Evaluating Corel Painter 12

I'm trying out new things these days. After years of being a die-hard, one original ketubah hand-made from start to finish made for couples, I've branched out. First it was just making reproductions of my original designs. Then, I decided that maybe hand-calligraphy wasn't as important to my creative process as originally conceived. I added typesetting to the reproductions. It wasn't long before I began to see how lovely and versatile making some art digitally can be. But even flipping between Illustrator and Photoshop, getting actual paint textures is hard.

Enter Corel Painter 12.

As an artist, the feel is not the same. It takes a little getting used to. For instance, selecting brushes by name is trial and error for a while. Like many artists, I tend to buy RL brushes by feel and have no sense of what they are actually called. Also I choose the shape and texture and alter the paint flow moment to moment. Brushes in Painter are consistent, meaning they do the same thing again and again. Painting by feel is much less important.

Although there is a color mixer that is meant to simulate an actual palette, I found it fairly irritating to use. Too small and pre-loaded with too many colors, the colors get muddy very easily. I'm sure there is a setting to change it, but I actually kind of like the spinning wheel/triangle set up. Matching colors is very easy which is nice since I often start with an image with color combinations that I like.

Scale is very different on the screen vs in RL. Although, you can zoom in/out, getting a real sense of how things are seen is difficult. Are you zooming in so close that they normal eye would never see it?  In RL, you can stick your face up close to the paper or take a few steps back to check composition. The zoom approximates this process, but because even a 30" painting looks the same size as a 10" painting on the screen, you lose a sense of what is being seen without a direct sense of the actual scale of the work.

Do I recommend it?

Yes with a caveat: as long as you go into it with the understanding that it is a different medium that sort of mimics things you have already tried, you will probably enjoy it. Although it has some downsides, especially in checking your work, it also has some significant upsides.

It is much easier to take risks. So, you've just spent two days making a painting and you get this idea, "What if I take a sloppy brush and go whoosh there?" But after a second you think about the days of work and decide to not risk it. But the digital environment allows you to try different things without making a separate study to test colors. When you can hit command-z after dumping a big sloppy brush-full of chartreuse, why not try it?

Orchid digital painting by Ginny Reel