The last thing I reviewed from Corel was Painter 2018, and I really liked it and saw many improvements from prior versions. The latest version, fresh from the virtual oven, is Painter 2020, with a new focus for its enhancements, looked very promising. Now I'm diving in and I'm telling you all about it.
The first and most important feature of all, and one I couldn't wait to try was the new Brush Accelerator. This utility evaluates your system's processor (CPU), graphics processor (GPU) and memory, and then optimizes application settings to maximize performance.
Many Painter brushes can now leverage the computation power of your system's GPU, using it to deliver faster brushing, as well as smoother document rendering and manipulation. You'll also get suggestions on how to upgrade system components, as well as recommendations on which brush categories are most compatible with your computer.
The new Performance Panel lets you quickly see whether the currently selected brush can take advantage of your system's multi-core processor, AVX2 or GPU. You can use the name of those performance-boosting technologies as search terms to find brushes that leverage them. Painter 2020 also introduces two new brush categories designed with performance in mind: Fast and Simple and Fast and Ornate.
Knowing that I have an older computer, but new and good GPU, I was very curious to see if Painter could take advantage of my GPU, something I learned the hard way not all graphic programs do. So, I went ahead and performed the test, and as I suspected, my best performance would come from the GPU. So, as the program tells me, I can search for the term GPU in the brushes panel to see which are best for me. But first, I'll try the two new brush categories: Fast and Simple and Fast and Ornate.
Fast and Simple
As the name says, these are the brushes you'll sketch with or make underpaintings with. Of course, if you're a “default round brush” kind of painter, you'll be able to make full painting with these. It's a good set and it performs well. Having said that, I tried in the Advanced Brush Panel disabling GPU for those that had it available, and didn't notice much difference. It was more noticeable with big sizes, as expected. But I suspect since these are the simplest brushes, they must perform well for almost all scenarios.
Fast and Ornate
I was expecting these to be slower than the simple ones, but they were not. They are fast and oh so beautiful to work with! Even if you just used this set, you-d be able to make amazing things. There were even two particle ones, and I especially loved the Particle Background Splatter. Yum!
I have one thing to mention, though, that's both annoying and disrupting: for some brushes, when you increase the size or change the brush, there's a computational lag, even with a loading bar that says “evaluating brush directions”, and it can be quite long. This completely threw me off, and I realized that after a while, I was unconsciously dreading changing size or brushes because of this. Having said that, later I noticed that it mostly only happened with these two categories, so I wasn't really worried after that.
Next, I searched for the term “GPU” in the search bar to see what was there and to try some of the brushes that would work best with GPU acceleration.
Thankfully, I got a lot of hits. I tried them ALL (it's so fun to test brushes!) and it took me a long time, although a very entertaining one. What I can say is that in my particular case I noticed a smoother experience in the stroke application rather than a speed change when I switched GPU acceleration on and off. But I can say, because I saw it in other computers, that the difference IS noticeable. It just depends on what system. Maybe my system doesn't need much optimization. Overall, though, what I DID notice is that every single brush was very fast, a very impressive improvement over previous versions. And this includes the non-GPU accelerated ones!
New and enhanced UI
This is one that I've been wanting, and I'm sure others, too. Painter 2020 comes with revamped Property Bars, flyouts, and palettes for brushes. Consolidated Library Panels and buttons that toggle flyouts will save valuable space and the interface is more intuitive, making it easier to work and not feel interrupted in your workflow. The property bars are tool dependent, showing group labels and flyout buttons that help get to the needed feature much easier and quicker than before. The Advanced Brush Controls button now also gives you quick access to the General Panel. Not just icons and palettes, but the overall look and feel has changed. And for the better, in my opinion. It looks gorgeous!
Not all this awesomeness comes without glitches, though. I found that floating palettes and dual monitors (in my case, a Cintiq) don't work well together. Sometimes you enable a palette and don't see it, because it ends up outside of both your monitor areas, or you move the program's windows to the other monitor only to find the tools palette changed resolution but didn't move, so it shows cut out and you see the bottom half, but in order to move it you need to reach the top half that's outside of the screen area, and there's no way to do that. I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to move dockers, palettes and reloading layouts, turning the Cintiq on and off, with no way to reset the location of a palette if it ends up outside your reach. This is incredibly frustrating and needs to be addressed right away. If you just work with one monitor, though, I don't think you'll have any problems.
I must say, though, I'm absolutely thrilled with the new UI look and enhancements. This is definitely a great leap in the right direction.
Enhanced Brush Selector
Painter 2020 incorporated enhanced dab and stroke previews so you can easily distinguish between popular dab types with improved visuals. In addition, there's a more compact Brush Selector panel to if you need to maximize the workspace.
Speaking of brushes, now with Advanced Brush and Tool Controls you can grab the previous brush quickly with either the click of a button or a shortcut on a custom palette. Paint with the dodge, burn, clone, and eraser tools without any lag time, and customize the eraser tool with expanded options.
New Convenient Color Selection
Color selection is now easier than ever. Painter 2020 comes with a new Temporal Color Wheel menu that you can move, resize and pin. Also, for any selected color, you can toggle six new Color Harmonies that can be saved as color sets. Plus, there are new color ramps in sliders and a slider-only option for the color panel.
The layer workflow has also been enhanced. Thanks to exciting layer advancements, noticeable improvements to the contextual and high-level menus save time. Workflow changes to collapse, lock, select, and paste functions improve the quality and responsiveness of layers.
Open Upgrade Path
Painter 2020 is available in English, French, German, Japanese, and Traditional Chinese for $429 USD / €424.95 / £359.99. What's great is that registered owners of any previous version (not just 2019) can purchase for the upgrade price of $229 USD / €218.95 / £179.99. GBP and European prices include VAT.
Get the free 30-day trial or purchase electronic download versions at www.painterartist.com.
Many might think that focusing an upgrade release on anything other than new features would not be a good idea. But I'm not one of them. Especially taking into account what the focus of the upgrade was: performance and interface. In my experience, no matter how many amazing features a program has (and Painter is a beast in that department), you won't use it unless it performs fast and seamlessly, looks good and your workflow isn't constantly interrupted by having to click endless times to get to what you want to do. This is why when I learned that Painter 2020's focus was exactly that, I was extremely excited.
I have to confess, I've tried Painter many times in the past, but never got around to using it much, despite its amazing features, because of these exact reasons. Now, with this Painter 2020 version, I know it'll be part of my daily creative arsenal.
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:
Barbara Din Patreon page
Barbara Din YouTube Channel