Painter IX, by Corel
Posted: 30-Jan-2008

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Corel Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Moe Bradley Class: PRODUCTIVITY

Overview
Painter IX from Corel bills itself as "the world's most powerful Natural-Media painting and illustration software." This commercial product allows you to create art using digital brushes, textures and simulated materials that emulate their real-world counterparts. While intended for graphic artists, this version of Painter includes some new features that allow even untalented artist-wannabees (like me) to create some pretty impressive "paintings" from photographs. Additionally, for those of you who have some experience with other graphics applications, like Illustrator or Photoshop, you will find some familiar items, like the rubber stamp and clone tools and, one of my favorites, an eraser!

Requirements

  • Mac OS(R) X (version 10.2.8 or higher)
  • Power Macintosh G3, 500 MHz or greater
  • 128 MB of RAM (256 MB recommended)
  • Mouse or tablet
  • 24-bit color display
  • 1,024 x 768 or greater monitor resolution
  • CD-ROM drive
  • 395 MB of available hard disk space for installation

Features

  • A highly-sophisticated painting and illustration application, the fastest version of Corel Painter yet
  • Most brushes work, on average, twice as fast; includes more than 30 brush categories plus custom brushes
  • Animators can now test frame rates directly in Corel Painter; movies can be saved as animated GIFs, QuickTime movies or AVI movies
  • Supporting industry-standard ICC4.0 profiles, this software enables color matching between on-screen and printed colors
  • Includes Corel Painter IX, both Mac and Windows versions; libraries of unique gradients, nozzles, patterns, stock photos, paper textures, and brushes; The Corel Painter IX Handbook

QuickTime(R) and Adobe(R) Acrobat(R) Reader are required for components of Corel Painter IX.

The Corel Painter IX Help system requires a web browser and is optimized for the Safari web browser on the Macintosh.

Setup
Installing Painter IX on my Mac was pretty standard stuff. The install is run from one CD, and the install prompts are easy to follow. Additionally, the software includes a built-in interface to check for and install product updates. Once you install the application, put the CD away - you won't need it to run the software.

What's New

  • Turn Photos into Paintings with the Photo Painting Palettes. Create stunning paintings from photographs, with ease. Includes the Underpainting, Auto-Painting, and Restoration palettes. With the ability to automatically apply random, handpainted stokes to your photograph, it's never been easier to get started with Corel Painter.
  • 11 hours of movie-based training from lynda.com are included for free. This movie-based tutorial is designed to give new and existing users of Corel Painter a basic understanding of the new and improved features in Corel Painter IX.
  • Eraser Tool provides easy access to a standard eraser to erase any medium in Corel Painter IX.
  • Rubber Stamp Tool to do point-to-point cloning.
  • The new Cloner tool provides immediate access to the last-used Cloner brush and brush variant.
  • Apple iPhoto support, and support for Mac OS X Tiger (10.4), to work seamlessly with Apple iPhoto.
  • Wacom pen tablet support for Wacom's new Intuos3, Cintiq 21UX, and the new 6D Art Pen.
  • Art Pen Brush Category provides 10 new brushes that are specifically designed to work with the new Wacom 6D Art Pen.


In Use
Since the
Painter 8 version was previously reviewed for the Guild, I chose to have a look at the new features introduced in version IX. Also, since my artistic abilities do not naturally lend themselves to drawing or painting, I concentrated on the features that allowed me to use a digital photo as my inspiration.

When you start up Painter IX, you are presented with a dialog box that asks you what you want to do.


Painter IX Startup Window

Many of the tools in Painter IX are similar to those in other applications (like Photoshop), so I felt fairly confident when I first began to use the application, but it wasn't long before the most familiar command to me was UNDO! Thankfully, Painter IX has a pretty good online HELP feature, but I still had to do some searching on the web to get a better understanding of some of the terminology. I don't fault the application for that, but for the artistically uninitiated, Painter IX may be intimidating and overkill. Painter IX does include some good tutorials and, if you are willing to invest the time, you can come up with some impressive results.

Painter IX features unique digital brushes, art materials and textures that mirror the look and feel of their traditional counterparts. It now includes Artists' Oils Painting System, Snap-to-Path Painting, Quick Clone for photographers, and brushes that perform up to 10 times faster than in previous versions. In addition to the new tools and features, Painter IX has improved Help features, tutorials by world-class digital artists and free access to selected lynda.com training videos.


Painter 9, like Painter 8, has an intuitive interface. The interface is not only intuitive, but provides an art studio-like platform, so you do not need to get bogged down with technical details. This is an important feature for artists. For those that like to get down into the nitty gritty of all the tools, each Painter 9 tool has adjustable specifications to meet the more precise demands.


Painter IX Interface

The Artists' Oils Painting System enables you to apply paint blends created in the Mixer palette directly onto images in the document window. Each brush dab loads the brush variant with a finite amount of oil. As the oil runs out, the brush stroke becomes fainter. Plus, brush strokes interact with any paint already on the canvas just as they would with natural media. Snap-to-Path Painting makes it possible to constrain a brush stroke along a path or a shape by clicking a button or using a keyboard shortcut. With a simple click, you can now create a precise brush stroke that reflects the attributes typically found in a Corel Painter stroke, such as pressure, tilt and bearing.Digital Watercolor allows you to start one session where the last one ended. The wet fringe of digital watercolor brush strokes can now be changed dynamically, enabling experimentation after the brush stroke has been applied. Quick Clone enables you to transform your photos into paintings. This new feature speeds up the image-cloning workflow and reduces five steps to one. You can define Quick Clone settings on the General page of the Preferences dialog box.

I made a copy of a digital photo using Painter's new Quick Clone feature. I then selected the brush tool and chose a cloner's brush from Painter's vast array of selections.


Original Digital Photo

After a few trial strokes, (remember, I did say I wasn't an artist) I managed to create a reasonable facsimile of a watercolor effect.


Watercolor Effect

Emboldened by initial effort (and the UNDO feature), I decided to do a more stylized approach to my clone, and used the Trace option to attempt an outline of the most prominent features of the photo. Again, as before, I was able to use one of the brushes supplies in Painter to go over the areas of the photo I wanted to pick up and create a very simple outline of it.


Sketch

Another effect that can be applied to an image, or used to create one from scratch, is Mosaic. This type of imagery appealed to me because it is something I can use in my artistic endeavor of choice, creating art quilts. In the most familiar application of a mosaic, an image is created by carefully shaping and placing colored tiles or bits of glass to form a picture or pattern. In quilting, you do the same thing, but you use fabric instead of tiles.

To create my mosaic, I made another clone of my original image using the Quick Clone feature from the File menu, then opened the Canvas menu and chose Make Mosaic.


Mosaic Dialog


By click-dragging my mouse over the image, I was able to create a tiled effect that, when done, formed the mosaic image.


Mosaic Effect


After creating the mosaic, you can use the Make Mosaic dialog box to select individual tiles and make color changes or corrections. You can also change the grout color between the tiles in this dialog box. When you have finished, click the Done button to dismiss the dialog box.

This review barely touches on the many tools and features provided in Painter IX. You can read more about the tools and features available in Painter IX on
Corel's website.

Summary
Corel Painter IX is a full-featured graphics tool designed for artistic painters. Experienced and amateur artists alike will appreciate the robust array of tools mimicking those found in a real-media studio, from oils to watercolors, pastels to palette knives, at their disposal. Expand your artistic horizons; with Painter IX you can experiment in two-dimensional mediums without having to invest in real-world tools.

If you are not an experienced artist, it will take a dedicated effort to become comfortable with Painter's features; use the included tutorials and explore the web for the on-line help sites as well. Corel's web site also has some good support available. Painter may allow you to surprise yourself by giving you tools you can use to transform existing images, such as digital photos, into artistic impressions you didn't know you had in you. Sure, it takes some practice, but give yourself permission to experiment with the variety of tools and special effects - if you don't like what you did, go back to where you started with the UNDO feature!

The interface uses some pretty standard icons, and many of the tools will be familiar from other applications. Painter IX's $349 price tag ($149 to upgrade) may be a little steep if all you really want to do is create a few corrections to a digital photo, but if you are looking to do some serious graphics, Painter IX is a good option. If you don't have a graphics tablet, you might want to consider getting one; a mouse doesn't allow you to take full advantage of the pressure sensitive effects Painter offers.
I recommend Painter IX to artists, designers, photographers or anybody who wants to create spectacular digital artwork. If you are an artist, Painter IX will satisfy your creative needs with an endless assortment of digital tools that do an amazing job at replicating real world artist tools.

Pros

  • Amazing emulation of artist tools
  • Excellent selection of tools, surfaces, and special effects
  • Additional tools and effects from third party vendors available (additional cost)
  • Free training videos and good online help


Cons

  • Most of the terminology will be foreign to someone without an art background and, although the Painter's help menu is pretty good (and includes definitions), you may have to go to several other sources to really understand the terms
  • Price point is high for a casual user who doesn't need Painter's features
  • A graphics tablet is a better bet than a mouse to get the full benefit of Painter


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice