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Review: Corel Painter 2016

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This year, Corel released a mind-blowing new version of their digital painting application, Painter 2016. While Painter 2015 was an incredible leap from version X3, including the introduction of exciting physics-inspired particle brushes, the new Painter 2016 brings even more incredible new features, making it the best version yet.

Corel Painter should be a top choice for anyone interested in painting digitally, as it is truly an expressive digital art application for a variety of artists. Painter is not only a perfect fit for traditional artists crossing over to digital, but also great for illustrators, matte painters, concept artists, and even photo artists. There is nothing around that does what Painter does so well. Sure, there are other painting programs out there, but nothing matches Painter's capabilities. And now, with Painter 2016, the list of new and enhanced features is even more enticing.

The new features start with the new welcome screen that now includes direct links to video training, which even tracks your learning with checkmarks appearing on training you've watched under the 'Learn' tab. The 'Get Content' tab displays some new brush packs available, including examples.

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Painter 2016 Welcome screen 'Learn' tab

The 'Get Started' tab, as pictured below, offers all the options to start creating, including optimal workspace configurations for the type of art you want to create. And last, the 'Get Inspired' tab is an excellent showcase of works created by other Painter artists that serve well as inspiration.

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Painter 2016 Welcome screen 'Get Started' tab

New Brushes
Corel Painter 2016 brings with it a total of 131 new brushes. According to Corel, this is the largest amount of new brushes added in any Painter release. And they are a cool lot, indeed.

Painter 2016 introduces the all-new Dynamic Speckle brushes. Oh, how I love these! I was so excited about these brushes once I actually tried them myself. Dynamic Speckle brushes add together the particle brush technology introduced in Painter 2015, along with brush thickness controls to provide incredible new looks with speckles generated as you paint. You have an enormous amount of control over the generated speckles, including color variability, opacity, etc.

There are also new dab types added in this release that combines particles with watercolor, liquid ink, and impasto for some really great random effects.

Painter 2016 now also features an exciting new way to create randomness in your brush stroke with the new Audio Brushes. Imagine listening to your favorite music while creating, and the music has input into the process as well. Whether using music on your computer or even speaking into a microphone, your brushstrokes are affected by the audio input. Audio can affect such things as size, opacity, jitter, color, and angle. You can also adjust the strength of the audio input to refine how it affects your brushstrokes. Some might think it's just novelty, but I really enjoy this feature.

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I love painting landscapes in Painter 2016

New and Enhanced Features
Paper and Flow Map rotation is a fantastic new feature that allows you to create varied looks in your brushstrokes by way of changing texture direction. This works fantastic with the watercolor brushes and being able to change texture direction opens up great possibilities with other brushes as well.

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Example watercolor created by artist Skip Allen, using Paper and Flow Map rotation

The user interface even gets some nice new features this time around in Painter 2016. The first is the option to change the look of the interface. In addition to the default gray, you now have 3 color options for the interface: dark, frost, and sepia. You can also change the background to any color you'd like from the color wheel in Painter.

There are also new document views that allow you to view the default with controls, the active document only, or a presentation mode for showing off images.

The change I liked most was that the brush library in Painter 2016 was cleaned up quite a bit, removing some brushes that may not have been so unique in their categories. Basically, the library was whittled down to 362 brushes from a whopping 800. I really liked this, as it was previously a pretty daunting task going through all the brushes to find what you want to use. The previous 2015 brush library is still available to bring up if one of your favorites was one to get the axe.

Also cool is the addition of context-sensitive hints and visual tooltips. This certainly helps a lot to introduce the new brushes, as well as learning about the other tools in Painter as you go.

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Painter 2016 features Hints and Visual Tooltips

And Even More New and Enhanced Features
Corel really did a great job with Painter 2016, taking the user into consideration for new features, including enhancing blending mode. They are calling this Blending 2.0, which brings new blending presets, as well as a better ability to edit brush variants, and does away with the white fringes that appeared in certain cases when blending.

Another feature to come about from user request is a much better way to share content. Basically, you can throw together brushes, papers, patterns, etc. into a custom Toolbox (BOX) file, for ease of sharing with others. Previously it was a pain to share brushes and such, and now it works like a charm. There's also a new feature for folks that have long wanted to bring their Photoshop brushes into Painter. Now you can easily bring those ABR files into Painter and fully customize them. I also must mention the speed increase in Painter 2016. The claim is that Painter 2016 is 3 times faster than 2015, and 6 times faster than X3 - ultimately meaning Painter 2016 is 9 times faster than X3. I certainly noticed a vast difference from X3, and 2016 even starts up faster than 2015.

End Notes
With all the incredible new and enhanced features packed into this release, I highly recommend Corel Painter 2016. Comparing it to Painter 2015, I think it is a very worthy upgrade. And, really a no-brainer if you are coming in from Painter X3.

For those who have never given Painter a try, do yourself a favor and take advantage of the free trial. There is good reason Painter is the best of its kind out there. And it is limitless what you can create with the many tools and features provided in Painter 2016.

Pricing and Availability
Corel Painter 2016 [Full] 406.00(USD)CorelPainter2016[Upgrade]216.00 (USD)
Note: Current owners of version 7 through 2015 are eligible to purchase Painter 2016 at the Upgrade price.

Quick Links
Painter 2016 home
Painter Free Trial
Corel Discovery Center (Painter)


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Corel Painter 2016, Digital Painting, Nick Sorbin, Software Review
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