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Painter 2015 Review

Illustrator Simon Dominic checks out the features of Painter 2015, the latest version of Corel’s natural media emulation software. Find out how it fares right here!

Product: Painter 2015

Company: Corel

Website: www.corel.com

Key features:

Wide range of natural media painting tools
Emulation of traditional media through a full range of configurable brushes
New particle brushes for effects such as smoke, fire, foliage and more
Flexible and feature-dense user interface
Extensive brush tracking and customization options
Jitter smoothing for brushstroke individuality
Varied composition aids and photo-referencing tools
Oodles of preconfigured content
Enhanced performance and platform mobility

Corel Painter is renowned for its comprehensive and adventurous approach to natural media emulation and digital painterly effects. With features suited to everyone from beginners to professionals, Painter 2015 continues to represent the ultimate package for digital painting enthusiasts. The latest version brings numerous developments – although a few quick-win improvements appear to have been passed over…

The new Particle brushes can produce wonderful effects with very little work

Painter’s interface is noticeably refined over earlier versions and comes with several pre-configured workspace configurations to get you started. In addition to the extensive menus, much of the meaty stuff is accessed via panels which can be docked, minimized, grouped, hidden, and even customized from scratch using custom or pre-defined icons.

The process and the aesthetics both seem significantly cleaner than in previous versions (although admittedly I skipped Painter X3 and upgraded directly from 12) and the user experience strikes me as more satisfying. As you become more familiar with Painter and focus on your own personal workflow you’ll probably find you only need a small subset of options represented on-screen at one time. Even so, Painter is the reason I have a big screen!

“Corel has championed an unashamedly digital brush as their flagship offering – and quite impressive it is, too”

Improved brush tracking and calibration tools make for a very responsive painting experience

Painter 12, released in 2011, brought with it several new brush categories, most notably the realistic Watercolor and the significantly less realistic Real Oils, both of which were designed to replicate natural media. In their latest version, Corel has championed an unashamedly digital brush as their flagship offering – and quite impressive it is, too! It’s called the Particle brush and comes in three flavors; Flow, Gravity, and Spring.

The premise is that your cursor plays shepherd to a group of often unruly particles that swoop, judder and zip around it, creating intricate and often-surprising patterns. As you would expect from Painter, there is a whole raft of customization options that allow you to control every aspect of the particles’ behavior. It’s great fun to just play around with these settings and produce wonderful patterns at random. And once you learn how each configuration item affects the result you’ll soon be creating fire, plasma, fur, trees, and galaxies with a few strokes of the pen!

If you’re as bad at free perspective drawing as I am, the Perspective Guides may prove invaluable!

One noticeable improvement is the introduction of a preview feature on some of the image effects modification menus. On previous versions it was often impossible to see what result your change would have without applying it, which made for a frustrating back-and-forth experience. The addition of a preview function goes some way to making these options more accessible, but it has to be said that the effect implementation still feels clunky when compared to other painting packages.

Painter provides many useful shortcuts for speeding up your workflow. Two I find especially useful are the Temporal Color Palette and the Dynamic Brush resizing. The Temporal Color Palette is a color selector that can be toggled on and off right beside your cursor, allowing for quick selections. Brush resizing can be done with shortcut keys or via the brush control panel, but also, by holding a key combination and dragging your pen, you can making large changes in brush size very quickly and intuitively.

“After some hours of use…it feels somehow more ‘solid’ and ‘grown up'”

One aspect of Painter 2015 that becomes clear after some hours of use is that it feels somehow more ‘solid’ and ‘grown-up’. This was not always the case, especially pre version 12! Of course, a lot depends on your hardware and operating system, but certainly from my perspective of running Windows 7 on a relatively low-powered PC, I’m rarely conscious of constraints imposed on my creativity – and that’s how it should be!

Almost every aspect of Painter can be customized to some extent, even down to the graphics on your icons

Painter 2015 has too many features to summarize in a short review – many of which will take your breath away. But all is not rosy. Niggling bugs still remain – Cut and Paste has never worked properly since I started using Painter over a decade ago – and other options have not been fully exploited. Case in point: the underwhelming implementations of Color Sets and Reference Images. I’d like to see the next version really get to grips with these issues as well as providing the progressive Painter experience we’ve come to expect.

Score (out of 5): 4

System requirements

General:
2 GB RAM
1280 x 800 screen resolution

Windows:
Microsoft Windows 8.1 (64-bit) or Windows 7 (32-bit or 64-bit editions), with latest service packs installed
Intel Pentium 4, AMD Athlon 64 or AMD Opteron
650 MB hard disk space

Mac:
Mac OS X 10.7, 10.8 or 10.9 (with latest revision)
Intel Core 2 Duo
500 MB hard disk space

Price: £314.95 (£159 upgrade)
Educational license: £69.95
Availability: Out now!

Related links

Learn more about Painter 2015
Compare Painter versions
Check out Jason Maranto’s Painter 2015 video manual
Visit the Painter community discussion and support forums
Find Painter 2015 patches
Painter ebook training by Simon Dominic

To see more by Simon Dominic, check out Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 5
and Prime – The Definitive Digital Art Collection


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