Review: Painter X3 brings an array of complimentary tools for inspiring artists

The latest version lets you mix custom palettes from reference images, and brings improved brush physics and native search.

On Tuesday, Corel released a major update to its Painter series. Painter X3 brings several tool upgrades that include advanced brush behaviors, native search for quick tool access, and multilayer transformations.

The majority of Painter's tools are geared toward the traditional illustrator; Corel's recent updates showcase an impressive array of brush tools that better emulate the physics of their real-life counterparts. For example, watercolors will spread and leave dry marks as a liquid-based paint would behave on a textured medium.

Though Painter's work layout is often compared and contrasted with another certain popular illustration program, Corel has gone to great lengths to make their tools much more accessible. Though it helps to learn the basic tool setup, features like the new Brush Search helps you find tools quickly without having to skim through the toolbars. Queries like "oil" or "gel" will bring up a list of related brushes, each with their own brush preview stroke.

Reference Image is another helpful addition, which lets you keep a static panel of an original image. It's surprisingly useful, especially when you're recreating or using external source images as inspiration.

Corel also includes another inspiration freebie called Mixer, which lets you take existing images and extract color palettes. There are four major palette modes that simulate traditional solid color grids or a more raw, mixed-acrylic approach for traditional painters. It's definitely a refreshing approach to color management; any reference images can instantly become a color palette, which comes in handy when you're trying to convey particular emotions from things like photos or graphics.

The type of user or artist who'd enjoy Painter really depends on the type of work they're trying to create; Adobe users will still have to tweak their workflow and approach ever so slightly should they plan to adopt Corel products for one reason or another. However, it's definitely not as daunting as one might think, especially if you used Adobe products, traditionally, for illustration purposes.

When it comes to Web design, Adobe still holds its ground but the Painter environment excels when it comes to creating custom textures and brushes; it's the perfect playground for artists who want control over tool creation.

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