Short Report: Corel Painter IX
Bridging the gap between photography and painting
Corel Painter IX's wide selection of customizable brushes, tight integration with Wacom pressure-sensitive graphics tablets and easy-to-get-started interface make it the best painting software we've used to date. While Painter IX is primarily a painting program and not an image processor, you don't have to be a painter or have any training in the craft to enjoy experimenting with your photographs.
New Features. The Welcome Screen lets you quickly open previous files or start a new image, and includes links to tips, tutorials and tool controls. It's a good place to begin for users who are new to the software. Previous Painter users will appreciate this version's faster performance. Painter IX has significantly reduced the delay between moving a mouse or stylus and its result on the screen. Corel notes that speed improvements are as much as 10 times faster than previous versions.
Brush Controls. Like painting in the real world, the selection of brushes, canvases and paints are diverse. When used with a Wacom pen tablet, the pressure-sensitive tools react to the weight and angle of your stroke. Along with changing the width, grain and even the angle at which the paint is laid on the page, the duration that the brush remains wet with paint until dry is adjustable as well. Depending on how you set your layers, paint from one layer can interact with those in lower layers, just as would happen when working on a real canvas.
Cloning. When it comes time to use a photograph as the basis of a painting, Painter IX makes it all that much easier with its Quick Clone feature. With a click of the mouse, a clone of the selected image appears with a semi-translucent tracing paper over it. Using any paint or brush, you can begin tracing or painting on your image. Click Control+T to make the underlying photograph disappear so you can review the results of your painting. In previous versions of the software, this often involved numerous steps.
Cross-Compatibility. Along with these functional controls, the software offers greater compatibility with Photo-shop. It not only supports layered PSD files, but also masks layers and channels. For better print results, Painter IX provides improved color-calibration controls for the monitor, printer and display devices. Windows and Macintosh. List Price: $429 (full version); $229 (upgrade).
Contact: Corel (Jasc), (800) 772-6735, www.corel.com.