Corel Painter 12

Long favoured by digital artists with a penchant for realistic painterly (and other natural media) techniques, the burning question is does this latest iteration represent a good enough reason for existing users to upgrade, and will the improved features encourage new users to incorporate Painter into their creative workflow?

Painter might not do everything that Photoshop can and doesn’t claim to, but what it can do it does extremely well. As a suite of over 700 realistic brushes, and that’s just the ones already in the box before you’ve created custom ones, from acrylics to watercolour via impasto, sumi-e and pretty much everything in between, the bottom line is that Painter easily remains top of the natural media emulation class.

Key among the new features is the redesigned user interface. Over the years, the Painter interface has always felt a little quirky, especially when compared to the slickness of Photoshop. It was never enough to detract from the reasons for using the software in the first place, but it certainly reduced the ability for new users familiar with Adobe’s application to be able to dive straight in and feel comfortable with Painter’s layout from the get-go. Corel have evidently spent a great deal of time making everything considerably more intuitive, even if that’s largely due to moving closer to Photoshop’s interface (which is something Corel acknowledges).

The new Navigator panel will also be familiar to Photoshop users, letting you move around and zoom in and out of the canvas, and even rotating it to suit a particular brushstroke. It’s more fully featured than Photoshop’s panel, displaying information about the image dimensions and allowing quick access to a number of important tools, although it has to be said it’s not as responsive as Adobe’s equivalent, with a noticeable lag when you try to manoeuvre around a large canvas using the tool.

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