Corel Painter 2018 Review

Staff Writer By: Barbara Din


The last version of Corel Painter I tried was 12, I think. And I didn't keep it back then because it was very laggy. So, when I first installed this new Corel Painter 2018 version, I was prepared for some improvement, but figured it might be kinda the same. And I was happily mistaken!

The improvement in responsiveness for brushes was the first great impression I got. But this program is a monster: so many options and tools and things to do! Where do I start?

Brushes

The very first thing I did when I opened the program was to try and play with the brushes that come with it. I did only that in about two hour sessions for several days. There are SO many! And these are only the presets that are packed when you get it; of course you can make your own presets and/or buy other packs.

There are many brush technologies, each with its own set of parameters that you can play with forever in order to tune and perfect your favorite presets and to create your own. New in this Painter version is the Thick Paint technology, and it's very good. You get to play with oil-like thicknesses, palette knives, scrapers and all that jazz! You can blend, build up, push, pull and scrape the paint using the pressure, tilt, and rotation of your stylus. All this gives you amazing possibilities for expression! Painter comes with many Thick Paint presets ready to use, but with the gazillion parameters you have for these brushes, you can make your own heavenly tool-set.

Drip and Liquid brush technologies got enhanced, and I have to say: I fell absolutely in love with the Liquid Light Sketcher brush (see my doodles in the pic below). But, you really have to try it to "feel" what I mean. The brushes alone will guarantee you a lifetime of possibilities. They are the core of this great piece of software, but there is SO much more to explore!

Some of the new features

Besides the mentioned new and enhanced brush technologies, there are new features worth mentioning, such as new Cloning capabilities, which now allow you to clone sources with transparency, and transform the shape and size of your clone source on the fly. You can now make amazing painterly composites!

Texture Synthesis allows you to create a texture out of a portion of an image you like, with some parameters. You can then save this and use it not only on your current project, but in future ones.

The 2.5D Texture Brushes let you use a source image as a surface emboss builder, giving you the possibility to add just the illusion of relief over what you're working on. So neat! Also, you can use the source's color to add it to the canvas, too.

There's also the new Selection Brush, which you can use to paint a selection instead of the typical geometric shapes and lasso ways. Texture Fill and Random Grain Rotation (for brushes) are also part of the new additions.

Some bumps in the road

One thing that caught my attention was that the actual painting, the use of brushes was much faster than the last time I tried Painter, but commands, like switching brush libraries and other stuff took quite a long time.

As much as I like the enhancements made over the versions to the UI and its arrangement options, I still wish there was a way to dock the palettes and palette drawers in more than one row or column so they don't end up floating over the canvas.

Some favorites

I would never be able to cover all there is about this program. That's why there are books and DVDs galore! But I will tell you some of the things that I like the most:

Of course I have to give two thumbs up to all the brush technologies available. Each one works differently and has a vast set of parameters to tweak so you can truly create infinite brush presets. This is Painter's core and it's robust and insanely versatile.

The perspective tools are great! Not only are they an essential help for so many types of work, but specifically in Painter, you can modify them and save presets, which is so useful! You can control the vanishing points, dragging them to your wanted spot and use them as just visual guides, but you can also make your strokes follow the guides. This is useful when you're drawing buildings and things like that.

There are some really nice effects in the Effects menu! Some really fun ones, like those I'd use to create great backgrounds from just a few random strokes and transforming them via effects until there's nothing left from my original input, and some really useful and necessary ones, like tonal control and blurs of all kinds. Also, try some of the dynamic plugins in the layers panel. From bevels and kaleidoscopes to liquid metal, there are very interesting gems there!

I mentioned it already, but the cloning possibilities really impressed me. The workflow got better, and being able to have sources with transparency makes things that much more useful. Also, being able to manipulate and transform the source is one of those additions you can't live without once you get it. A clever feature: open the image you want to start cloning and go to file->Quick Clone. This sets everything up for you to start cloning right away!

Final Thoughts

It happened to me and to many others as well: this program can feel overwhelming at first. But I found that in this version, with its layout options, panels and palettes, it became much more manageable. With a little bit of patience and a curious spirit, it can be tamed to turn it into a dream piece of painting software. It's great that Corel has the Discovery Center, a website full of tutorials, tips, community challenges and support, so you can find your way through Painter in a dynamic and informative way. With so much to explore, I can guarantee you won't run out of things to try, techniques to develop, styles to find. You'll also be able to mimic your traditional workflow when you want to feel at home, but with the obvious advantages and expanded possibilities of digital media.

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Barbara Din is a visual artist, graphic designer, painter, interior designer, crafter, musician and writer living in Argentina. Learn more about Barbara and her work at the following links: