Corel Painter 11

Corel Painter 11If there were an art and drawing application that combined all the image creation tools from both Illustrator and Photoshop, Corel Painter 11 would be a direct competitor to it. It’s about drawing and painting from scratch, and although (being computer-based designers) we’re not too familiar with freehand artistry, it looks like one of the best-featured out there for those who are.

It combines many of the tools and processes you know with a slew more that’ll be known to you if you’re an artist. Along with the cloning, layers, channels and text tools are tools called Waves on a Beach and Lake Ducks. The brush and pen tools are easily accessible and work the same way as they do in applications you’re already used to so you’ll be in familiar territory.

The real action is in the brush selection, which you access at the end of the properties palette. The drop down menu gives you a huge array of painting tools from acrylic paints to felt pens, pencils, sponges and crayons. There’s even a tool called ‘image hose’ that reminded us of the symbols brush in Illustrator, spraying pictures of flowers, pebbles, street lights or more across the canvas as we dragged the brush.

Selecting the brush you want then lets you drill down to further precision — select the pencil and you get 20 types to choose from. Selecting ‘oils’ gives you about 35, and each further selection is editable using precision brush controls.

A lot of thought from the artist’s point of view has also been put into the medium. Whereas a Photoshop designer draws onto blank pixels, artists might want to use anything from fine grain wood to rough charcoal paper. It doesn’t change the background of the document window as you might expect, but affects the way different brush settings behave.

While Painter 11 works fine enough with a mouse it’s designed to really shine on a pressure-sensitive tablet. First of all, you can wield a lot of control over the angle and pressure you hold your pen with such as with instant feedback on brush ghosting. Also, if you’re a light fingered artist you can go into the brush track options (under preferences) and adjust the input sensitivity to compensate.

Even a quick flick through the manual will show you the dizzying array of brush options on offer, everything from a calligraphic fountain pen to a dirty marker complete with black mark down one side of the nib. So Painter is indeed the digital art studio it promises.

It does seem however to be running on an application kernel from a much older systems. The delay between the mouse movement and brushstroke wasn’t too bad, but it took a lot longer to open, create and save files that it would documents of comparable size and complexity in other image editing programs. But with a recent system behind you, you’ll be well on your way to your first Monet in no time.