Paula Sanders Report - Corel Painter 8

MonkeyLek · July 7, 2003 3:26 pm

When I read how much Corel updated its newest version of Painter, version 8, I was anxious to try it, especially since it had simplified its interface and made the program more compatible to Photoshop. I am reviewing it from the perspective of the Photoshop user who spends the majority of his or her time in Photoshop. I use Windows 2000. The minimum system requirements reproduced from the Corel website are: Macintosh: Mac OS 9 (version 9.2.2 or higher) or Mac OS X (version 10.2 or higher) Power Macintosh G3 or higher 128 MB RAM 1024 x 768 display, 24-bit color CD-ROM drive Mouse or tablet (Wacom tablet recommended) Windows: Windows 2000 or Windows XP Pentium processor, 200 MHz or higher 128 MB RAM 1024 x 768 display 24-bit color CD-ROM drive Mouse or tablet (Wacom tablet recommended) The suggested retail price for Corel Painter 8 is $299 US for the full version and $149 US for the upgrade version. Also, Adobe Photoshop 5.5 - 7.0 and Painter Classic users are qualified to purchase the upgrade version of Corel Painter 8 for a limited time, but only in North America. For people not familiar with Painter, Painter is primarily a powerful painting application containing, as a secondary aspect, image editing tools as well. However, its main strength is in its ability to reproduce natural media effects through the use of a tremendous number of natural-media preset brushes, all of which can be modified in an infinite number of ways and in version 8 even combined with other types of brushes for new types of "yet to be invented" media. Version 8 finally closes the gap between the compatibility issue with Photoshop. This will be demonstrated later in the review. The program comes with two disks, an application disk and a goodies disk. For those familiar with the older versions of Painter, the following are some of the newer features of Painter 8, many of which I have illustrated with screen capture shots. The first is visible when Painter 8 opens. The screen is less cluttered. Palettes can be grouped, docked, and undocked.
Notice that the former control's palette (see below) is now attached the the upper tool bar; however, it can be undocked and moved to another location. It has become a more complete context sensitive property bar.
The brushes have undergone a revitalization. Most of this I believe is positive although one aspect I do not like. There are 400 new brushes in Painter 8 in 30 different mediums. There is also a very useful tracking palette which can be seen in the screen shot of the interface. This will hold the currently created and used brushes and can be retained even when the document is closed. The brush builder has been augmented so that one can try out a brush on the right side to see how it will look. Once created it goes automatically into the brush tracker.
Graphic1029.jpg The only new addition in the brush area that I didn't like was how the selection of brushes was set up. If you notice the interface (above), on the far right, are two pictures and arrows next to them that signify that there are more tools available. That is the default location for the brush selector which is shown in a magnified version to the right. I find this awkward to use because it will not stay open even though you can dock it elsewhere or leave it free standing. Even though the tracker is extremely handy, visually, I would prefer to be able to access the brushes without having to open a palette which then automatically closes. What is easier, however, in version 8 is that I can make minor changes to a brush without having to activate the brush creator by using the brush variant (pictured to the right of the screen shot of the brush categories) and the context sensitive property bar.
In the Brush Creator (see below) are three tabs Randomizer, Transposer, and Stroke Designer. If all the brushes contained in Painter 8 were not enough, now one can create random brushes. Through the transposer, as mentioned earlier in the review, one can combine the properties of more than one brush. The Stroke Designer makes use of special properties such as Impasto and Digital Water Color which is new to Painter 8. Digital Water Color is a simple medium that can be used to create transparent washes. As are true with all the brush components, it can be used to create a variety of brushes.
The mixing palette is a really nice addition to Painter 8. Fortunately, it stays open and is very easy to use. Below is a screen shot of the palettes I keep open. I work with two monitors and I keep all my palettes on one monitor so I have more room to work. In the mixing palette, one accesses the above colors with a n eye dropper and then mixes them with a brush or palette knife. These custom colors can be saved.
The middle area holds the layers and channels palettes. These are very close cousins to those in Photoshop and an image opened in Photoshop will contain the same information in these palettes as it does when opened in Painter 8.
The next group of screen shots shows the layers' structure for both Photoshop 7 and Painter 8 while the group after that shows the channel menu.
Finally, alpha channels containing modifying masks will appear the same in both programs and will follow the file from Photoshop to Painter and the reverse.
Another new feature in Painter 8 is the new Sketch feature. With it you can create a black and white sketch from a colored photograph. I tried a number of pictures and was not satisfied with the outcome. I would have had to do a lot of work to the "sketched" image in order to make it presentable. The controls for this effect are shown below.
And the original image and "sketched" image are also pictured below.
As I hope can be seen from this review, Corel has added some very nice features to Painter 8. For the Photoshop user, Painter 8 is finally very easy to use and can extend almost indefinitely what one can do with natural media materials. Since Corel is offering an upgrade price to Photoshop users, this should make this package especially enticing. Be sure to check out their downloadable demo on their website. If this special site has been changed, go to and look for the 30 day free trial demo.
Paula can be reached by e-mail if you have any questions. More reviews can be found on her two web sites: Ephemeral Visions and Perpetual Visions. Check out Paula's past Columns.

Article Comments

Gunderstorm ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 09 July 2003

Looks like Corel's shopping for a lawsuit - the similarities in palettes is dangerously close to Photoshop's.

lydian ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 11 July 2003

Yep yep, thats exactly what I was thinking.

JVRenderer ( posted at 12:00AM Sat, 12 July 2003

or maybe a merger? Adobe Painter 9? Adobe Bryce 6?

Rio ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 15 July 2003

nah a lot of programs try for a similar layout to PS because thats what most people always use. And its esp what i really like about P8... I didnt use painter as much before, mostly because since i mainly work in Photoshop with a LOT of layers and layer groups, my layer groups would get broken up upon importing my psd's into Painter, and remain that way back in Photoshop and vice versa- if i made layer groups in Painter they wouldnt transfer into PS. This new version of painter fixes that and makes it all the more easier for me to switch between painter and PS. the main reason for which i will finally be using painter a LOT more now. I really love the new layout and interface BECAUSE it is so much more similar to PS, makes things a lot more efficient for me since i have a really general idea of where all my tools are now in both apps. The old painter interface was cute and fun and all, but for a user mainly used to PS it was too funky. I agree with Paula tho on the brush options, i think they could have worked on that a bit more because that WAS somethin i really liked in prev painter ver, it made it REALLY easy to switch from brush to brush and know what you are doing. Now it takes a lot longer than id like to get a brush set up... but hey, its oh so much more compatible with PS now and im soooo happy! Its defintiely worth upgrading, esp if you are an avid photoshop user, you'll like the new painter soooo much more.

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