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Digital Photo Software

Corel Painter 12 review

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Long favoured by digital artists with a penchant for realistic painterly (and other natural media) techniques, the burning question is does this latest iteration represent a good enough reason for existing users to upgrade, and will the improved features encourage new users to incorporate Painter into their creative workflow?

Painter might not do everything that Photoshop can and doesn’t claim to, but what it can do it does extremely well. As a suite of over 700 realistic brushes, and that’s just the ones already in the box before you’ve created custom ones, from acrylics to watercolour via impasto, sumi-e and pretty much everything in between, the bottom line is that Painter easily remains top of the natural media emulation class.

Key among the new features is the redesigned user interface. Over the years, the Painter interface has always felt a little quirky, especially when compared to the slickness of Photoshop. It was never enough to detract from the reasons for using the software in the first place, but it certainly reduced the ability for new users familiar with Adobe’s application to be able to dive straight in and feel comfortable with Painter’s layout from the get-go. Corel have evidently spent a great deal of time making everything considerably more intuitive, even if that’s largely due to moving closer to Photoshop’s interface (which is something Corel acknowledges).

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The new Navigator panel will also be familiar to Photoshop users, letting you move around and zoom in and out of the canvas, and even rotating it to suit a particular brushstroke. It’s more fully featured than Photoshop’s panel, displaying information about the image dimensions and allowing quick access to a number of important tools, although it has to be said it’s not as responsive as Adobe’s equivalent, with a noticeable lag when you try to manoeuvre around a large canvas using the tool.

A redesigned user interface brings the quirky Painter more in line with the sleek usabilty of Photoshop

As well as enhanced library and brush customisation tools, one of the simplest new features is also one of the most welcome in terms of streamlining workflow. The Temporal Colors Palette is accessed via a keyboard shortcut, and essentially the colour wheel pops up right in front of the artwork, saving you from moving over to the colour panel. A small addition perhaps, but it shows that Corel are serious about empowering users to work as efficiently as possible.

Dynamic brush adjustments have also been improved, allowing users to quickly tweak the brush scale, opacity, squeeze and angle with intuitive keyboard shortcuts and their stylus and mouse, rather than having to access a separate panel. Again, it’s a great way to keep the user focused on their artwork.

Two other new features, Mirror and Kaleidoscope painting, might not feel like essential updates to the majority of existing users, but you can’t blame Corel for wanting to encourage new users to have fun and experiment, and no doubt someone will use these features to an impressive extent commercially.

Watercolours have always looked very convincing in Painter, but the new Real Watercolour brushes go even further, enabling true blending and bleeding of watercolour pigments on the canvas. There’s still a bit of a lag, especially with larger brushes, so it doesn’t have the fluidity of actual watercolour painting, but for a convincing simulation of the real thing, your patience is rewarded. Real Wet Oil brushes have also been added, letting you control paint thickness and colour concentration.


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Ethanfg said: Ive been a Painter advocate and serious user for more than 15 years I use this program 7-8 hours a day 5 days a week It is THE production software I use as a professional illustrator This latest release while adding some attractive features is the worst release Corel has ever put out The softwares programmers have yet to resolve many of the earlier versions crash problems the interface redesign makes me question if anyone knows what they are doing or perhaps they are simply outsourcing everything to IndiaIf you created custom palettes of brushes colors commands etc in prior versions be forewarned you will have to recreate every one of them again in this new release If you rely on the portfolio feature create portfolios of images or layers for reuse be forewarned you will run into problems importing many of them into this program If you typically use the paint inside or outside a selection feature found in all prior versions it inexplicably has been hidden in the navigation menu pull downs in this version You can no longer shift select multiple layers in the document you must go to the layers menu and do it there absolutely ridiculous The layers menu is poorly designed and glitchy The brush size in the Dab Profile menu no longer updates in real time as you adjust sliders in the various brush control menus The program continues to crash when dealing with layers text and objects I could go on but suffice it to say if you are a long-time user of this software you will run into more problems and issues that drive you crazy and question your continued use of this software Do not purchase this version wait for Painter 13 and see if they correct their Painter 12 blunder

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