First Look: Corel Painter Essentials 3

I learned a very important lesson during my high school art class — I shouldn’t paint. It’s not that I didn’t have any talent; I could draw, but painting just completely escaped me. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been using Corel’s Painter Essentials 3, an application targeted to consumers that would like to transform their images into paintings.

I have tried some of the pro-level painting applications in the past and they were fine, but it felt a whole lot like work to get a picture of the family painted. Admittedly, I need as much help as I can get when painting and that is just what Painter Essentials 3 gave me.

Painter Essentials has many new and enhanced features that are targeted specifically to helping users get started with their painting projects. Those features include Quick Clone; Artists’ Oils; Rubber Stamp tool; Eraser tool; Quick Guide Palette; and others. Painter Essentials also features support for Adobe Photoshop and Apple’s iPhoto. Users can exchange files between Corel Painter Essentials 3, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements. Layers and layer sets are maintained when users open and save files in the PSD file format.

While it will come as no surprise that Painter Essentials is based on Corel’s pro-level Painter IX, they are very different applications. Painter IX allows the user much more control over the minute details of a painting project and the instruments used to make a painting. The two applications share some of the same new features, however, Painter Essentials is much more user-friendly for first time users.

For the purposes of this First Look, I wanted to focus on how easy — or difficult — it would be for someone with very little experience using painting applications to get started.

With a few keystrokes, I took a picture of my kids from our vacation in Cancun and turned it into the makings of a decent painting. Of course, depending on the settings you use, the results of your masterpiece will vary, but part of the fun I had was trying them out the different brushes to see what I liked the most.

To begin making a painting, you need to open an image — or with Painter Essentials’ support for iPhoto, just set Painter as the helper application and double-click the image in iPhoto.

Next, you make a clone of the original image. Painter Essentials does this for you automatically when you click the Quick Clone button. Tracing paper is put on top of the image, so you can begin to paint and see what you’ve done without touching the original image.

Now comes the fun part. Pick the type of brush you want to use in your painting and choose the brush variant. Now you are ready to paint. By adjusting the type of stroke, pressure, rotation, brush size, pressure and length, you can effectively change the way your painting will look.

You can now begin painting by clicking and dragging the mouse over your image. Alternately, you can use a Wacom tablet for more precise control, but the mouse works just fine for what I need.

As you drag your mouse on the image, the tracing paper disappears showing you how the finished drawing will look once you apply and save your changes. You can make adjustments to the preferences of your strokes at any time during the painting process, so how the painting looks is totally up to you.

If the thought of even dragging the mouse across the image to make a painting is too much for you, Painter has a solution. Simply choose all of your options, brushes etc. and click on the “Play” button on the palette and the application will paint the image for you.

When you are satisfied with the painting, click the stop button and save the image. Your painting can be saved in JPEG, GIF, Photoshop, TIFF and several other formats.

One problem I had is the image in Painter didn't update quickly enough on my PowerBook, so sometimes the image I exported was painted more than what the application showed.

As a consumer with some 4,000 images stored in iPhoto, I really enjoyed my experience with Painter Essentials 3. I wish I could find my high school art teacher to send her a picture.

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