Newest painting and illustration version takes center stage

corelxCorel Painter’s time has finally come. That sounds like an odd thing to say about a program that has been around for ten full releases, but after all these years of being on the fringe, a newly awakened interest in changing photos into paintings has placed Painter on center stage. One of my most frequent requests from students in the past year has been to teach about photo painting. Corel Painter X is perfectly situated to take advantage of this trend.

Corel Painter X adds an array of new features that will delight both the painters and the photographers who use it. Many of the new features are directly designed to either appeal to photographers or to make it easier for them the use the program.

Version 9.5 saw the creation of a palette that unified all of the Underpainting, Auto-Painting, and Restoration controls. In version 10, Corel Painter adds the Color Schemes selector, which allows you to choose from a variety of possible color looks (Impressionist, Modern, Classical, Sketchbook, Watercolor, and Chalk Drawing). You can also use the Match Color controls to choose a palette from any open image.

In the Auto-Painting section of the palette is a new brushing engine for the Auto-Painting command. In addition to the ability to paint with a recorded brushstroke (which has been there for a while), you can now choose Smart Stroke painting. Smart Stroke painting using the Smart Settings places strokes on the canvas following the lines in the image. The brush gets smaller as the Auto-Painting cycle progresses and more detail is brought out. You can then use the Restoration brushes to bring back selected features.

The new Smart Stroke painting uses a new category of brushes as well—the Smart Stroke brushes. My only complaint is the results of most of the brushes look the same. You can stop the Auto-Painting at any time if you prefer that the rendition of the image not be complete. I found that the most distinctive look from this feature came from using the Watercolor Runny Smart Stroke brush. However, brushes from other categories will work in Smart Stroke painting mode if you choose Clone color, though the speed of the paint build-up is slower.

By far my favorite new feature is the RealBristle Painting System. This brings Painter to a new level of emulating traditional media. In conjunction with the Wacom 6D Art Pen, you have incredible control over your strokes, and they look amazingly real. The new Mixer palette lets you mix colors and then choose multiple colors to be used in a single brushstroke. These brushes are awesome! The Art Pens category is also sensational when used with the 6D Art Pen.

According to the manual, “The Divine Proportion composition tool helps you visually arrange your canvas before drawing or painting.” The tool is interesting and Painter’s instructions for manipulating it are excellent; however, the manual fails to mention exactly how to take advantage of this to create strong designs. The other new layout tool is the Layout Grid, which gives you a 5×5, 3×5, or Rule of Thirds grid.

Overall, this Painter is fast. On my AMD 64X2 3800 Windows machine with 2 GB of RAM, the brushes—even the new RealBristle brushes—keep up with my painting as fast as I can stroke. However, it has been reported to run slowly on older systems.

If you’re looking to add photo painting to your repertoire of skills, look at Painter. It leverages the Photoshop skills you already have and works seamlessly with it. The combination of Painter with Photoshop is unbeatable.— Sherry London

PRICE: $429 ($419 for download)
FROM: Corel Corporation
PHONE: 800-772-6735
FOR: Mac and Windows

HOT RealBristle Painting System
NOT Unresponsive, hard-to-control sliders