Corel’s new plug-in brings its im­pres­sive Par­ti­cle brush tech­nol­ogy to Pho­to­shop. But are its lim­i­ta­tions too se­vere?

ImagineFX - - Reviews - Price £40; £25 for ad­di­tional brush packs (15 brushes per pack) Com­pany Corel Web www.painter­­ti­cleShop

Corel’s new plugin brings its im­pres­sive Par­ti­cle brush tech­nol­ogy to Adobe’s Pho­to­shop – but are its lim­i­ta­tions too se­vere?

The aurora bo­re­alis brush will have you paint­ing the North­ern lights in min­utes

Par­ti­cleShop is a promis­ing pro­gram, with a lot of po­ten­tial. It’s an of­fi­cial plug-in for Pho­to­shop made by Corel (also com­pat­i­ble with Adobe Light­room, Corel PHOTOPAINT and Pain­tShop Pro) that of­fers a starter range of 11 brushes pow­ered by Pain­ter’s Par­ti­cle brush tech­nol­ogy, mak­ing them tech­ni­cally more im­pres­sive than any­thing supplied by Adobe. Each brush in the starter pack gives an ex­am­ple of the 11 ad­di­tional brush packs (in­clud­ing flame, light, smoke, hair, space and de­bris) avail­able for pur­chase.

Run­ning Par­ti­cleShop launches the pro­gram in its own win­dow rather than in­side Pho­to­shop. But the user in­ter­face feels very sim­i­lar and it’ll only take you a few mo­ments to ac­cli­ma­tise to the con­trols. The brushes are de­scribed as pho­to­re­al­is­tic, which is indulging in hy­per­bole a touch, but they are gen­uinely im­pres­sive and con­sid­er­ably more ad­vanced than your usual Pho­to­shop cus­tom brushes. The aurora bo­re­alis ef­fect brush will have you paint­ing the North­ern lights in min­utes. A lot of the light ef­fect brushes are lovely, and will en­hance pho­to­graphs and il­lus­tra­tions to give them a fan­tas­ti­cal feel. How­ever, de­spite be­ing gor­geous brushes, they do have some un­for­tu­nate lim­i­ta­tions that de­tract from the over­all prod­uct.

Most dis­ap­point­ingly, there’s no Layer func­tion­al­ity within Par­ti­cleShop, so you’ll need to make a copy of your orig­i­nal photo or paint­ing be­cause you’ll be paint­ing di­rectly on to it! Al­ter­na­tively, you could make a new layer on top of the im­age in Pho­to­shop be­fore run­ning the plug-in, but you’ll be paint­ing ef­fects on to a trans­par­ent layer with no orig­i­nal layer un­der­neath to use as a ref­er­ence point. When the file is back in Pho­to­shop, you could trans­form the ef­fects into place, but this seems counter-pro­duc­tive.

Par­ti­cleShop’s brushes are ef­fect brushes, in­tended to sup­ple­ment and en­hance an im­age rather than cre­ate one from scratch. If you think about print ad­verts where ath­letes are hurl­ing flam­ing bas­ket­balls while leav­ing energy trails, then this is the sort of look Par­ti­cleShop would not only make easy, but ex­cel at. Fu­tur­is­tic land­scape con­cepts would also be aug­mented well with Par­ti­cleShop.

So do we rec­om­mend you pur­chase Par­ti­cleShop? Sadly, not yet. With fur­ther de­vel­op­ment, Par­ti­cleShop could find it­self in the must buy cat­e­gory. But for that it would need the ad­di­tion of layer sup­port, some sta­bil­i­sa­tion so the plug-in doesn’t cause Pho­to­shop to crash when other apps are run­ning si­mul­ta­ne­ously (we had to turn off Spo­tify to get Par­ti­cleShop to load cor­rectly) and a more rea­son­able pric­ing struc­ture (cur­rently if you want the en­tire set of Par­ti­cleShop brushes you’d be look­ing at pay­ing over £300). But right now, de­spite its nu­mer­ous ex­cel­lent brushes on of­fer, Par­ti­cleShop needs more ver­sa­til­ity and sta­bil­ity to earn its cur­rent price tag.

The im­pres­sive re­al­ism of Par­ti­cleShop’s ef­fect brushes means you can add dust, shine and gen­eral chaos to your scenes. Dra­matic-look­ing back­grounds, such as neb­u­las and the aurora bo­re­alis, can be quickly rus­tled up with Par­ti­cleShop’s brushes. Once you in­stall the plug-in, it won’t take long to en­hance your land­scape paint­ings by adding sci-fi el­e­ments – such as this in­ter­di­men­sional rift.

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