Corel Painter 2015 review

Corel Painter's natural media painting application gets an update with the launch of Painter 2015. It’s not a huge improvement over the previous version (X3) but it does introduce some interesting improvements, whether they are going to be vital for your workflow is another matter.

And there’s big hurdle to leap when upgrading that will put some users off upgrading at all – and at least means you have to be careful about when you upgrade and set aside time to do it. Don’t upgrade in the middle of a project – or, at least if you’re always in the middle of projects, don’t upgrade during a big or tight one.

To my mind the best things in this latest incarnation are the Jitter Smoothing, Brush Tracking and performance updates – but before we come to those, I’ll get into the new brushes. New brush sets are usually the headline feature of every major upgrade to Painter – it’s they extend what the software is capable of, rather than just finessing what’s already there.

Painter 2015: Particle brushes

The new Particle brushes and Painter's helpful info palettes

Painter 2015’s big new brush set is the new Particle Brush category. These are cool physics-inspired brushes that can have a myriad of uses. The most obvious is painting elemental effects like fire and smoke – but they also help speed up creating fur, hair, grass and other materials that may be horribly time-consuming.
There are three main types of Particle Brush: Gravity, Flow and Springs – and each reacted appropriately to input from my Wacom Cintiq Companion stylus’s pressure, bearing, tilt or velocity.

Like all of Painter’s brushes, there are dozens of controls to affect their behaviour – which could be overwhelming, but Corel have helpfuly added a few information palettes in order to explain how some of the Particle brush settings work (which can be found under Window > Info Palettes).
These brushes are a great extension to Painter’s painting tools, but I would say they're going to depend on your style as to how much they get used. What they lay down always has a slightly synthetic, CG feel to it. For my work, I always want a hand-made texture as if it was painted using real brushes – so I’ve not found much use for them. However, I've got a feeling some of my concept artist friends are going to be really happy with them.

Painter 2015: Interface changes

Accessing the new Palette Arrangements options.

Corel hasn’t made any major changes to Painter’s interface for Painter 2015, but there are some well-thought-out design improvements that make it easier to use.

You’ve long had the ability to arrange Painter’s palettes – of which there are many – and save them as custom workspaces. 2015 introduces some new palette presets, which are pretty handy.

From Window > Arrange Palettes there are five preset arrangements designed to display more relevant palettes and tools to your task. The presets included are: New Brushes – presumably just so you can test out the new ones – Simple, Photo Art, Illustration and Default.

You can create your own arrangements, and you also have the ability to select your favourite two and quickly switch between them.

One addition to the palettes I liked was the new Command bar. This is one of the palettes you will get if you select the 'Simple' layout – but it can also be accessed directly from the Window menu. The Command bar gives you quick access to basic commands like New, Save, Undo/Redo, Cut/Copy/Paste, Layer Stack and Brush Tracking. It doesn't sound like much but if you want to minimise the amount of clutter on your screen – especially if you're working on a smaller display like a laptop or a tablet PC – this is really handy.

Effects filters have been tweaked so that you can now preview them across your whole artwork – making understanding what they do a lot easier and quicker than with the little preview thumbnails of previous versions. The design of dialog boxes has been improved, making them larger and easier to manage.

Lastly for the interface spruce-up, there’s a perspective guided strokes button on the properties bar, which allows you to quickly toggle the perspective grids (which have also been updated) and constrain your brush strokes to it.

Next section: Painter 2015: Jitter Smoothing