Thursday , April 18 2024
New features and memory optimization make Painter X3 is a very worthy upgrade in spite of lingering slowness.

Software Review: Corel Painter X3

Corel Painter X3 is the latest release of Corel’s advanced digital art studio software. By providing the drawing and painting technology, Painter X3 allows artists to pursue their creative endeavors in totally new and inspiring ways.

Corel Painter X3
Corel Painter X3

Corel Painter is aimed at five major groups. The first is commercial designers who require the tools to create their visions for architecture, graphic design, and illustration. Next are concept artists who need tools to speed their production time and create astounding scenes for animation, movie, and video games. In recent years, photographers have begun using Corel Painter to explore new avenues for creative work and additional revenue. Then there are the fine artists who use digital as “just another medium” within the world of fine art. Finally there are students and teachers of art or design who want the ability to learn their craft without the cost, mess, and chemicals associated with traditional art supplies.

So what is new with this version of Corel Painter X3?

Corel Painter X3
Corel Painter X3

Brush Search Engine is a totally new feature that makes it easier to find just the right brush for the job. Simply type a word into the Search Brushes bar and you will be presented with all of the brushes that match the search criteria. By using multiple words you can narrow down your search.

Reference Image panel gives you the ability to keep a visual source of inspiration on your screen while you create. In this way you can enhance your work without disrupting your workflow. You can resize the panel and sample colors from the image.

Inspirational mixers allow you to sample colors from four new mixers that were designed by Painter masters Jeremy Sutton, Karen Bonaker, Skip Allen, and John Malcom. You can also import a RIFF, PSD, JPG, PNG, or TIFF file for use as a custom Color Set Library, which can now include up to 256 colors.

Universal Jitter lets you introduce randomness into your brushstrokes. This version of Painter integrates the jitter expression in a range of brush controls, including opacity, grain, size, angle, airbrush particle size, airbrush flow, liquid ink volume, and color expression. You can now produce unique and irregular brushstrokes which will add a form of personalization to your work.

Jitter Brushes: Included are 25 new jitter brush categories. As with all of the Painter brushes, these jitter brushes are fully customizable and can be personalized as well as exported and shared with others.

Flow maps are textured surfaces that direct the flow of paint as it dries. They work similarly to paper textures in that they produce valleys and peaks on the surface. Designed to work primarily with Watercolor and Real Wet Oil brushes, they let the paint flow and settle in unique and irregular patterns.

Corel Painter X3
Corel Painter X3

Perspective Guides is a new snap-tool that lets you draw more accurately in 1, 2, or 3 point perspectives. These non-printing guides are fully adjustable and are really great when you need to show special depth in your artwork. There are four presets: 1-point standard horizon, 2-point general composition, 3-point top-down, and 3-point worms-eye view. You get primary guidelines that allow you to change the alignment as well as intermediate guidelines to provide visual assistance when zoomed into a document.

Advanced brush controls: contextual brush controls display only the panels and settings relevant to the currently selected brush. This eliminates guesswork and makes the process of adjusting brush properties, settings, and expressions more intuitive.

Brush management and sharing is much easier in Painter X3. You can instantly create, save, and export new brush categories, brush variants, and brush libraries. When you share brushes, the recipient only has to double-click the file, which then launches Painter X3 and automatically imports the brush, category, or library. You can now quickly move or copy any brush variant to any category by simply dragging the variant within the Brush library panel.

Stroke Preview panel offers a much more accurate depiction of how a brushstroke will appear on the canvas. The Stroke Preview is dynamic, offering a real-time visual representation as you adjust parameters such as blending, erasing, mixing, jitter, and texture. This eliminates the need to use a test canvas when adjusting brush settings.

Corel Painter X3
Corel Painter X3

Wacom multi-touch support has been improved and now provides full integration with the entire Wacom product line, including the Intuos5 and the Cintiq 24HD interaction pen displays.

Cloning workflow has been enhanced so that you can position the source image beside the clone and take advantage of the crosshair cursor which indicates the area being cloned. This is especially handy when working in the fine details and provides for better painting accuracy.

Transform across layers: With Painter X3 you can apply a transformation to a selection across multiple layers. You can also apply transformations to layers individually or to multiple layers simultaneously, including layer groups.

Memory has been optimized and Mac users with 64-bit systems can now take full advantage of all available system memory. This is especially useful for memory-intensive tasks, such as working with large canvases and multiple clone sources. PC users with large amounts of RAM will also benefit from the memory optimizations introduced with Painter X3.

Corel Painter X3
Corel Painter X3

Adobe Photoshop support has been improved to allow you to save layers, layer masks, alpha channels and composite methods when transferring files between Painter X3 and Photoshop. This will let you take advantage of Photoshop plug-ins for more creative options.

• Coming soon: Leap – motion gesture support. This is a feature that will allow you to paint freestyle by moving your fingers through the air using Leap Motion Technology. If you want to read more about it you can check out the Painter Freestyle beta site.

Corel Painter is the standard for digital painting. While other products are coming on with added features, there is just no way that they will compete with Painter for all of the tools that it has and its commitment to painting. The two biggest complaints about Painter have been, and still are to some degree, the tough learning curve for beginners and how it can be slow when dealing with larger files and many layers. X3 improves on these in a couple of ways.

Corel Painter X3
Corel Painter X3

First, the memory management has been improved upon. It still has some slowdowns when you have several applications open at the same time such as Photoshop, Lightroom, and Corel Painter. Second, Corel has addressed some of the learning curve with the advanced brush controls which take the confusion out of which controls affect which brushes. The same goes for the brush search feature. While not a big deal, until you understand which brushes that you are likely to work with, this makes it easier for the beginner.

Other things that make this an interesting upgrade include the Reference Image palette. Although it would have been nice to have the ability to open more than just one at a time, especially for those who create composite paintings and may have a need for several references. The inspirational mixers are a nice addition as is the eyedropper tool that is selected by default in the mixer palette. The jitter options, perspective guide, and support for multi-touch really round out this version.

While not an overwhelming update, this one brings quite a number of things that make
Painter X3 a very worthy upgrade. You can also download a free trial from Corel.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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