CNET Editors' note: Corel Painter X3 has a separate installer for 32-bit PCs.
CNET Editors' review
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.
Get inspired with Corel Painter X3. The latest in digital art software includes hundreds of brushes, paper textures and media that emulate real-world art materials. Experiment and create with watercolors, acrylics, oils, pastels, chalks, pencils, markers and more using powerful RealBristle technology that replicates traditional art techniques on your tablet. Use the new Brush Search engine to find the perfect brush and learn more about its properties. Introduce an element of creative randomness to your work with the Universal Jitter feature. Improve precision and control with new cloning and photo-painting tools. Plus, new features and Photoshop compatibility makes it easy for artists of all skill levels to learn and use Painter. It's a complete art studio at your fingertips!
What's new in this version:
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All versions:3.0 stars
out of 2 votes
Current version:3.0 stars
out of 2 votes
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"New bells & whistles don't make up for bug fix failures"
Version: Corel Painter 64-Bit X3
Grouped layer manipulation
No 64 bit support for Mac OS
I've been using Painter for almost 20 years and was a beta tester for the program back when Fractal owned it. I use the software 5-10 hours a day, 5 days a week. I have dutifully purchased each of the last 5 upgrades for this software, blindly hoping that Corel would address many of the persistent bugs in the software. Given the number and significance of the bugs I identified and have had to live with in the last version, I decided to download and use the trial version for X3 for the past several days before deciding to spend another $200 to upgrade to X3.
I desperately wish Corel would concentrate on the real issues with the program (bugs, crashes, performance/stability problems, etc.-primarily on the MacOS) and give the superfluous "improvements" like new effects brushes etc. a rest. For those of us who are and have been using the software for production work (I produce ~100 illustrations a year, most images have 30 or more layers), the bugs/crashes/performance problems have a considerable impact on our workflow (and mental health!). I'd much rather have a stable program that I can rely on than software with lots of bells and whistles (I rarely use) that crashes or doesn't function correctly.
Suffice it to say, I will not purchase X3 and would strongly advise others against it. Of the nearly 20 issues I've cataloged with X2, no more than 8 have been fixed in this new version. What makes matters worse is that there are new, fundamental bugs that affect work flow and the ability to use the basic function of the layer features. If anyone avails themselves of the versatility of layers, DO NOT purchase this upgrade.
Here are the old issues (pre X3) that are still in the new version:
• the program occasionally refuses to allow you to paint on a layer because it believes it is a group, even though it isn't
• you can't shift-click multiple layers in the actual document window; you have to shift-click the items in the layer's menu
• drag selecting a number of layers in a document does not highlight the corresponding layers in the Layer Menu and still has a bug (unless you grab the very top layer in the selected group to drag and move, Painter deselects the top layer in the group you have selected)
• deleting an individual layer in a grouped layer intermittently crashes the program
Here is a NEW bug in X3 that has been confirmed by members of the PainterFactory website:
• you cannot access individual layers in a group to move, paint or modify them-that includes directly clicking on them in the document OR by selecting them in the Layers Menu. The program considers them a group even when they are expanded.
• you can only sporadically manipulate a group's individual layer if you drag it in and out of the group or change its attributes.
"A great new addition to the Painter family"
Version: Corel Painter 64-Bit X3
Loads of small yet useful improvements and fixes.
Stability, reliability and performance improvements.
New Perspective Tool.
New Advanced Brush Controls
Brush Search engine
Still no proper 64 bit Mac support
First of all I must mention that I'm lucky enough to be on Corel's Painter Advisory Council. This is a great privilege, as I get to help, in a small way, in the development of Painter. Having said that, this review will be from me as an illustrator and user of Painter.
I think that this is a solid addition to the Painter family (which now includes Painter Lite and Painter Freestyle).
Some people might have been looking for loads of flashy, new, in-your-face features, but many Painter users where instead wanting Corel to concentrate on reliability, performance and stability improvements.
The Painter team has delivered on those. X3 feels stable and reliable, and I had no reluctance to move over to it from Painter 12. There are many small simple things that improve my experience of using Painter and make my workflow smoother - meaning I can concentrate more on the art, and less on the program and UI. Stuff like: Ctrl+B being able to dismiss all the Brush Controls in the same was as it invoked them all; the default tool for the Mixer Pad is now the eye dropper - no more messed up Mixer Pads by accident; the old annoying bug where the freehand lasso selection would end prematurely is fixed; and we can now Transform multiple layers at once, which means less trips to Photoshop and back.
There are of course some completely new features as well, and some of them are fantastic. Some new features I don't use simply because of what I use Painter for. I don't tend to work with photographs or cloning, so I'm not the best person to talk about improvements in that area. Some of the things I do like are:
The new Perspective Tool: This is a massively useful new addition to Painter's tool box. Anyone who's had to setup three point perspective by hand will understand how fantastic this tool is. This tool can literally save hours of work, and makes drawing in perspective much easier. The ability to save setups as presets is great, as it means users can set up more than one set of perspective within one drawing - useful for when objects aren't aligned with each other. Hours of fun instead of hours of painful manual work.
Brush Search: A simple idea that's both a nice way of finding half-remembered brush variants as well as a fun way to stumble across brushes that you don't tend to use.
Advanced Brush Controls: This is a really great way of focusing on the most important or relevant brush controls for the variant that's in use. It removes some of the intimidating nature of the full set of brush controls, introducing only relevant controls to newer users, while power users, brush builders and experienced brush tweakers can choose between this or all the brush settings.
Reference Image panel: Another simple yet useful addition. It's nice to have a panel that floats containing a reference image, and it saves having multiple documents open. In future I'd like to see the ability to have multiple Reference Panels open and/or each one containing more than one reference.
Colour Sets from image: This was a feature I never used in previous versions of Painter. I always found that using it generated way too many colours. Now we can generate a Color Set from an image and limit the number of paint chips we get from it to a more sensible number like 16, 32 or whatever.
Jitter Expression and Jitter Brushes: These look fun. One of my criticisms of myself is that I'd like to loosen up my style from time to time. These are a fun way of starting that process - introducing a wee bit of chaos and variability...
The promise of Leap Motion support: I was delighted to see a commitment in the X3 launch materials to adding Leap Motion support to Painter X3 in the future. This technology is new, and I can understand why it's being limited to Painter Freestyle initially. It's important to get it right.
That's enough typing for now. I'd have no second thoughts about recommending Painter X3 to anyone.