Corel's Painter IX, Reviewed

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Review - Corel Painter IX

Corel released its Painter IX version this fall. Their motto is "Made By Hand." And new and improved features follow that precept by looking more and more as if they came directly from an artist's brush in hand. A good example is the new Artist Oil Paint System whereby a brush can actually be set to fade out and run out of paint; thus simulating a real brush.

Corel Painter IX ships in both full and upgrade versions with a handbook including tutorials; access to downloadable tutorials by Lynda.com; libraries of brushes, nozzles, gradients, etc.; and a 400+ page pdf User Guide on the CD. Also, there is wonderful documentation in the training section of Corel's website that can be accessed from within Painter IX as well.

Minimum System Requirements

Macintosh®:
Mac® OS X (version 10.2.8 or higher)
Power Macintosh® G3, 500 MHz or greater
128 MB RAM
Mouse or tablet
24-bit color display
1024x768 screen resolution
CD-ROM


Windows®:
Windows® 2000 or Windows XP (with the latest service packs)
Pentium® II, 400 MHz or greater
128 MB RAM
Mouse or tablet
24-bit color display
1024x768 screen resolution
CD-ROM
Upgrade Eligibility

The price for Painter IX (US) is: $429.00 full; $299.00 upgrade in the box. One can also download painter IX for a little less. The price for that is: $399.00 full; $199.00 upgrade.

At present, Corel is running a special with Wacom, the maker of digitizing tablets. Personally, I have used these tablets for the past 15 years and even carry one with me for my laptop. The new Intuos 3 is integrated so well with Painter IX that one does not need to use the keyboard much at all. The bundle is really impressive especially if one purchases the 9x12 tablet which is the one I would recommend. I tested it and wrote a review about it. The savings are great! And I do not work for either company. See Wacom and Corel to learn more about the products and special purchase.

Corel Painter IX boasts an increase in speed, especially brushes; stability; ease of use; integration with Photoshop files; and realism through the new Artist Oil Paint System and Water Color Brushes. The foregoing just outlines a few of the highlights of this new version.

Since brushes and paint are at the core of any painting system, we'll start by exploring those areas. After or during this review, I might suggest that you download a demo of Painter IX so that you can test these for yourself.

When one opens Corel Painter IX, one sees a welcome screen in the form of a book. Each tab on the welcome screen gives the user more insight into Painter IX. The second picture shows the last section (shortcuts) of the book.

Corel breaks its improvements and new features into four categories: Performance and Productivity, Creativity, Compatibility, and Learning.

Performance and Productivity

The Welcome screen which is removable, gives an introduction to some of the areas of Corel Painter IX. It is a good quick reference tool. As you can see, one can open up recent documents, existing documents, templates, etc. directly from it as well as reset one's individual Brush Tracking.

The first item one will notice is that the brushes are much much faster. Yes, two or more muches are in order. I did not find that I had to wait any more for a brush to draw or follow itself. There is even a slider on the General Palette of the Brush Controls to boost the speed more.

Corel has revamped the brush controls to make it easier to access and change brushes. Even though some of the palettes are the same or similar to those found in Painter 8, taken as a whole, the improvement is wonderful. It is easy to change a brush on the fly and now for the first time a special palette can be created with all the information one needs for a particular project. This palette can contain, brushes, commands, etc. Below are some of the palettes from Painter IX. It is easy to see how they relate to each other.

In the Brush Control palette on the right. Each category can be opened as well as docked separately.

All Palettes - Brush Controls Brush Controls Palettes
Brush Creator - Similar to Painter 8 Brush Selector - Similar to Painter 8
Custom Palette

Creating the custom palette simplified my work tremendously. Between using it and the shortcuts for brush sizing ("]" denoting bigger and denoting "[" smaller), the speed of my work increased and so did my creativity because I didn't have to create brush libraries and keep opening them continuously.

Shortcuts are an integral part of Painter IX. They are discussed in Customizing Corel Painter IX: Shortcut keys. Under Edit>Preference, one will find Shortcut Keys where commands can be assigned.

There are other productivity and performance improvements in this release of Painter such as: scratch disk placement - now, one can place the scratch disk wherever it will perform the fastest; frames-per-second manipulation for movie creation and editing; and multi-user support whereby users on a network can store files in a user file directory. Also, all settings in Painter IX can be set to default by holding down the shift key when opening Painter.

There are two other items that I want to highlight: the improved Tracker palette and the new Iterative Save. The tracker palette has added two commands enabling the user to save a brush stroke as a variant even well after it has been performed.

The Iterative Save allows a work in progress to be saved as many times as desired with the file name for example being: ant_000.tif, ant_001.tif, ant_002.tif, etc. Any of these saves can be recalled and even combined out of order. Suppose that a sunset was wonderful in version 2, but was ruined in version 5, but the foreground was great in 5. If the subject allowed for it, both these versions could be created together into a version 6. in other words 006.tif.

Creativity

When I think of Corel's Painter IX, one of the first new features I think about is its Artists' Oil Painting System A quick comparison of brush variables between the Oil paints and the Artists' Oils will explain part of the richness of this system

Artists' Oils
Oils

Earlier in this review, I showed the Artists' Oil palette open under the heading: Brush Control palettes. The following is a list of Artists' Oil brushes. The textures one can get are impressive.

One setting for the Artists' Oils that really is nice is the Dirty Brush Setting. This setting can be turned on and off. It is on the Artists' Oils Palette as well as in the Mixing Palette but has a different function in the latter place. Line #1 was created with a brush stroke of red as line #2 was created with yellow. Line #3 was created with the red over the yellow, and it blended to an orange; however, in line #4, notice that the orange is only continued if the Dirty mode was selected in the Artists' Oils Palette. When not selected, the original color continued "pure" for the new line.

A paint form that has been enhanced is the Digital Watercolor. Now paint will stay wet between sessions and the wet fringe can be changed dynamically after the cessation of the brush stroke. However, For the fringe to change noticeably, the Diffusion indicator has to be at or near 0.

 

One would expect to find Snap-To-Path in an Illustration program, but Corel has incorporated it into Painter IX. It is an excellent feature for painting exact lines.

From Top Tool Bar Example of Painting around a Shape

Remember how many steps it took to clone an image. With Quick Clone it just takes one and its properties can be set under Edit>Preferences>General. One can choose whether one wants to create an exact clone or use different brush strokes to create a varied piece of art work. Any brush can become a cloner by hitting the Rubber Stamp indicator on the Colors palette. In addition, Cloning can be selected from the Brush Controls menu and specific Cloners can be created from regular brushes. There are almost 40 different built in cloners.

Corel has added seven KPT plug-ins to the other effects on the effects menu. In addition, plug-ins from other sources can be added as well. Painter IX also has some Dynamic plugins. Two of these were used to create the changed images below.

Original Image Liquid Lens Glass Distortion

Compatibility

In the past, switching between Painter and Photoshop had always been somewhat of a chore. While one could do it in recent versions and retain PSD files, working with both programs was sometimes awkward. However, in Painter IX, while creating some of the screen shots, adding text, and making selections, I forgot that I wasn't in Photoshop. Finally, the standard moves are standard. Painter is still not an image editing program and does not pretend to be; for example, color select is a problem to use because of the preview size of the image and the selection. However, one can now do standard image editing movements comfortably.

In addition, when I bring images into Painter IX from Photoshop or visa versa, the color remains the same. Painter IX boasts an enhanced color engine, however, I found that the default settings worked very well for me. Since I have always done the majority of my work in Photoshop, I have always made sure it was color calibrated. I have always had to work with the color settings. I brought my standard calibration file into Painter IX. This is made up of some digital images of colorful objects in my home as well as Trumatch swatches and a grayscale. I always make sure that these look correct on the monitor and print accurately. I printed two tests - one from Photoshop and one from Painter IX. I used the default settings in Painter IX. They were both the same and matched the monitor. I, then, created a file of rgb, cmy colors directly in Painter IX. These colors matched those created in Photoshop and printed out equally well. Thus, I know that I can create in both programs and my colors will match. The color space I was using in both programs was was RGB.

The Color Management Palette can be set up in numerous ways. There is a very good tutorial on Color Management that can be accessed through the link on the last page of the Welcome screen under "Color Management." It will take you step by step through the different ways it can be set up including explanations. I tried no color management (which seems to be the way a new canvas appears), default, and optimized for desktop printing. I did not find variations either on the screen or printed. All were excellent. The picture on the right shows the On/Off toggles on the upper right side of the canvas. Two Color Management screens are shown below.

Default Color Management Optimized for Desktop

There are settings under each of the symbols as well as settings accessed when the RGB colors are clicked.

Painter IX worked very well with my Wacom Intuos 2. However. The Intuos 3 and Painter IX are created to be used together. Wacom sent me an Intuos 3 loaner tablet to test with Painter IX.

Learning

Painter IX comes with many learning aids. While the hardcopy handbook is interesting and does have some excellent tutorials, in my opinion, it is not very useful beyond that. It is, however, interesting to see how Painter evolved and inspiring to see the type of work that can be created in Painter IX. The manual the comes on the CD is much better. I copied it from the CD onto my desktop so it would be available. The free Lynda.com tutorials are very good. For more information on Corel courseware go to: courseware.

So far I have discussed what is new or enhanced in Painter IX. However, if you are a newby and have never used Painter before, what can you expect? Firstly, you can expect a product that is user friendly. It is easy to create brushes in Painter IX and change them on the fly. The top tool bar is context sensitive and it lists many of the variables for each brush. You can, also, access these variable through drop down menus. Examples of these have been pictured above. Also there is a brush creator to remake and rename brushes.

The left side shows the changes available for a brush as well as the stroke while the right side is for testing the brush as you develop it. As stated earlier, if I have made changes in a lot of brushes from a brush library, I can turn them back to default. My own brushes I can rename and put in a library and/or on a customized palette so that they are readily available. The brushes are the heart of Painter. The mixer palette and color sets have been around, but for the new user, I will present them. One can make color sets from an image. I will use this as an example. I opened a photomontage I created and the Color Sets palette. I, then, clicked on the right triangle on the color sets palette and when the fly-out menu flew out, selected New Color Set from Image. Below are all the colors in the image.

Since I decided not to use the color sets, but to create my own colors as I went along, I divided the image into sections as I worked on it and put sample colors from the image onto the Mixing palette. I selected the Eye Dropper from the Tools bar and the Apply Color Brush from the Mixer. I picked up the color from the image with the Eye Dropper and then brushed it onto the Mixer. Once I was satisfied with these blues that I could work with and modify, and add to, of course, I clicked on the right arrow on the Mixer palette and accessed its fly-out menu. I, then, chose Save Mixer Pad and placed the file (sky.MXS) into the folder where I was collecting all my material for this image. At anytime I can just do Open Mixer Pad and select that file.

Since I was not going to clone my photomontage but loosely copy it, I created a custom palette that would hold my brush variants so they would be easily accessible and, as stated above, I put all my mixer and color set files in my art folder that I created for this project. One does not have to keep everything in the Painter folder.

Painter has always contained many types of paper surfaces. The defaults can be further manipulated, and once they are, added to the finished image through the top tool bar: Effects>Surface Control>Apply Surface Texture.

Example of Paper Palette Some Paper Surfaces

Finally, lets look at the Wacom Intuos 3 graphic tablet and explore how it interacts with Painter IX. The Intuos 3 has made my work easier because I can customize the Keys on the right and left of the pressure sensitive pad as well as the Touch Strip.

Thus, if I do a lot of undoes, for example, I can customize a left key for undo and its right equivalent for something else. Really a nice time saver! If you will notice, in the menu below next to applications, the selected icon is Painter IX. I can individualize the tablet keys and the touch strip for different programs.


This is by far the easiest and I believe best Painter version ever. If you have never used a digitizing tablet, the bundle is a perfect way to start!


The Paula Sanders Report
is a regular Renderosity Front Page featured column,
where Paula investigates and comments on
graphic software, techniques, and other relevant material
through her reviews, tutorials, and general articles.


Paula invites you to visit her personal website Perptual Visions.
She loves to hear from readers and answer questions.
Also, please take a stroll through Paula's Renderosity Art Gallery.

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Member Opinions:
By: Saddha on 2/15/05
Many thanks for this extremely detailed and well- organized review. It's definitely a thoughtful service to Painter 8 users wondering about Painter IX features.

By: FairyRaptor on 2/15/05
Very good review. Thank you.

By: claridad on 2/16/05
As a new owner of both Painter IX & a Wacom tablet I found your review very informative. I have a lot to learn.

By: dbutenhof on 2/16/05
I've used Painter since very early versions. It's always evolved with each version, but often in an inconsistent and faltering fashion -- and sometimes in odd directions. The change has always included enough real and significant improvement to be worth the upgrade (though one or two were "iffy"), but there's almost always been enough "backsliding" that it was hard to ever give a 100% positive review. It got slow. It screwed up parts of the interface, or broke old features.

Painter IX breaks the mold. I've encountered no change that's not an improvement. Some new, some bring back lost bits of old releases. And the speed improvements... "much much" indeed, and perhaps that's an unfair understatement. The new oil tool is awe inspiring.

If anyone's ever felt Painter was "almost there", but "not quite"... Painter IX is what you've been waiting for. The review is "spot on".

By: Paula Sanders on 2/17/05
I just want to say how much I appreciate the comments and the time everyone has taken to write them.

By: deemarie on 2/17/05
Outstanding product review Paula - it is so great to see your name on the Rosity Front Page again - I missed your insightful and informative reviews and tutorials :)

Welcome back :)

Dee-Marie

By: nemirc on 2/17/05
I like the review. Not a Painter user but I did find it interesting.

By: Mec4D on 2/18/05
excellent product review, Painter is the best!

By: marchartam on 2/19/05
This review is excellent and just what I needed
to know about upgrading to nine from eight thank you very much

By: keweljewels on 2/21/05
I've been using nine, and the review just doest touch on all the features. it is really great.

By: Gnomeboy on 2/22/05
I messed about with IX endlessly all week long, just picked it up. It's cool beans in my book, in spite of wearing the corel name.

By: Stormi on 2/23/05
Thank you for this wonderful review. I'm definately going to look into this version
of Painter. If Mec4D likes it then it must
be good. =)

By: kainxxx2000 on 2/24/05
that not a bad price for a 9x12 wacom table and the program humm now i need to save my money


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