Despite this, the watercolour feature is one of the most interesting additions to the application. The old watercolour feature was good, but now you can adjust every aspect of the brush – from the rate of evaporation, to wind direction. The results are impressive – as accurate a depiction as you could hope to see. The only drawback is the delay between making the brush stroke and seeing the results. This is particularly difficult for making quick strokes – as in a pale colour wash for a sky, for example. Other aspects of the watercolour settings include wetness and dry rate, allowing the artist to blend colours while still wet, or wait for them to dry. In a similar vein, there is a new liquid-ink media tool. This lets you use ink with variable viscosity and surface tension, which will actually congeal and bind with other colour inks. As a Carbon application, it runs well in OS X – but it’s also compatible with OSs back to 8.6. Sliders are widely used, both to view and preview images. The slider will, for example, do a continuous zoom in single percentage increments – which allows you to zoom in on exactly the part of the image you want to work with. In the save options, the JPEG and GIF encoding can be viewed in real time. This means that you can move the slider to adjust the amount of compression, while watching the image to see how the compression affects its quality. Painter’s text capabilities have also been improved, and now combine the Text Tool and the Dynamic Text plug-in from previous versions into one simple and powerful tool. All the controls are now in a single drop-down palette. Perspective, as we were all taught in art class, can be drawn using a vanishing point to give the impression of distance thought the miracle of depth perception and faking of juxtaposition. Or something like that. Anyway, Painter now lets you overlay perspective grids so you can paint railway lines and straight streets easily and without fear of confusion.
If you already use Painter, version 7 is a must-have – if only for its OS X compatibility. It has some cool new features, but the watercolour functions are still slow. Even entry-level iMacs have full video-editing power, so why does pretending that some pixels are watercolour paint require so much processing power? You really need a graphics tablet to get the best out of Painter, as it makes use of the pressure-sensitive tablets like no other application. Sadly, Wacom, the maker of the most common tablets, hasn’t released Mac OS X drivers yet.