|Corel Painter IX|
Review of the latest version of this artistic expression powerhouse
Corel Painter for a long time has been the premier natural media paint program. If you are an artist Painter is one of the best mediums for digital expression. Now as the digital wave is sweeping over photography and video, Painter IX arrives with a number of tweaks and enhancements that will attract photographers and video artists to the fold.
Painter IX adds to its unique digital water color, impasto, and liquid ink brush strokes the new artist oil brush which emulates oil brush strokes with a finite amount of paint per stroke. Like watercolor and ink, artist oils blend in with the underlying co lour and smear and carry the underlying colors as well. The default settings have an uncanny "real oil color" feel to them. Artist oils coupled with the new Brush control (see lower left dialog box in the screenshot) and enhanced Mixer for Colors really speed up painting work. And Corel has added performance improvements so that brush and paint operations are notably faster and more reliable. One of the bugaboos working with Painter versus Adobe Photoshop and other paint programs was Painter's infrequent but pesky crashes. Three days of testing and no crashes so far. Finally, Corel has added a whole bunch of tools such as Quick Clone, Animation controls, and Paint to Path that will delight photofinishers and video artists. Smart photofinishers and animators are just going to love this tool.
Painter's Philosophy : Closely Emulate Natural Media
1)Background paper - effects painting depending on the brush used to paint on the paper/canvas
2)Patterns - images to be tile-filled or painted onto the paper/canvas for different results
3)Gradient - sweep of colors to be painted or filled on paper/canvas
4)Weave - repeating matrix gradient to be spilled/filled onto paper/canvas
5)Nozzle - a set of related small images to be sprayed on paper/canvas
And later a Look was added that encapsulated a selection of Paper, Pattern, Gradient and Weave for easily restoring to Painter's effects settings. But the most important innovation for Painter was the wide range of brushes from airbrush, conte, crayon to oils, pastels and pencils.
Painter has over its various versions created more brushes that are very
good approximations to their natural artistic counterparts; but also has
for these brushes. Users now can control a wealth of characteristics about
brushes they use:
For example, consider the one-click ease of operation of the brushes and colors. The Tracker dialog shows the most recently used brushes; so switching between brushes is just a click away. And the new Brush Control dialog makes it simple to adjust these setting with simple mouse clicks. It is trivial to try various settings, quickly undo a operation(CTL+Z), and try again. A colleague who specializes in airbrush and water color works wishes the real equipment was this easy to manipulate and fine tune. Likewise for fine tuning colors, there is both the the distinctive triangle in a circular arc Color Palette of Painter plus the new Color Mixer palette that allows artists to mix and blend colors much as they do in the real world. But most important changing colors on a brush is just one click away with either the Color Palette or Mixer. However, picking up a color from the image requires 3 steps (click the letter D on the keyboard to switch to the Dropper tool; then click on the part of the image where you want to pick up a specific color, finally click on the letter B on the keyboard to switch back to the brush). But in general, artists can quickly move between colors and brushes and taking back(or undoing) a stroke or two is just a tap of CTL-Z (but only back 32 times).Artistic convenience is catered to with Painter IX
there is more. Painter IX adds to this its unique set of digital artistic
media. We have already mentioned the paper, pattern, gradient, and weave
features which most other paint programs have felt compelled to copy. As
well, many of the Painter IX brush methods are just one click away.
To this brush virtuosity, Painter has over the years perfected its specialized
digital media such as digital watercolor, liquid ink, impasto, pattern
hose and now the new artist oils media(all used in the screenshot above).
Each of these digital media has an uncanny ability to emulate natural media
very well yet also give artists that creative extra flare if they chose
to use it.The result is that,
for painters and
other digital tool
as media-versatile and easy to use as
At OCA-Ontario College
of Art, there was a cadre of students who did a lot of work manipulating
Polaroid camera instant photos. Using a pencil or stylus, the developing
manipulated by drawing on it with a heated, cooled, wet and/or chemically
doped stylus. Artists had 30-60 seconds to work on the image before it
developed. Afterwards one could paint over the image - but strangely, that
was considered bad form. They became known as half-minute photo masterpieces.
Painter IX has recreated
the ability to do just such Polaroid masterpieces ... and then some.
However, Painter IX has a full range of tools to do photo, animation cell or video image edits. Painter IX can accommodate all three mediums with input for dozens of popular photo file formats including Photoshop PSD files with all layers and masks kept intact, animation sequences with a protected background cel or a video sequence of frames cut for special effects modification.Also there is a good set of tools for Image manipulation including cropping, resizing, rotating, and correcting distortions. As well in the Effects | Tonal Control menu item there is a full set of 9 color correction tools. The bottom line is that Painter is at least as as photofinishing capable as say Adobe Photoshop Elements or Ulead Photo Impact.
For example, the toolbox
in the screenshot at the top of this page will be familiar to Corel
or Adobe Photoshop
tools, vector shape and pen drawing plus alteration tools. There is also
a text input (with a robust set of options). In addition the screenshot
layering dialog that is as capable as the ones used in Corel Paint Shop
Pro or Ulead's Photo Impact if not quite equivalent to Adobe Photoshop.
In sum, Painter IX has all the basic feature set of some of the best
photofinishing programs but adds
to that two unique features: the best set of brushes and natural media
plus a unique set of filters and special effects.
We have already seen Painter IX's natural brush features. Now Corel has added oomph to an already unique set of filters and special effects. First, though its important to note that Corel is able utilize any existing Adobe-compliant plugins - there are hundreds available from dozens of third parties.
The new effects are courtesy of KPT-Kai's Power Tools that adds:
The two most useful of these filters are Goo which allows creative distortion
which can add a wacky whimsy or surreal effects to an image; and Reaction
which takes embossing and line fills to a new level because the Reaction
filter is well aware of color and line boundaries in a drawing or image.
However, KPT is far from being the whole show in Painter IX
Also there are two personal favorites. The Apply Lighting filter allows users to apply multiple lights with with distinctive color, spread, and brightness settings. The Lighting filter has about two dozen preset lighting options which can be quickly tries out and then modified to achieve the exact effect desired. The Apply Screen allows the user to create a duotone or tritone image with selected coloring and shading effects in just a few moments - very nice. On the downside there are some filters such as Image Warp and Serigraphy both ignore any selections and apply their effects to the whole screen. Also both filters lack positioning controls and extra lighting matches in the case of Serigraphy. And in general, Painter IX has some of the poorest preview capabilities of all the graphics programs. However, some of the filters are so distinct and useful they make up for the Painter IX effects flaws.
In contrast, Painter IX comes with a full set of documentation. Its printed Users Guide is one of the best and most thorough intros into the world of digital graphics and photo finishing this reviewer has seen. All the commands and features are covered and with good visual examples and detail. In addition, there are free online tutorials available from Corel and Lynda.com which show how to take advantage of Painter IX features with animations and video clips. Finally, the helps system itself, take after the Users Manual in it concise but thorough discussion of every topic.
Another professional touch is Painter IX's approach to color management. Every graphic device (be it a scanner, printer, projector, slide creator, color display/monitor, or other graphic device) has its own unique color gamut - that is the array of colors it is capable of reproducing or displaying. Therefore transferring images between the devices can lead to color mismatches. Users most frequently see this when printing on an ink jet or laser printer. The colors printed don't match the exact shades and/or overall brightness and contrast seen on the display. But if you follow Painter IX color management commands, neatly outlined in a special Adobe PDF tutorial(its in the Help folder), professional users will find Painter IX very capable of keeping colors manageable and under control when switching between graphics devices.
Finally, Painter IX has a scripting tool that is similar to but a bit more convenient and powerful than the history command in Adobe Photoshop. Scripting allows users to record part or a complete graphic drawing or photofinishing session. Then its relatively easy to go back and edit the script such that the mistakes and redraws are cutout. One can also insert into the script some additional script commands recorded for a special session.
Painter IX is not without its blemishes. This reviewer finds it frustrating that when opening an image file, the preview is not available until Painter has written to the file at least once to provide the thumbnail. All the other Corel programs such as Draw and PhotoPaint can do an immediate preview - why not Painter IX ? Likewise, despite being part of the Corel fold for at least 3 versions, the Painter developers have not seen fit to borrow from the Corel PhotoPaint or Corel Draw programs the excellent preview facilities. These preview features allow users to see the before and after or the after alone as reflected on whole canvas (but immediately removed if the operation is cancelled). But these are minor annoyances given the power and ease of use that Painter IX brings to photofinishing, animations and most important - from scratch drawing and painting. Its been said before but bears repeating - Painter IX is uncanny in its ability to provide natural media look and feel in the digital world. But then Painter IX takes it to a new level because any and all of these media and effects can be combined and used to provide subtle to wow artistic expressions either impossible or discouragingly difficult to do elsewhere. Painter IX is the real digital painting deal.
Jacques Surveyer has a website full of Painter enhanced images, see SportPics.ca.