Who needs canvas and paint when you have the perfect digital art room in the form of your PC or Mac? Of course, simulating natural paints and strokes using bog-standard image editors is not the most satisfying experience, which is where Corel Painter comes in.

This is a powerful tool developed painstakingly over years to provide the digital artist with all the tools they could ever possibly need to simulate watercolours, oil paintings and more besides.

Painter’s success lies in its brilliantly realised papers and brushes, with recently introduced Real Watercolour and Real Oil brushes actually letting you watch the paint “dry” on the canvas to produce results even closer to those in real life. Other brushes – such as Particle Brushes – aren’t quite as authentic, but provide shortcuts to producing beautiful – yet more subtle – effects such as fur or smoke. Ultimately there’s something here for the purist and those who just want to produce superb results without tapping into their years of training or experience.

Painter also provides a wide variety of effects to spruce up existing images, plus cloning and photo painting tools to transform photos into virtual works of art. There are also useful composition tools such as mirror and kaleidoscope as well as familiar concepts like rule of thirds.

All of this power comes at a price – the program can be difficult to navigate at first, and some of the more realistic brushes will slow less powerful computers to a crawl. Nevertheless, recent versions have worked hard to try and simplify the user interface while delivering performance efficiencies to squeeze every last drop of performance out of the program.

What’s new in Corel Painter 2016?
+ Audio Expression brushes that react to sound
+ Dynamic Speckles
+ Special Media Mixing
+ Paper and Flow Map Rotation
+ Performance improvements – up to three times faster than Painter 2015
+ Blending 2.0
+ Updated user interface and integrated learning

Verdict

Undeniably beautiful, powerful and effective – however the high cost of ownership and steep learning curve puts this firmly in the realms of professional and serious hobbyists.