capsule review

Corel Painter 11 Painting and Drawing Software

At a Glance
  • Corel Painter 11

    PCWorld Rating

    The natural-media powerhouse gets its most realistic drawing tools yet.

Corel Painter may owe its name to oils and watercolors, but in version 11,art media and implements other than paint and brushes enjoy the spotlight. The thirty new Real Hard Media tools in Painter 11 give the venerable natural-media paint program for Windows and OS X its most uncanny re-creations yet of pencils, pens, pastels, chalk, and other classic drawing tools.

If you have a Wacom Intuos or Cintiq graphics tablet, you'll find that Real Hard Media tools react to the angle at which you hold the pen--so you can draw with the point of a 2B pencil for detail work, for instance, and then scribble back and forth with its edge to fill in large areas. Painter's markers are more realistic than ever, too: Like the ones sold in art stores, they let you build up color by layering strokes to darken an area. And new customization options let you fiddle with existing hard media or create your own from scratch.

Painter 11 adds a few additional Photoshop-like features, including basic support for the PNG file format, a polygonal selection tool, and improved features for rotating, scaling, and skewing elements. Ultimately, though, Painter remains a natural-media specialist, not a Photoshop replacement--a fact that this new version acknowledges with better support for shuttling images between the two applications with their colors and layers intact. Color management in general is beefed up, so colors remain accurate as you save images in different formats and print them out on various media.

Painter's interface has received a few smart tweaks: The color wheel is resizable, as is the mixer for blending paints. However, I am one longtime Painter fan who continues to think that its user interface is pretty cluttered and could benefit from a more sweeping overhaul. Even so, if you want to do seriously realistic-looking traditional art on a computer, you need Painter. And if you're a Painter user who's as likely to grab a virtual pencil or pen as a virtual paintbrush, you need this upgrade.

Note: Some Windows XP users have reported experiencing crashes with the new version of Painter; I didn't encounter any myself. Corel says that it's aware of the issue and is working on an update.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The natural-media powerhouse gets its most realistic drawing tools yet.

    Pros

    • Super-realistic new hard media tools
    • Better Photoshop support

    Cons

    • Interface remains cluttered
    • Priced for professionals, not amateurs
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