Corel Painter 2017 Review


Check out my Corel Painter 2018 Review

I'm excited to announce that Corel Painter 2017 is here! Corel never ceases to amaze me with their awe-inspiring and innovative art software. This release features many time-saving enhancements and some of the most powerful brushes I’ve ever used. Let's review some of the key features in Painter 2017 and I'll share my thoughts on each one.

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New Welcome Screen

The new Welcome Screen features inspirational digital art created by Corel Painter Masters, artists and students. It also quickly connects users to tutorials and brush packs, which I feel is very helpful for those who are not familiar with the application and may need a hand with getting started.


New Workspace Layouts

Accessible from the Welcome Screen and the Window Menu, there are 9 new Layouts that can arrange your workspace in a variety of ways to suit specific categories of artists. For those artists who don't like change, the Classic layout preserves the old familiar Painter layout and banishes the new Palette Drawers to a dark, dark cave from which there is no return. It also leaves the Brush Controls in one huge, bloated super-palette rather than separating the functions into logically organized Palette Drawers. There's a Simple layout which clears the screen of most everything and is great for mobile users who want a minimal UI. New To Painter is a layout that's aimed toward beginners and features an enhanced Brush Selector that stays docked on screen and a clearly displayed Hints panel to make it easy for Painter novices to hit the ground running. There are also layouts for Manga, PhotoArt, Illustration, Concept Art and Fine Art.


These layouts are fully-customizable if you'd like to use one as a starting point for creating your own layouts. Just make sure to save any customizations in the Layout menu because selecting an un-saved layout will reset it to it's defaults.


Palette Drawers

No. Palette drawers are not just for OCD artists who must keep everything organized and labeled; They are a very handy way of taming Painter's vast jungle of features and brush properties. If you've ever seen my Painter workspace, you’ll know there's a lot going on with it. Custom palettes, brushes, shortcuts... It can be overwhelming (even for me) and I made the thing! So needless to say, I welcome any new feature that helps me better organize the content in my workspace. The Palette Drawers do just that. Not only do they allow me to organize and label all the clutter on my screen, but I can also double-click on a Drawer to collapse or expand its contents. This frees up my screen and gives me more space to view my canvas while painting. I find this especially useful on my Wacom Cintiq Companion since there's limited space for palettes.


Enhanced Property Bars

I have a feeling this will be a well-received update, as it takes the once great Properties Bar and makes it even greater. Depending on which brush or tool you have selected, the Enhanced Properties Bar now shows the most relevant controls for whatever is currently selected. Temporary fly-out menus and palettes that pop open and closed, make it easy to keep your tools organized and quickly accessible without having to dig through the Advanced Brush Controls to find a brush control. In other words, you could say the Properties Bar devoured the Advanced Brush Controls in Painter 2017. But fear not, the ABC and General Brush Controls you know and love are still accessible and even have their own buttons that are now affixed to the Properties bar. I'm certain this feature alone will streamline many an artist's workflow.


Interactive Gradient Tool & Express Paint

Gradients can be very useful for creating simple backgrounds, skies, adding 3D shading to an object and masking layers. Unfortunately, if you were using an earlier version of Painter, the Gradient tool was kind of a dud. Now the Gradient Tool is all grown up and can compete with the other Gradient Tools out there. Good job, Interactive Gradient Tool! I'm proud of you. Anyway... The new Interactive Gradient Tool can now create interactive gradients that can be edited and repositioned on-the-fly.


There's also a neat Express Paint feature which can auto-blend your gradients with brushes to make them look more painterly. Did someone say, "Instant Sky"?


Enhanced Dropper Tool

Sure it's a small enhancement, but it's had a big impact on my workflow. I do a lot of "tinting" using layers of color above my composition. This really adds life to the colors in my painting, but it also throws a monkey-wrench into my workflow because I’m constantly having to hide the tinting layer so that I can sample the colors underneath. If I don't hide the tinting layer when I sample colors, I'll get the tinting combined with the underlying layer -- and that's lame sauce. Fortunately, now the Dropper Tool has been enhanced to allow users to sample only the colors from a selected layer (or multiple layers.) I like this and you should like it too.


Oh. And area averaging has also been added to the Dropper, for those of you who want more control over your color sampling.


Finer Zoom Increments (Magnifier Tool)

Who can complain about more zoom increments? Not me! Zooming pre-Painter 2017 was frustrating for me, especially while trying to get the canvas to fit my screen without being covered by palettes. With this enhancement, the Magnifier doesn't jump from small to large so quickly which makes it easier to get the canvas positioned on my screen. Patches of my hair are growing back already.


Merge Layer Down

Another source of frustration I had pre-Painter 2017 was caused by merging layers down. I'd create a layer for tinting or texture above another layer and then merge them together. The result would be the combined layer inheriting the layer name of the top layer and completely disowning the bottom layer’s label. It might not matter to some artists, but for me I usually have a hierarchy to my layers and often the bottom-most layer describes the entire object. For example a nostril layer would be above the nose layer, but once combined, it would just be called a nose. I'm pleased to say that now hitting Ctrl+E (Command+E) on your keyboard merges the selected layer with the layer beneath and retains the name of lower layer.


Enhanced Brush Selector

A lot of artists are going to be happy about this one. Now you can undock the elusive Brush Selector and it will stay put on your screen. This really streamlines the brush selection process for those who like to rummage through the hundreds of brushes to see what they can do. The Brush Selector can also be resized and it now gives you easy access to your recent brushes list and brush libraries.


New Brushes

Now let's talk about the Glazing, Dab Stencil and Texture brushes. Individually, these are all great technologies, but when combined with each other and previous Painter brush technologies, the results are quite amazing. Here's a quick overview of what each of the brush technologies can do.


Glazing Brushes

Glazing brushes are based on the traditional painting technique known as... Glazing. Duh! Glazing was used by the old master painters to add thin layers of transparent color over a painting to colorize, tint, shade, highlight or add life to the composition. Painter's new glazing technology vastly improves the way the software handles brush opacity by allowing the opacity of the brush dabs to build up gradually rather than overlapping and creating a muddy mess. This type of brush behavior is common in Photoshop and other digital art software and I'm glad to see it incorporated into Painter as well.


I've had a lot of fun converting many of my old brushes into glazing brushes and it works well for imported Photoshop ABR brushes. So now you don't have any more excuses for not trying Painter. Besides the improved opacity control, you'll also be able to control the Merge Mode of the brush which allows you to control the way the applied color blends with the layers beneath. For example if you wanted to tint above a layer, you could choose a Multiply Merge Mode. If you wanted to paint a glowing light, you could set the Merge Mode to Screen. I like to toggle between modes without changing the color to build up the form of objects. I also like that I can blend colors together while painting using pressure to gradually blend strokes into the underlying color. It feels very smooth -- very much like traditional painting with acrylics. You might think it's similar to using the Stroke Attributes, but with Glazing, you'll have more control over the opacity of the stroke using pen pressure.


Dab Stencil Brushes

This is definitely my favorite new feature in Painter 2017. Dab Stencils can conceal areas of your brush dab to add all kinds of organic-looking textures and patterns to your strokes. I really love how much character the Dab Stencils add to my work. In previous versions of Painter, I used a lot of Paper grain to create texture effects, but I'd have to work really hard to break up the repetitive patterns what emerged when I'd use a paper. Now in Painter 2017, I can combine Paper grain with Flow Map and/or Texture which gives me a more random-looking pattern that is less repetitive. Best of all, I'm much closer to creating a more realistic palette knife. Get ready for some Bob Ross-style mountains!


Texture Brushes

You might think this is just for 3D artists, but you’d be wrong. The new Texture brushes do work well for painting textures on top of 3D models, but they are also great for adding texture to photo art and fine art as well. I’m no stranger to incorporating textures into my work, so I'm pleased to see that process becoming more streamlined. Rather than adding textures on a separate layer and then masking away what you don't want, you can now simply paint textures onto a layer using a brush. The textures can cover the layer, blend with opacity, and add color while painting texture. You can also blend with luminance which allows you to maintain some of the original colors from your composition while merging it with the values of the texture your are painting with. Or in other words, it blends together magically. Textures can be easily transformed to fit any size canvas. (Including perspective distortion which is way cool.) And even a goldfish can create their own textures within Painter by selecting part of an image and choosing Capture Texture.


Brush Speed & Performance

As in all Painter updates, the brushes and overall performance have been optimized to work faster. You should be seeing some noticeable improvements in the performance of Painter 2017 compared to its predecessors.



So that's my review of Corel Painter 2017. Overall, I'm impressed with the new version and I can honestly say it's significantly improved my workflow. I feel like there's lot of room to experiment with the new features, create new brushes and improve upon my painting techniques. I believe new Painter users and students will find it much easier to use as well. I’d say it's definitely worth the upgrade from 2016 or an older version.


If you're interested in learning more about the new features in Painter 2017, check out my video review and don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more Corel Painter 2017 tutorials.


Try or Buy Corel Painter 2017

Try Painter 2017 free for 30 days. When you’re ready to buy, you can save $100 off the FULL version of Painter 2017 with my coupon code: 2017AR valid only at


Check out my custom workspace and brushes for Corel Painter 2017!

© 2018 Aaron Rutten. All Rights Reserved.

Aaron Rutten, Digital Artist

Seattle, WA