Corel Painter 2018 Review
With every new version of Painter, I'm able to improve my workflow, enhance the effectiveness of my art and develop new painting techniques. Corel Painter 2018 is no exception. I'm Painter Master, Aaron Rutten. Let me take you on a tour of the new features in Corel Painter 2018.
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© 2018 Aaron Rutten. All Rights Reserved.
Aaron Rutten, Digital Artist
First is the updated Welcome Screen. The Welcome Screen has quick access to everything you need to jump right into Corel Painter 2018. You can create a new canvas, access a list of recent paintings, load workspace arrangements, watch free tutorials to help you learn Painter and view inspirational artwork by Corel Painter artists. With that out of the way, I want to quickly jump to what is (in my opinion) the most exciting new feature in Corel Painter 2018.
There have been a number of great improvements to Painter 2018, but one in particular really makes my day. Two words: Thick Paint. I've been working for years to create a brush in Corel Painter that could faithfully mimic a broken-paint palette knife stroke. In previous versions of Painter, I was able to come close, but it always took a lot of extra steps and wasn't very intuitive. Now that Thick Paint has come along, I am able to use a single brushstroke to make an organic-looking mark without any additional steps. Thick Paint strokes create paint with varied depth that responds dynamically to the brush, so I can build up paint and scrape it off. The Thick Paint also reacts to the canvas grain which controls how the paint breaks or resists the canvas. The grain can be modified in a number of ways using the Papers panel to get different effects.
Thick Paint feels alive, and when I use it, I feel like I'm actually painting with colored gloop rather than arranging pixels on a screen. And if that wasn't cool enough, I'm able to use my Wacom Art Pen to tilt and rotate a Thick Paint palette knife, which dynamically changes the shape and angle of the mark and further enhances the feeling of working with real paint. Now I can paint happy mountains to my heart's content. Dynamic lighting can also be adjusted along with global paint thickness to get a wide range of results.
The marks you get from Thick Paint brushes can be quite irregular, so it's easy to get a lot of randomness when you paint. And that's a good thing because randomness is what makes art look organic, whether it's a digital painting or traditional oil painting. While it's nearly impossible to get two identical marks using a real paint brush, excessively repeating marks have plagued digital paintings since the dawn of digital art. But with each new version of Painter, digital paintings have the potential to become more and more lifelike.
In addition to Thick Paint, there are several more enhancements in Corel Painter 2018 that will allow you to create other types of organic-looking brush strokes.
Drip & Liquid Brush Enhancements
In previous versions of Corel Painter, Liquid/Drip brushes such as the Sargent Brush only worked if they were used on top of existing pixels. In this long-awaited brush enhancement, the Drip and Liquid brush technologies have been upgraded to work on an empty layer. This will allow you to get really interesting liquid-like painting and blending effects on a separate layer with full support for transparency. Did I mention it also works with Pick Up Underlying Color? Well it does.
Random Grain Properties
Paper Grain allows the canvas to resist or attract paint and can be used in a number of ways to make textured brush strokes. While the effect works well in a lot of ways, it falls short in others. One of the weakest links in Corel Painter's grain technology was that the paper grain had a very static and repetitive look to it. This has been somewhat remedied by the addition of randomization to the Paper Grain Position and Paper Grain Rotation Angle. It is now possible to have the paper grain change slightly with each stroke, which allows the brush marks to become more randomized so you don't see as much repetition. This property can be added to any brush that utilizes Grain, so it is possible to convert a lot of pre-existing brushes to take advantage of this new enhancement. This may seem like a minor change, but the effects I'm now able to get with grain-based brushes are truly remarkable.
More Compatibility with Impasto Properties
Impasto simulates the effect of paint thickness. While it's similar to Thick Paint, it's works differently so it's not to be confused as being the same technology. Impasto brushes have been around for a while in Painter, but in more recent versions, Impasto has become available as a property to enhance brush technologies it was previously incompatible with. For example, you can now add Impasto to Glazing brushes and brushes that use Stroke Attributes to build up thin layers of paint that have three-dimensional depth.
Now let's move on to the next group of features which enhance the effectiveness of Texture painting.
Texture is a feature that was added in Corel Painter 2017. It's purpose is to enable artists to paint image-based textures onto images using a wide range of brushes and blending modes. While this is primarily geared towards adding color and texture to a 2D render of a 3D model, you can also use Texture as a way to enhance the marks of your fine art brushes to give them an organic textured-feel.
Thick 2.5D Texture Brushes
Corel has taken their new Texture brush technology one step further by adding Impasto as an available brush property. These new brushes can utilize the luminance of a Texture to create brush strokes that have a pseudo-3D effect. Thus, the 2.5D moniker. You can enable Texture Luminance as the Depth Method for brushes that support Impasto.
Texture painting in Painter 2017 has been a little tricky because texture source images have a fundamental weakness. The maximum size of the texture limits what you can do with it. What I mean is, if you attempt to add a small texture to a large canvas, you'll either have to repeat the texture or scale it larger to cover more of the canvas. Repeating the texture creates a glaring repeating tile pattern that is not friendly to the eye. And scaling a small texture larger just makes the texture blurry and blocky. Also not good for your digital art.
Fortunately, Corel Painter 2018 offers a solution that I think you texture painters will really enjoy. It's called Synthesis and it allows a texture to be expanded to a larger size by automatically analyzing the source image for repeating patterns and then generating a unique texture that covers more surface area. Texture Synthesis output can be sent to a new layer or it can be saved to the Texture Library as a reusable asset. It will take some trial and error to get a successful synthesis, but with the right source image and settings, it's possible to create a seamless texture that doesn't look tiled. The output parameters can be randomized and scaled so that the result does not look the same every time. Or in other words, a single source image can become many different images that all share similarities. Imagine if you can, that you have a rash from poison ivy on your arm. Of course, you don't want it to spread so you don't scratch it, but if you did, the rash would spread and cover more surface area. If you looked closely at your arm, the pattern of the rash would appear identical in the newly formed area as it does at it's center, but there would be some slight variation in its distribution and shape depending on how you scratched it. That's how Texture Synthesis works in Corel Painter 2018. It's like a rash that gets larger when you scratch it...
Okay. Let's move on to a completely new feature: Selection Brushes.
Selection brushes allow you to paint a selection rather than draw one with the marquee or lasso tools. This can be incredibly useful if you're trying to cut an object out of a background because, with a Wacom tablet, you can vary your pen pressure to make your selection brush change diameter and opacity. This gives you much more precision than you would get with a marquee tool. A handy-dandy customizable overlay allows you to see a semi-opaque color where the selection is active. Big deal, right? That's just for photo editing, right? Wrong.
Selection Brushes: Not Just for Selecting
The Selection Brushes are a powerful new feature because they can paint with transparency. That means your selections can have transparency as well. If you're a watercolor painter, you should be jumping for joy right now because the Selection Brushes make painting with watercolors in Painter much more intuitive by allowing you to reserve areas of your canvas to keep watercolor in, or keep it out. For example, in traditional watercolor painting, artists paint clean water onto dry paper and then apply paint to the wet area. This traps the paint within the wet area gives it a distinct watercolor look. You can get a similar effect using the Selection Brushes to trap Painter's Real Watercolor within a selected area. If you want to keep watercolor out of an area on the paper, you can use a selection just like it's Masking Fluid to prevent paint from being applied to an area of the canvas.
You can also use Selection Brushes to create interesting textured effects by adding and subtracting paint from a selection. And Selection Brushes compliment the Interactive Gradient Tool by allowing you to paint a complex selection and then quickly fill it with a gradient. There is even a brush preset for Comic Book Flatting which has an aliased edge that makes it perfect for coloring comic books and manga.
Natural Media Brush Library
Corel does a great job of adding value to Corel Painter for both long-time users and new users as well. Among the brush libraries in Corel Painter 2018, you'll find a new Library called Natural Media Brushes. The goal here is to help new users who come from a traditional painting background feel more at home in the Corel Painter interface by presenting brush variants with familiar names and icons. For example, an oil painter would expect to see a fan brush, filbert brush and a palette knife. Whereas, a comic book artist would be looking for their Ultrafine pen and Chisel Edge marker. The Natural Media Brush library contains all of the traditional media categories you'd find in an art store and then some. Each category has just a few brush variants so as to not overwhelm users with too many options. Certainly this will be a great way of bringing in traditional painters who are curious about digital painting, but it will also offer a nice minimalist workflow to seasoned Corel Painter artists as well.
The Look AND The Feel
Once software developers have faithfully achieved the look of traditional media in the digital realm, all that will be left is to preserve the aesthetics of working with traditional materials and tools. It feels like we're already beginning to cross that threshold, so expect to see software developers putting more emphasis on how artists interact physically with digital media as it evolves.
The Natural Media library is entirely optional for those of you who like Painter the way it was. By default, the Painter 2018 library is the default library and users can use brushes from both libraries in their workflow.
It's now easier than ever to create photo-paintings in Corel Painter because of some wonderful enhancements to the Cloning tools and workflow.
Clone Source Preserves Transparent Pixels
First of all, you can now use clone sources with transparency. This means transparent backgrounds will remain transparent and semi-transparent pixels will be maintained as well. In previous incarnations of Painter, a white background would be automatically applied to any transparent pixels which made it difficult to composite multiple clone sources. But now all is well in the world of photo-painting because that pesky white background has been vanquished for all time. Choose the PNG format and enable "Save Alpha" to save your clone sources with transparency. Or you can save clone sources as a RIFF format with the 'Canvas' layer and background layers removed or hidden.
Save Clone Source to a Library & Embedding Clone Sources
Corel has complimented this enhancement with another that allows artists to save multiple clone sources to a library or embed multiple clone sources within a composition. Saving the clone sources to a library allows image assets to be utilized in multiple compositions, whereas embedding the clone sources only attaches them to the current composition. Embedding is important because in previous versions of Corel Painter, a clone source was not linked to a composition. So if a document was closed and reopened, the clone source would have to be located and reloaded into the painting. Not only does this add a lot of unnecessary steps to each painting session, it's also undesirable because if you happened to misplace your clone source, you would be unable to complete your painting. When coupled with clone source transparency, the advantage to saving clone sources to a library is that the assets can be used and reused throughout the painting process.
Let's Talk About Bloating
It's worth mentioning that saving clone sources to a library will increase the size of your custom workspace, but not the size of your composition. Embedding clone sources into a composition will increase the file size of your composition, but not your workspace. Essentially, you're adding the file size of your clone sources to either the library or the composition. Which is why you should be careful because large clone source images can quickly bloat your workspace and composition file sizes.
Use Textures as a Clone Source
Assets from the Texture Library can now be selected as clone sources, which of course means that you can clone from Textures. But more importantly, you can also use the Texture Transform panel to apply Scale, Rotation, Perspective and other types of transformations to your clone sources. This will allow you to get more mileage out of a single clone source because you can modify the clone source just enough to make it appear like a separate image. Modified clone sources can be saved to the Texture Library to easily create multiple variants of an asset.
Cloners Can Utilize Impasto
Cloners can now make use of the 2.5D Texture impasto properties. To add impasto texture to your cloners, simply enable Draw to: Color & Depth in the Impasto panel. You can also use Texture Luminance as the source of your impasto depth.
Easily Switch Clone Sources
And the last of the cloning enhancements is an upgrade to the Clone Source panel which now gives you easy access to switch between clone sources. You can quickly toggle between painting from embedded clone sources, Patterns and Textures.
Enhanced Properties Bar Flyouts
Building upon the Enhanced Properties bar in Painter 2017, Corel has added additional flyouts and more relevant controls to reduce the amount of times you have to "click" to perform a particular task, such as changing your brush properties or working within multi-panel workflows. Commonly used properties are clearly displayed at the top of the screen and only relevant properties are shown for the brush you have selected. Properties can be accessed for a brief second via the flyout and then the menu automatically disappears from view. The Enhanced Properties Bar is an important feature because it brings a lot of customization that would otherwise by buried in menus to the forefront. For new users, this is essential because of how robust Painter is as an application. But it's not just for newbies, even seasoned painters can appreciate saving a few clicks to get to a commonly used property. After all, less clicking means more time for painting. So don't brush aside the Enhanced Properties Bar as a small, insignificant improvement. Sure it's not as eye-catching as Thick Paint, but it's going to save you loads of time in the long run if you take advantage of it. As Scrooge McDuck once said, "Work smarter, not harder."
Not to mention, the Enhanced Properties Bar flyouts and pop-up panels also reduce the necessity to keep all of your palettes visible for the entire time you're working. This is crucial when painting on a small tablet or laptop screen because you need to spare every pixel so you can see more of your canvas and less of the UI.
Bug Fixes & Other Improvements
As always, the latest version of Corel Painter has received many bug fixes and performance tweaks. You'll notice an improvement over previous versions. If you'd like to see a list of all of the updates, you can get that here: http://www.painterartist.com
Thick paint is definitely worth the price of admission, but there are lots of other features that are worth having such as Random Grain properties and Enhanced Liquid/Drip because of their potential to create organic-looking artwork. I personally, have been able to achieve effects and levels of detail that I've only dreamed of in previous versions of Painter. My workflow has been greatly improved because I'm able to spend less time trying to find workarounds to get a certain look in my paintings. Because I can achieve a more organic feel with a lot less effort, I'm able to dedicate more of my time to painting. And as with every new version of Painter, we as the artists have the opportunity to explore the potential of these new tools. I always enjoy discovering new techniques or improving upon old ones, and this version of Painter really leaves a lot of room for exploration. I highly recommend getting your hands on Corel Painter 2018. For more info about the new version of Painter 2018, check out my video review on YouTube.
Try or Buy Corel Painter 2018
Try Painter 2018 free for 30 days. When you’re ready to buy, you can save $100 off the FULL version of Painter 2018 with my coupon code: 2017AR. Offer valid only at http://www.painterartist.com