Paint the town red with this excellent art app
£314 FROM Corel, corel.com needs OS X 10.9.5 or higher
The last few years have seen Painter keep its place at the top of the natural media painting pile, but it’s been hard to see where it could go forward.
However, the 2017 edition sees its developer innovating with new tools, as well as improving on existing ones.
The app itself hasn’t changed much in feel or operation, which is a good thing and ultimately allows the new features to feel less like bolt-ons for the purposes of upgrades, and more like integral parts of the software.
The toolset is pretty comprehensive, as well as very realistic. It’s very easy to get to grips with, especially if used with a graphics tablet. Many tools respond to stylus angle and rotation, as well as position, allowing you to angle them to create broader shading with a 2B pencil, or work with shaped-tip ink pens.
Painter 2017 adds a number of new tools, the most notable being the texture and glazing ones. The former enables you to intelligently add textures to your work based on the underlying imagery. It has several presets, and it’s simple to add your own. You could take a photo of a concrete wall, define that in Painter, and use it to add texture in a variety of ways. There are many uses for this, but probably the most obvious is for fast-working concept artists who need to define a look, or even 3D artists painting maps for use in CG.
The glazing tools are a set of transparent brushes that build up as a real-world glaze would, enhancing depth and colour. Painter comes with a number of preset brushes and, as with all Painter brushes, there is a huge amount of control and customisability available. This continues with the interface as a whole, with palettes that can be moved, collapsed, stacked or hidden, and layouts that can be saved for specific tasks.
Great gradient control
Painter 2017 doesn’t stop there. Any good software upgrade should be indicative of the developer listening to its users, fixing issues or changing tools so they better fit their uses. In this release, the interactive gradient tool has been tweaked to give better performance, plus new options, such as edit nodes, which help you apply gradients to existing art.
Sticking with the gradient theme, there is also a new Gradient Express tool, which is aimed at relieving the problem of staring at a fresh document and not knowing how to start. The gradients can have brush styles applied for rapidly working out a colour theme or background, to kick-start your creative thinking when you need it. This, in conjunction with the texture tool, is a great way to start any piece.
It’s hard to criticise what is an excellent bit of software. However, Painter can be a little bit too comprehensive; it’s easy to forget some of the options that are available as there are just so many, especially once you set the interface to your preferred working method (the app provides presets for photo art, concept work and more). Painter’s interface isn’t as modern those found in some other apps, but it does its job well, and the app’s ease of navigation surpasses any thoughts about dated button shapes.
The interactive gradient tool’s new options include edit nodes, to help apply gradients to existing art
Painter 2017 introduces the useful glaze and texture tools.