Painter IX full review

Painter IX, the latest upgrade of Corel’s natural-media-simulation software, goes some way to addressing memory problems found in version 8, particularly among Mac users. Primarily a Windows-software manufacturer, Corel’s Painter ran slowly on Macs, especially when apeing watercolour and inks at higher than the 72dpi default resolution while using larger brushes. Tested under ideal conditions – Dual-1.42GHz G4 with 1GB of RAM – Painter IX now runs smoothly, even on Rolf Harris-style panoramas.

Painting digitally with paints, inks, pastels, crayons and pens is now a joy. Brushes flow freely with little pixellation, watercolours now stay wet between sessions, and oils look organic. Although things run smoothly, Corel’s claims of brush performance speeds of up to ten times faster couldn’t be verified easily.

Superficially, Painter IX looks familiar: the interface remain largely the same as in version 8, with the exception of a welcome screen similar to Adobe software that allows quick access to files, settings and tutorials. New documents are defaulted to 72dpi; this needs to be changed to 300dpi to truly exploit Painter’s potential.

A new snap-to-path function makes it possible to constrain a brush stroke along a vector path or shape. Corel claims a revolutionary ‘Artists’ Oils Painting System’, where brush-strokes interact with any paint already on the canvas just as they would with natural media, although this will take time to master.

Version IX adds several Photoshop-friendly additions, including much better support for the PSD file format. Integration between the two software packages is excellent. Photoshop layer masks, alpha channels and layer sets are all maintained in Painter IX. New layers are now added above the selected layer, layers with different merge-modes are collapsible, and it’s now possible to hide or display multiple layers by simply clicking and dragging.

Support has been improved, which is useful as Painter does not benefit from the same level of third-party backup available to Photoshop users, for example. Register Painter IX, and you get access to some of the training videos available online. The latest Wacom Intuos3 graphics tablets’ touch-strips are supported, along with improved ICC 4.0-standard colour-management.

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