Hot on the heels of the new Painter X release comes a completely redesigned package for painting hobbyists: Painter Essentials 4.0.

Sure, the people at Corel could have stripped out some features from Painter X, slapped on an Essentials label and called it a day (and to be honest, in previous versions that's just what happened). However, with Painter Essentials 4.0, the company went back to the drawing board and designed a completely new interface - it looks nothing like Painter X, although it packs much of its power.

Geared toward arts and craft enthusiasts, scrapbookers, and digital photography hobbyists, Painter Essentials 4.0 is a shockingly friendly and affordable home art studio that makes discovering the world of paint and brushes enjoyable.

Brand-new interface

To simplify the interface, Corel researched how customers were using the software. Thus, the new interface sports two workspace buttons: Drawing & Painting and Photo Painting. Depending on which workspace you're in, a different set of palettes appear specific to those tasks. For example, the Drawing & Painting workspace includes a new Colors palette, full of easy-to-grab swatches and a new Mixer palette for creating custom colours. Alternatively, the Photo Painting workspace includes Source Image, Auto-Painting and Restore Detail palettes.

Upon launch, a Welcome screen offers to open a canvas or launch 135 minutes of video training (you can access tutorial images from the File menu and follow along with the printed Guidebook). Tool buttons and sliders are also bigger than in previous versions, making them easier to select with a pen and tablet.

Brush Drawer

A friendly Brush Drawer now graces the toolbox in both workspaces, displaying both the name of each brush and a preview of its stroke. Brushes are categorized by type (thick or thin paint, water, pencils and pens); that's a nice touch for newcomers to traditional painting. Brushes appear in a History list after use and frequently used brushes can be saved as favorites.

Of the many brushes gracing this version, a number are derived from the RealBristle Painting System introduced in Painter X. Designed to perfectly mimic the behavior of real brushes, their bristles bend and splay when pressed upon the canvas. They can also be loaded with multiple colors by using the Mixer palette.

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