By Karen Sperling
Most people have digital cameras nowadays. Many, if not most, have software to edit their digital photos. Some, if not most, get more creative with their photo editing the longer they do it. They go from simply cropping the photo to adjusting colors and tones to applying effects. Some take their photos to the next step and start to paint them. And some go to the next level with their photos and turn them into paintings.
While many software programs nowadays offer tools for painting photos, the standard continues to be Corel Painter. The new version, Corel Painter 12, is the best version yet and I highly recommend it.
Corel Painter has a vast audience of artists and animators who paint their artwork from scratch. Painter also appeals to photographers who want to paint their photos, whether they are professionals painting portraits for clients or hobbyists painting photos of kids, grandkids and travels.
In Painter 12, Corel has added many new features for digital artists and animators, and has also streamlined some of the functions used by photographers.
This review looks at these new Corel Painter 12 features that will benefit professional photographers and hobbyists who wish to turn their photos into paintings. Artists and animators can apply the following to their work as well.
The main big improvement in Corel Painter 12 for photographers is the handling of the clone source.
In general, when you open a photo in Painter, you choose File: Clone or Quick Clone.
Choosing File: Clone or Quick Clone creates a clone copy of the original source photo. The difference is Clone just makes a copy and Quick Clone creates a copy and then deletes the copy’s contents. Photo by Karen Sperling.
Either tool creates a new image copy with a computer mapping or link back to the clone source or original source photo. You can then turn on Tracing Paper, which shows you a 50% non-printing ghost of the original clone source photo to use as a reference as you paint in the clone copy (you will only see Tracing Paper if you edit the clone. If the contents are identical to the original photo, then you don’t see Tracing Paper).
Tracing Paper is a 50% non-printing ghost of the original source photo and can be used as a reference when painting in the clone. Photo by Karen Sperling.
This computer mapping or link also allows you to use Painter’s Cloner brushes or paint with other brushes using Clone Color in the Colors palette.
Without this link or computer mapping, you can’t turn on Tracing Paper or use the cloning brush tools. In all previous versions, if you quit out of Painter and went to get a bite to eat, when you returned and relaunched Painter, you had to manually open both the source file and the clone copy and reattach them using File menu: Clone Source.
To reconnect the clone and the source image in previous versions of Painter, choose the original source photo using File: Clone Source. Photo by Karen Sperling.
Enter Painter 12.
In the new Corel Painter 12, if you save the clone copy in Painter’s native .rif file format, when you quit Painter and relaunch it, you only have to open the clone. You don’t have to open the original photo and you don’t have to reattach the source photo and the clone. With just the clone open, you can turn on Tracing Paper, select a Cloner brush or click Clone color in the Colors palette, and enjoy many Monet moments.
This is a huge improvement and cuts down on the learning curve for beginners and saves set up time for beginners and experienced users alike.
Another big improvement in Painter 12 is the Clone Source panel, found in the Window menu.
This is where File: Clone Source has been moved to and it’s been enhanced in Painter 12. If you save in another format other than .rif, you do have to reattach the file to the clone source. Interestingly, with the new Clone Source panel, you don’t have to physically open the clone source photo in Painter, you can click the icon at the bottom of the panel, locate the source photo on your system and click open.
Click the icon at the bottom of the Clone Source panel in Painter 12 to locate the original photo clone source. Painting by Karen Sperling.
This attaches the painting file to the source file with only the clone file physically open in Painter.
Another nice improvement is that you can have multiple clone source files listed in this Clone Source panel. The clone source file has to be the same size as the painting file, so it’s not like you can open a bunch of different files and use them as clone sources. You can, however, still use them as clone sources the old fashioned way by pressing option on Mac/ctrl on Windows, clicking the area you’d like to pick up and painting in the area where you’d like the clone source imagery to be.
You can, however, save interim steps of an image, attach the previous steps in the Clone Source panel, then paint from individual stages of the image by first selecting the desired image stage in the Clone Source panel and painting with any of the Cloners or with other brushes with Clone Color selected in the Colors palette.
You can select multiple clone sources in Corel Painter 12. Painting by Karen Sperling.
Another nice feature of the new Clone Source panel is the slider that allows you to adjust Tracing Paper transparency. It replaces and enhances the percentages menu found in the Tracing Paper icon in the image window’s upper right-hand corner in previous versions of Painter.
Two other cool features have been added to Painter 12 that I use a lot:
• Recent brushes bar in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, a very handy way to access previously used brushes.
• The addition of pressing shift when you want to click and drag tools out from the Brush selector into a custom palette. In previous versions, it was easy to create extraneous custom palettes by mistake. Now, by having to press shift first, you create custom palettes only when you want to.
These improvements are the ones that I’m enjoying the most frequentliy, but there’s much more going on in the new Painter 12.
The major change is the updated interface. It is much more Photoshop-esque, which will help new users who are used to Photoshop get going in Painter.
The updated interface wasn’t entirely just a cosmetic change, either. One very useful aspect of it is that you can now rearrange brushes and variants, or variations of the main brush tools, to completely customize your work environment. Let’s say you most often use the Chalk and the Blenders. Click the brush icon in the brush selector and simply click and drag on the Chalk and the Blenders and move them to the top of the menu for easy access.
Click and drag on brush and variant icons in the Brush Selector to organize the Brush Selector to taste. Painting by Karen Sperling.
There are new brushes including the Real Watercolor and Real Wet Oil categories that produce some very cool effects–check out, for instance, the Real Watercolor variants with the word Fractal in them.
Two cool new Painter 12 features are the Mirror and Kaleidoscope painting modes. The Mirror Mode creates a mirror image of anything you paint or draw, so for instance, if you draw one side of a face, Painter automatically draws the other side for you. The Kaleidoscope Mode multiplies the mirror effect up to 12 times, so everything you draw or paint is repeated the selected number of times to create a pattern, which could be useful for backgrounds or clothing.
Example of a background painted with Painter 12’s Kaleidoscope Mode. Painting by Karen Sperling.
Last but certainly not least, Painter 12 seems to me to be the most rock solid version of Painter yet. I’ve created a DVD and had several classes since Painter 12 debuted a few months ago, and the program has been consistently stable. In addition, it seems to be the fastest version of Painter, yet.
Here are some other new features in Corel Painter 12:
• The Navigator panel allows you to maneuver around the document window. You can also enable various tools from the Navigator including the drawing modes, Impasto, tracing paper, grids, and color management.
• Brushes, paper textures, color sets, and gradients libraries have been enhanced for better organization and management.
• The new Temporal Colors palette has been introduced to let you choose colors on the fly.
• The New Image dialog box has been updated to allow you to choose paper texture in addition to the past choices of size, resolution and paper color. You can also create presets for new files.
• Corel Painter 12 renders smoother-looking images onscreen when you zoom in and increases the speed of rendering images when you zoom out.
• New brush controls have been added including Computed Circular dabs, dynamic brush settings, and new Brush Calibration controls and multicore brush support, new Gel brushes and new Digital Airbrush variants.
All things considered, I think Corel Painter 12 is a shining star in the constellation of software programs and whether you’re painting from scratch or turning photos into paintings, I think Corel Painter 12 is a must have.
Learn to paint landscapes from photos in Corel Painter 12 with the Painting for Photographers DVD Volume 2: Landscapes.
This review is ©2011 Karen Sperling and Artistry and may not be reproduced in any form without written permission.