Painter 8.0, by Corel
Posted: 15-May-2004

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Corel Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Judy Catambay Class: MULTIMEDIA

Corel Painter 8 is digital sketching and painting software that allows you to simulate a large assortment of artists' tools, such as oil paints, watercolors, airbrush, conte, and every other 2-D media tool imaginable. The software is intended for artists, graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, pre-visualization artists and anybody else who wants to dabble in digital artwork. Painter 8 is also appealing to Photoshop users as it is now fully compatible with its file format.


  • Macintosh:
    • Mac OS 9 (version 9.2.2 or higher)
    • Mac OS X (version 10.2 or higher)
    • Power Macintosh G3 or higher
    • 128MB RAM
    • 1024-768 display, 24-bit color
    • CD-ROM Drive
    • Mouse (Wacom tablet recommended)

  • Windows:
    • Windows 2000 or Windows XP
    • Pentium processor 200MHz or higher
    • 128MB RAM
    • 1024-768 display, 24-bit color
    • CD-ROM Drive
    • Mouse (Wacom tablet recommended)

The setup process is a breeze. There is only one CD and one simple installer. The program was easy to run without delay after installation, and did not require any configuration changes or cumbersome setup processes.

In Use
Painter 8 has an intuitive interface. I happen to be a painter who works with various 2-D media on a wide assortment of surfaces. Creative freedom is important to me in making art. I love the fact that Painter 8 uses lingo familiar to the artist, and that there is an option to view the painter tools as icons (small pictures of the actual artists' tools). This intuitive and art studio-like platform is one that inspires creative freedom. You can actually work in a free form technique just as you were splashing paint on a canvas. You do not need to get bogged down with technical details, which is an exciting characteristic that I have not found with other drawing programs. Conversely, if your work is more of a technical nature, each Painter 8 feature has adjustable specifications to meet the more precise demands.

Painter 8 features a Mixer Palette to customize your colors, which functions just like a real artists' palette - you mix gobs of color with a brush or palette knife and store it for future use. Watercolor paint will flow and interact with the paper grain just as it would in the real world, and the paper and brushes can be adjusted to your taste. The overall experience of the output is very close to that of natural media. However, to take full advantage of Painter 8, you really need to invest in a graphics tablet. The tablet gives you a much better feel for the tools. The tools respond to the pressure and angle of the stylus making the experience feel natural - like you are really holding that paint brush or whatever tool you are using. A graphics tablet is recommended, not required, but it is really crucial to taking advantage of the all that Painter 8 has to offer.

If you are at a loss for where to start, like a writer's block, you can use a photograph and turn it into a sketch. This gives you a good starting point. Many artists need a sketch to start a painting. Or you can use the
"image hose" to spray various images or patterns on the "canvas". If I had an "image hose" in my garage, I would never sit and stare at a blank canvas. I used the sketch feature to start the painting "Hands" (see below). With this "head start" feature, it is nearly impossible to have an artist's block with Painter 8.

"Hands" - Copyright © 2004, Judy Catambay
NOTE: Click on image for a larger view

I started the "Hands" painting with a photograph, and then converted it to a sketch using the sketch feature. You basically select sketch, and modify the effect to your liking, and presto - your photograph looks like a pencil drawing. This sketch gave me a good start to begin experimenting with the various painting tools. On this painting, I really cut loose using just about every tool - crayons, airbrush, digital watercolors, pastels, etc. It was fun, and the result was nice to look at.

The assortment of tools range from felt pens to impasto to Sumi-e. Using Painter 8 is like working in a plush art studio stocked with a boundless variety of tools, media and surfaces to work from. They thought of everything. Some of the tools go beyond the real world of art materials -- like the Image Hose that paints with a variety of images (which I used in the "Momma & Baby" painting below).

"Momma & Baby" - Copyright © 2004, Judy Catambay
NOTE: Click on image for a larger view

To create the above painting, I started by making a pastel drawing of the mother and baby. I then had some fun using the Image Hose to add birds. Notice the birds flying in from the right side of the canvas and getting larger as they go to the left side. This is done using the Image Hose. The Image Hose is a painting tool that functions exactly how it sounds. There is an array of images and patterns to chose from, and that image or pattern squirts out of a virtual hose. This is a very cool tool, and easy to use. In the above painting, I selected the images of birds, and draped them across the painting with the Image Hose. If you increase the pressure of the stylus (or mouse), the bird size increases. You can also get the birds to come out at a certain angle by changing the angle of the stylus. I completed the painting by filling the remaining areas with various patterns. I mostly used the pastel chalk tools, but again I experimented with various painting tools.

The birds image is just one of many images that you can select from for the Image Hose. You can even create your own hose nozzle using a movie file. In fact, just about every tool in Painter 8 is modifiable. If you are not satisfied with the infinite variety of tools, you can use the Brush Creator to create your own, allowing you to customize and save your own favorite brush. There are no limits to the creative possibilities.

The capabilities of Painter 8 go beyond creating great paintings. You can enhance photography, add special effects (lighting, surface texture, tones, etc.) to pictures, create mosaics, clone artist's styles, produce painterly web pages, create animations, add paint to existing movies, and work in layers compatible with Photoshop. Painter 8 is an amazing mega-tool for any type of artist. The only downside is that by the time you explore the vast possibilities, there will probably be a new version released.

The interface of Painter 8 is very intuitive and easy to use. Unlike other software, the terminology used in Painter 8 is geared for artists rather than computer geeks. Having had no prior background with Painter, I was able to jump in and feel comfortable with the software almost immediately. The documentation is well written, and serves as a good reference for improving your understanding of how to use the tools. There is also a second CD that comes with Painter 8 that is chock full of some cool add-on options, such as gooey brushes, nature brushes, paper gradients, calligraphy, etc.. There are already so many tools within the main program, I never found the need to explore these bonus tools, but they are there if needed.

Painter 8 is a great tool all by itself, but to fully exploit its powerful features, you really need a graphics tablet and stylus pen. This not only puts you into more of a painter's environment, but Painter 8 is pressure and angle sensitive, so it reacts to the pressure and angle you apply to the stylus. It is an amazing artistic experience.

Corel Painter 8 is the premiere sketching and painting tool for digital artists. Painter 8 does an amazing job at simulating all kinds of artists' tool, from oil paints, to watercolors, and just about every other 2-D media tool imaginable. Whatever your background is, Painter 8 is certain to let loose your creativity. There is no other natural media painting software out there that mimics artists' tools so true to form. The interface is comprehensible and the options of tools seem unlimited. With all of the special effects and modifiable tools, you do not need artistic ability to produce eye-popping results. It gives you the freedom to explore your imagination like you have never done before. Painter 8 has a $299 price tag ($149 to upgrade), and you'll want to budget for a graphics tablet to get the full benefits of Painter 8. The cost may prohibit the idly curious. Being a painter myself, I love Painter 8 and would highly recommend it to other artists, designers, photographers or anybody who wants to create spectacular digital artwork. If you are a painter, you will revel in the endless assortment of artists' tools that replicate the media characteristics just as you would expect from the real thing.


  • Amazing emulation of artists' tools
  • Intuitive interface with terminology familiar to artists
  • An endless well of creative options with an excellent selection of tools, surfaces, and special effects
  • Inspires creativity for digital artwork, digital photography, web pages, movies, etc.


  • Price is high for the idly curious or casual hobbyist
  • Requires graphics tablet purchase to fully be appreciated

Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice