Is the new Corel Painter worth investing in?

We investigate the new features Corel has introduced to see if this already capable painting software makes life any easier.

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Our Verdict

2016 is a solid release for Painter that brings a number of new features to the artist. Yet it's the more subtle enhancements that make it a worthwhile purchase. The custom toolbox is great and, along with the new Photoshop brush import option, does help to make an artist's life easier.

For

  • Speckle Dynamics brush
  • Custom toolboxes
  • Audio Expression
  • Import Photoshop .abr brushes
  • Improved blending tools

Against

  • Audio Expression tool

Painter has been around for a long time, with a loyal fanbase and a mature, fully packed feature set. This means it already does pretty much everything that the majority of digital artists need it to, from excellent traditional brush reproduction and simulation, to beautifully rendered paper texture and a lot more.

That makes it harder for the developers 
to find new tools and features – but Corel has managed to do this with some success for the 2016 edition.

The biggest new feature in 2016 is Dynamic Speckles, which is truly a fantastic tool, especially for those artists looking to add a touch of natural chaos to a piece, or want to add variety to a repetitive area, such as foliage, hair or detail in rock.

painter 2016 review lawrence

The above was painted by Lawrence Mann (see Artist Interview on the right, for more), who was named a Corel Master Painter 2015.

At initial glance, the new brushes look and feel a bit like a preset 2D particles system. But when you dig deeper into the brush settings you have a lot of control over every aspect, from colour variation to jitter, size, opacity and most elements of a brush that need fine tuning.

What's nice is that the brushes are quick to define, enabling you to work at a creative pace, rather than being held back by button pushing and menu surfing. The rendered results are lovely: variations look natural, without the forced pattern look you might expect.

painter review 2016

“I love Painter 2016’s new ability to import .abr files,” says Lawrence. “Now I can bring in all those brushes I’ve created for Photoshop.”

If there's one new feature that feels slightly out of place however, it's the introduction of the Audio Expression tool. In essence, this means you can load in an audio file and Painter will then use the waveforms to control attributes of your stroke.

While having some music on while painting is favoured by many, the transition from background to canvas doesn't feel altogether natural.

Although the strokes are unmistakably varied, it's hard to see how the music is controlling the results. Modern software for artists needs to be versatile, powerful and able to fit into a user's workflow, as seamlessly as possible.

painter review 2016

“Painter isn’t a substitute for Photoshop,” says Lawrence. “Instead, think of them working together symbiotically to create great art.”

Previous versions of Painter have been pretty good at giving you the choice of where to dock palettes and GUI elements, and this new release adds to this with a useful new custom toolbox system.

While not breaking any real new ground, what Painter does allow for is palettes of mixed items. So if you're a particularly focused artist who tends to only use a small handful of tools, you could gather them into one palette, keeping your workspace clear.

painter 2016 review

Lawrence argues all artists have a responsibility to get involved with the development of software and hardware that they use.

2016 is a solid release for Painter that brings a number of new features to the artist. Yet it's the more subtle enhancements that make it a worthwhile purchase. The custom toolbox is great and, along with the new Photoshop brush import option, does help to make an artist's life easier.

While the other new features are a mixed bag, none of them detract from a great painting program, and some help it stand out.

The Verdict

9

out of 10

Corel Painter 2016

2016 is a solid release for Painter that brings a number of new features to the artist. Yet it's the more subtle enhancements that make it a worthwhile purchase. The custom toolbox is great and, along with the new Photoshop brush import option, does help to make an artist's life easier.