digital imaging solutions.

Corel Corporation
Price: $429 ($229 as an upgrade)
Minimum System Requirements: Windows 2000/XP running on a Pentium II 500 mhz system or Mac OS X on a Power Macintosh G3 500 mhz, 128 mb of RAM, 380 mb (395 mb on Mac) of hard disk space, a 24-bit color display with 1024x768 resolution, a CD-ROM, and a mouse or tablet.