Corel Painter 2020 review

Corel Painter 2020 tackles performance, workflow and tools – is this the best version of Painter we've seen?

Corel Painter 2020 interface
(Image: © Artwork by Jesus Viveros)

Our Verdict

Corel Painter 2020 takes a three-pronged approach: it tackles how you paint, how you control the software, and how to get the best performance from your hardware setup. The result is the slickest version of Painter to date.


  • Reduced lag with traditional media brushes
  • More streamlined interface
  • Useful new colour tools

Why you can trust Creative Bloq Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Corel Painter 2020 offers a raft of new and updated painting features, as well as interface improvements. Headline updates include a performance optimisation options, a refined Brush Selector tool, and new colour selection tools. Corel’s flagship painting software is now in its 29th year, and its one-off price tag (£359.99, or £180 to upgrade a previous version) will appeal to artists who want to avoid going down the subscription software route.

But does how does this software stack up in our ranking of the best digital art software? In this Corel Painter 2020 review, we take a closer look at the updates, and whether they make this tool a worthwhile investment.

Corel Painter 2020: Performance optimisation

Corel Painter 2020 aims to get the most from your hardware with the new Brush Accelerator tool. This assesses your system and then applies optimal performance settings. Stamp brushes benefit from GPU acceleration, and you can choose which brushes receive a hardware boost.

Corel Painter 2020 interface

You can quickly identify all the installed brushes that will benefit from GPU acceleration (Image credit: Artwork by Michelle Webb)

Corel states you can "paint up to 20 times faster" with its Brush Accelerator, and we certainly noticed a reduction in lag when painting with traditional media brushes. You can also use the tool to adjust CPU performance to improve the overall software experience, and gain insights on how best to upgrade your system. 

Corel Painter 2020: Interface updates

The previous version of Painter had a cluttered workspace that often interrupted your creative flow. Painter 2020 now only displays the configuration options that are relevant to your chosen tool, which results in a more streamlined interface. Clever grouping of settings within pop-out Consolidated Library panels, together with tool icons that change appearance depending on your setting choices, create the impression that Corel’s developers have acted on feedback from artists.

Painter 2020’s slimmed-down Brush Selector displays sub-categories of brushes, where you can view Dab and Stroke previews at a glance. Previously, you’d have to hover your cursor over a brush to display its Dab shape. The Brush Selector is highly configurable, enabling you to display more or less information in the software’s interface. As you become more used to the software, we imagine you’d be able to pare back the interface significantly.

Corel Painter 2020: Painting improvements

How you choose colour in the software has also been given an overhaul. The highly customisable Universal Color Wheel has a standard look across all tools. There’s now a preview feature, while the slider controls are coloured. You can also pick your colours using hue, saturation and value, choose to pin or unpin the wheel, and even set the wheel in left-handed mode.

Corel Painter 2020 interface

The latest version of Painter adjusts the choice of harmonious colours as you paint (Image credit: Artwork by Bo Ara)

The new Color Harmonies tool displays colours that are harmonious to your current choice, across six modes including analogous and complementary. This feature will benefit both aspiring and pro artists in helping them to achieve the best colour choices in their artworks. 

Layers are a staple of digital art, and  in Painter 2020 it’s a case of evolution rather than revolution. Right-clicking or cmd-clicking a layer displays a pop-out contextual menu with a range of options, which is preferable to having to access them through the main Layers menu. The options to collapse, lock, select and paste layers are all time-savers that will further streamline your creative process.

This Corel Painter 2020 review was originally published in ImagineFX magazine. Subscribe here, or check out the rest of our ImagineFX articles on Creative Bloq.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

The Verdict

out of 10

Corel Painter 2020 review

Corel Painter 2020 takes a three-pronged approach: it tackles how you paint, how you control the software, and how to get the best performance from your hardware setup. The result is the slickest version of Painter to date.

Harvey Bunda is Gunship Revolution’s creative director. He’s also been a freelance artist for more than a decade.