Corel’s Painter is probably the best-selling natural media painting software in the world. Used for everything from pre-visualisations in the movie industry to advertisement realisations and ‘serious’ artwork, it’s the digital equivalent of a box of watercolours… and a set of oil paints… and a load of photo-retouching spray cans, in fact just about anything you might use for creating 2D artwork in the physical world is simulated here.
You can use Painter 8 with a mouse instead of a brush, but it’s becoming more and more advantageous to invest in a graphics tablet when working with the program. Using a stylus on a pad is much more natural, particularly if you work in both traditional and digital media.
Corel Painter 8 has had quite a facelift. The interface has been revamped more in keeping with other Corel applications, and is pretty easy to pick up, with its toolbox down the left and assorted colour, layer and channel palettes down the right. One very useful addition to this is the Mixer Palette, which enables you to mix colours interactively, as you would with real media. You can use a virtual brush or palette knife to add new tints and an eyedropper to lift precise colours from existing artwork.
In case you wonder about the range of brushes and tools, in comparison with their real counterparts, Corel has added 400 new variants to the existing set. There were already several hundred, in categories such as acrylics, calligraphy pens, conte and Sumi-e, so the enhanced set is a lot more than straight pens and pencils.
Not content with all these, Corel has also introduced a design-your-own-brush feature, where you can build up the qualities of your new tool from scratch, by adapting an existing brush or by combining the attributes of two or more others.
If you need a sketch on which to base your work, you can now create one from just about any photo. The program interprets lines and changes in colour as important in extracting a line drawing, but you can modify the effect by stipulating things like the thickness of the pencil line and the roughness of the paper.
This new version is all about flexibility of working style and you can customise palettes, adding and removing the tabs you need. You can also work with layers and channels much more intuitively to mask off areas of a drawing, perhaps to introduce variations in content such as different text overlays. Once you’ve set up a mask, you can save it and apply it to other artworks later on.
Minimum system requirements include a G3 Power Macintosh or a 200MHz Pentium, each with 128MB of main memory, but we’d recommend a more powerful system than this, starting at a 500MHz Pentium III.
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