From Renaissance to 3D painting with Corel Painter 2017

If you thought Corel couldn’t add any more features to Painter without the app becoming bloated, you were so wrong. The question is whether what’s been added to version 2017 is worth the money upgrading. The answer is, as so often, it depends. For most artists, the new version will definitely be worth a look from close up.

Painter 2017 concentrates on five new painting tools and four interface improvements. The biggest news is a 3D texture painting tool. It offers a complete set of controls that allow you to accurately place, locate, resize, skew and rotate the texture so that it fits a plane of a 3D object. No, Painter 2017 doesn’t import live 3D models, such as .obj files. It does, however, import flattened 3D art, such as a rendered PNG from Blender. The novelty is that you can manipulate the texture itself so it will fit the 3D object — or part of it — exactly.

Painter 2017 texture

This opens the opportunity to paint directly on a rendered 3D image. I tried it with a cube as I’m not much of an artist when it comes to 3D. I rendered the cube inside Blender and exported it to a PNG file. I left everything in its default state. Then I placed the PNG on a Painter layer and started selecting the sides and top, placing these on their own layers. This allows you to easily reselect only the cube’s parts and paint them with one of the texture brushes. It’s easy as pie and much, much faster than with any 3D app I can think of. One word of advice: it’s easiest when you set the background in your 3D app to a contrasting colour.

Also new is the interactive gradient tool. At first, this one didn’t seem too exciting, but when you start using it, it’s actually much more efficient than before. To put this in perspective, other apps such as Affinity Photo and Designer have had this for some time now. Still, combined with the other gradient-specific tools, it’s a great improvement. An even greater improvement, however, is the “gradient express painting” feature.

Painter 2017 interactive gradients

Imagine you’ve created a gradient to serve as a background. With an ordinary gradient, you get the typical smooth digital colour gradient that has no variation whatsoever. By using the gradient express feature, you make Painter add variation to the gradient that can take on different looks. I managed to create something that resembles watercolour on paper, but you can tune the effect any way you like.

Glazing brushes was my next stop of new features. These allow you to create more transparent colour effects. Or perhaps not so much transparent as translucent. For example, painting a delicate piece of garment is difficult if you can’t brush colours thin enough so that the background keeps showing through. With glazing brushes, this becomes possible.

Painter 2017 glazing brushes

The other improvements Painter 2017 brings are less exciting in my opinion. Dab stencils, for example, let you change the brushstroke opacity before you paint, basing it on the active paper, flow map or texture. The dropper tool has become more flexible and powerful. Then there are the interface tweaks.

Painter’s interface hasn’t changed much over the years, at least not superficially. At closer inspection, it has become much more organised and manageable, and Painter 2017 is no exception. Palette drawers make organising palettes and panels for your personal workflow much easier and powerful. Having the brush selector as a panel doesn’t hurt either. The most effective improvement interface-wise has been the property toolbar. It now allows you to tweak the controls of your paint tools.

Painter 2017 has enough new features and improvements to justify an upgrade. The new painting tools are simply too interesting to ignore, while the interface improvements successfully simplify the abundance of options Painter delivers. Painter 2017 costs €424.95. An upgrade is available at €218.95.

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