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Corel Painter 12 review


Improved interface, brush handling and a few new creative effects; it’s still the best, but Painter is largely trading on existing strengths

Review Date: 14 Jun 2011

Reviewed By: Tom Arah

Price when reviewed: £229 (£275 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £310
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
4 stars out of 6

Painter has dominated the market for artistic bitmap editing for the past 20 years. This long history has led to huge creative power, but also a working environment that was old-fashioned, idiosyncratic and horrendously overly technical. Since Corel took over development, things have slowly improved and this latest release sees a further interface overhaul with a more modern look and feel.

Perhaps the most obvious sign that Painter has been dragged into the 21st century is the revamped New Image dialog. Previously, this automatically defaulted to an image size of just 810 x 500 pixels at 72dpi; now it’s full screen and 150dpi. You can also now create and load your own presets as well as specify the image name, background colour and paper texture.

When dealing with larger images, you need to be able to manage your current view. Here Painter 12 adds the ability to boost either speed or quality when zooming, and a new Navigator panel that shows a small version of the full image with a box indicating the current display.

Corel Painter 12 - main interface

As well as providing feedback, the Navigator panel lets you pan, zoom and rotate your image and manage settings such as the grid display, tracing opacity and drawing mode. It’s not as simple as it could be – you can’t just drag over an area to set the view – but it’s a major improvement.

The biggest interface advance is the redesigned Brush Selector panel. Painter provides hundreds of natural media brushes, and choosing the right one used to be a nightmare. Now the revamped panel lets you choose a category – chalks, pastels, oils and so on – on the left and then presents a list of named brush variants to select from on the right.

The panel also provides quick access to your most recently used brushes and gives you a preview of the variants as you roll over them. Again, it’s an improvement, but it’s disappointing that you can’t pin the panel open.

In terms of the range of brushes on offer, Painter 12 adds three new categories: Gels, Real Watercolor and Real Wet Oils. In each case, the depth of the simulation is extraordinary. The Real Watercolor brushes mimic effects such as the viscosity of water, diffusion of pigment and wind direction. The results can certainly be impressive, but then they were already with Painter’s existing oils and watercolours.

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