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Software Review – Corel Painter X

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Corel Painter X is the latest release of Corel's advanced digital art studio software. The goal of this version is to continue to focus on the fundamentals of art technique, and theory, while adding new features that help artists achieve perfect compositions.

Corel Painter X is focused on four major groups. First are Commercial Designers who require tools to create their visions. Next, Entertainment Artists who need tools to speed their production time. Photographers have, in recent years, begun using Corel Painter to explore new avenues for creative work, and additional revenue. Finally, there are the Fine Artists who use digital as "just another medium" within the world of art.

What do you need to run Corel Painter X? Well Windows or Mac; 700 MHz or better (Intel Mac as well). 256 MB (512 recommended) Mouse or Tablet. 24-bit Color display with 1024×768 screen resolution. CD-Rom and around 350 MB hard disk space.

So what is new with this version of Corel Painter X?

• RealBristle Painting System – This heightens the responsiveness of the brush for the artist, and is a break through for digital painting. It allows the artist to more realistically replicate the interaction between the paint, canvas, and the brush. It really gives the bend, and splay look, as one would expect with a real brush; see the image below.

Real Bristle Image courtesy Cher Threinen-Pendarvis• Divine Proportion – Is a tool that allows the artist to arrange their canvas prior to drawing or painting. This technique has been used since 300 BC, and can be used to assist artists create visually stunning compositions. By using the tool, you can visually arrange the canvas in a precise formula, for more appealing images; see the image below.

• Layout Grid – There are three preset Layout Grids; Rule of thirds, 3×5, and 5×5, or the user can customize to any configuration of choice. This helps the artist arrange the canvas, or photo, prior to drawing, or painting. This helps layout the form so that they fit properly and look right on the page.

• Photo Painting System – This has been enhanced to make it easier for photographers to create beautiful paintings from photos. There are new enhancements to Underpainting; which prepares a photo for cloning (see the image below), Auto-Painting Palette for transforming a photo to a painting by automatically applying random paint strokes, and Restoration Palette: a mechanism for touching up a painting manually with one of two special brushes. I found these enhancements fun to work with. To show how easy it is, this image was created in about 15 minutes.

Image courtesy T. Michael Testi
• Universal Mixer palette – This feature gives you more control over color selection when using Artists' Oil brushes, RealBristle brushes, or any other bristle type brush.

• Dodge and Burn tools – allow you to dodge or lighten overexposed areas of an image, and burn, darkening underexposed regions of an image.

• Photoshop Support – With Corel Painter X, the layer behavior is very similar to Adobe Photoshop, which now makes moving files between the two very simple. You can open Photoshop PSD files in Corel Painter X with layer masks, alpha channels, and layer sets maintained. This is something that, to me is very important.

 Divine Proportion Image courtesy Andrew Jones• Printed User Guide – This is a 325 page in color, indexed user guide. It is in a large looped spiral bound format, so that it easily lays flat on the desk.

• Jeremy Sutton Training Videos – These are included with the purchase of Corel Painter X, and are from a well known Painter Master.

• Painter on the 'Net' tab in the welcome book that provides you to links to the Painter community, as well as online resources such as tutorials, tips and tricks, and special offers.

Added to all this is Universal Binary support which means that this will run on both types of Mac's; Intel- and PowerPC. There is a workspace manager that allows the sharing of customized workspaces. There is an enhanced color management system that retains setting between Corel Painter X sessions. Finally there is a new Secure Saving and Auto-Backup feature that gives more protection in case there is a power outage or system crash.

All in all Corel Painter X is to be a great product for the digital artist. It is fast for all the potential that is built in. From a photographer's perspective, I find that the features in Corel Painter X are useful, whether for adding touch up highlights, doing full paint conversions, or somewhere in between. While, there are many things that can be done easily, this is a complex program, and to get really good will take time and effort. That said, with the native file compatibility for Adobe Photoshop, I don't think that there is any limitation to what can be done with Corel Painter X.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.