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Review of "Corel Painter IX" - Software

by Randy Brandon, AAUG member
Reviewed 11/04

Corel Painter IX is finally here!  On my first glance at  the new packaging, I could tell that the folks at Corel had been working overtime on this latest release. I loaded up the software, and jumped in with both feet.

But before I get into what's new in this latest version, I  thought that a little info on my previous experience would be in order. I made my first foray into Painter when it was called Fractal Painter around version 3. Although still in my digital infancy, I recognized that this Painter program was amazing, and that I had to own it, and learn how to use it.  So, here I am 6 versions later, and still learning.

So,  what's new in version IX?   Well for starters there is an entirely new Welcome screen that opens to a book like interface. This screen booklet allows immediate access to 4 basic starting function tabs. The tabs each corresponded to specific functions like starting a new file, or opening recent files. The additional tabs are categorized into Featured Artists, Online training and tutorials, and setting up Painter.   This is a great little tool for anyone, and I found it a great tool whenever I launched the program.

Speed is always an issue with any graphics program, and with that in mind, they put the turbocharger into the new brushes.  And they claim that the speed on some of the brushes has increased up to ten times faster than in version 8.  And while I could not accurately time the speed increases from version 8, I did notice that all of the speeds I experienced in version IX seemed indeed faster, and that is a feature that all of us users will be very grateful to have.

There are a bevy of new enhancements, and so as not to get too bogged down in explaining every one, I will give a running summary of the main ones.

There is a new Rotate/Flip command for the canvas...Yea!  A new customizable shortcut keys function, that will also add to speeding up my workflow.    They have made enhancements to the brush tracker feature, and given the program a new feature called  "Iterative save".  This is a cool feature that reminds me of the layer comps feature in Photoshop.  But I will admit that they should have picked a  more common name, as "iterative" is not that easy to remember.

Users can now use a "snap to path" painting tool that can really add some speed to drawing while using shapes, and paths.

The Artists Oils Painting system was designed by artists to mimic exactly as possible the way that painters work with their brushes, and paints.  And since it works in conjunction with the Mixer palette, the natural painting process works amazingly well.

The Digital Watercolor brush has been enhanced, and now has the ability to be played with even after the user has painted the strokes.  Very cool indeed.

The addition of the Quick Clone feature is a big step in speeding up and simplifying the cloning process(it went from five steps to one).  Basically you just click on a menu item, and you are ready to start cloning.

And version IX now includes a total of 7 KPT filters! I found these to be a wonderful set of fun effects to play with, and I am delighted that Corel included them with this update.

Painter IX has also continued to improve upon the compatibility issues with Adobe Photoshop, and now can open any PSD formats complete with layer masks,channels,layer sets maintained.  Along with full Photoshop support, Painter IX now includes full support for the latest Wacom tablets, and all of their respective functions.

Color management tools have also continued to be improved upon in version IX with upgraded support for ICC 4.0 profiles.  And there is an additional color management tutorial that is included to help all users a great tool to get up to speed with our color choices.

And last but certainly not least is the improved help menus, and user guides, plus a  bonus set of online training videos by lynda.com

Even the included manual is totally redesigned, and was structured differently than any of their previous ones.  This one contains all of the main menu commands, and guides to the controls, but more importantly contains a total of 9 full lesson plans that users can work along with to create their own artwork using various techniques.

Although I am somewhat familiar  with the look and feel of Painter, I will admit that I do not get to use this incredible program as much as I would like to.  So like anyone I tend to forget a lot of the commands, and nuances in the program, and then I must resign myself to relearning the parts I need to get up and running again.  But spending almost all of my time in Photoshop is no valid excuse for not using Painter more than I do.  I really appreciate the differences in both programs, but make no mistake about it, Painter IX is "the" program you need to have if you consider yourself a true digital artist.

As I mentioned in the beginning, it is just obvious that the folks at Corel have made some major changes in version IX, and as far as I can tell, they all make perfect sense, and they all work like they should.  As a long time user, I could certainly tell that this new version was really influenced by a lot of users and artists, and they all did their homework.

Everything that I experimented with in this version, not only performed well, but was a fun experience overall.  I will also admit to spending way too many hours of fun time just playing with all of the new brushes, and effects that I could produce in Painter IX.

So in summary, this is a program that every digital artist should own.  It contains all of the features that anyone could imagine, plus a few that I had not previously thought of myself.  But coupled with all that amazing power is a fairly simple and intuitive interface that even amateurs can have some fun with.   So forget the games, and wannabes out there, get Corel Painter IX, it's the real deal, and it could bring out the artist in us all.

System stats: I ran this program on a 1 GigHz, twin processor G4 machine with an 80 Gb internal drive, and 1 Gig of RAM. Plus two LaCie Firewire HD's, all running on System 9.2.2, and Sys 10.3.6

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS:    

Mac Power PC; G3,G4, G5, Imac, and 500MHz or greater.
Mac v  OS10.2.8, and higher.   
1024 x 768 or greater monitor resolution.
CD ROM Drive.
Mouse, or tablet.
24 Bit color display.
128 MB of RAM,(256MB recommended)megs of RAM.
395 MB's of available HD space.

cover shot
Software
Corel Painter IX
Developer

Corel Corporation

Phone
800-772-6735
Web
www.corel.com
Price
Upgrade $229.00  from Version 6,7,or 8,  Full Version $429.00
Pros
Brush Creator, faster interface, robust
Cons
Ruler reset, awkward layer commands
Moose
Rating
1 - 5
5 moose
(Impressive!)