Corel Painter 2021, hands on: Performance and productivity improvements, plus a subscription model Review

Matthew N. Henry

Corel has been putting out yearly updates to its Painter organic media illustration computer software for some years with Painter 2021, it truly is introducing a membership alternative for the initial time (£159/$199 a 12 months, £14.99/$19.99 a month). Long lasting licences (£359.99/$429) are nevertheless available for artists who prefer that, and update pricing (£179.99/$229 with a discount for early upgraders) applies if you’ve got acquired any previous version — all the way back to when the computer software came in an precise paint can.

Now that Corel has a several years of yearly releases with capabilities that are worthy of upgrading for, incorporating a membership makes sense. But people who prefer to stick with perpetual licences can nevertheless hold out till a ‘must-have’ attribute comes alongside.


Painter 2021 delivers a lot more GPU-accelerated brushes.

Graphic: Corel

The 2021 version also continues the functionality improvement function started off in previous releases: there are a lot more GPU-accelerated brushes and many new AMD GPUs are now supported for hardware acceleration. Operate the functionality optimiser with any other apps you anticipate to have open when employing Painter to tune the brush accelerator to your hardware (and to get a rating that will present you method functionality).


Prime: An primary Surface E-book with lower marks nevertheless provides superior painting functionality with GPU brushes. Higher than: A beefy gaming laptop makes an exceptional Painter method.

Illustrations or photos: Mary Branscombe / ZDNet

Even with a lower CPU rating on a initial-generation Surface E-book, GPU-accelerated brushes had been nevertheless quick and responsive with small or no lag, and switching from brush to brush feels considerably speedier than on previous versions. You nevertheless have to look for for accelerated brushes (sort in ‘GPU’, ‘AVX2’ or ‘multicore’ to uncover brushes that take benefit of that hardware). We would like to see a pre-built brush set to make it much easier to select between just accelerated brushes right. With macOS Catalina, you can use an iPad as a next monitor, employing Apple’s Sidecar attribute, and Apple Pencil people can tilt the stylus at an angle to handle the condition of the brushstroke (catching up with the type of fine handle that Wacom pens have extended made available).

There are many small improvements that will make artists a lot more effective: you can decide the orientation of the canvas, set the sort of layer you want to paint right into and disguise the canvas solely, all from the new image monitor. More of the controls you function with usually, like Layers, which experienced lagged behind when compared to graphics and photo modifying tools, are now considerably much easier to function with, with the tools right on the layers panel. You can incorporate a new layer, change-pick out many layers to team or collapse them, flip a layer vertically or horizontally, or ‘lift’ the canvas to function on it. That suggests you can paint two watercolour layers with out one impacting the paint on the other, and then merge them so you can incorporate effects to both equally at after.


Thick paint is supported by sixteen brushes, giving you lots of media sort options.

Graphic: Corel

Thick paint — which genuinely seems like oil, acrylic and other textured paint — is no longer restricted to a specific layer: you can use it on any layer, can set just how thick the thick paint is, and there are sixteen new brushes that function with thick paint — so you can use chalk, pastel and other media kinds with the texture of thick paint. If you use reference photos you can transform a photo to thick paint to paint on, or you can set the canvas to thick paint. The texturiser lets you implement texture and thickness with out applying new paint and color: when you have the color you want, that lets you get the ideal glimpse for your painting with out having to repaint it solely.

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Pick out to maintain transparency and you can paint above the certain brush strokes on a picked out layer, which lets you concentrate on your paint effects pretty specifically.

It can be also considerably much easier to see what brushes function with certain layer kinds — and if you decide up a brush that won’t function on the latest layer, Painter will provide to make a new layer. You can have that materialize quickly, or get the warning every single time so you know accurately what result you may get.


The new AI variations do not paint the picture for you, but they do make it considerably more quickly to get started off.

Graphic: Mary Branscombe / ZDNet

Painter 2021 receives a similar ‘AI styles’ attribute to CorelDRAW the 12 variations give you similar equipment-learning-pushed effects to preferred cell phone applications that convert a photo into a mosaic or a van Gogh painting. Which is not an try to automate painting, but it does make it considerably speedier to generate a painting from a reference photo so you can then go on to a lot more creative digital artwork.

SEE: Managing AI and ML in the enterprise 2020: Tech leaders boost task advancement and implementation (TechRepublic Top quality)

Painters get a good deal of handle above the new AI variations: you can set the degree of element, how intently to match the color and how considerably smoothing to use to eliminate the artefacts developed by applying the design. Underpaintings lets you change the brightness and saturation of the effects, and when you get a mix of these options that provides the glimpse you want, you can help save it as a preset for subsequent time.


Clone tinting makes it possible for you to generate new compositions from current or AI-styled artwork. 

Graphic: Corel

The new clone tinting attribute also functions perfectly for painting by hand primarily based on a photo, or for incorporating element to an AI design-taken care of photo. Cloning a photo supply lets you paint areas of the photo into your image clone tinting lets you tint the image you happen to be cloning with a new color, so you can incorporate environmentally friendly to brown grass and nevertheless get the texture, or make waves a brighter blue as you paint them in.

If the AI design result has been as well spectacular in one location, or if you’ve got painted above as well considerably of the primary image as you function, you can clone components of the photo back into your painting, adjusting the color as you go. You will find a listing in the brush palette with 14 new brushes that function perfectly with clone tinting, including pencils, watercolours and oils. The harder you press, the a lot more of the clone color you get the lighter your stroke, the a lot more of the picked tint color is utilized, so you can get a pretty delicate result in one location and ramp up the color change in a further.

This is a superior mix of improvements to the total painting workflow: functionality and artist productivity are enhanced with some exceptional new tools that make it much easier for painters to get accurately the effects they want, and to experiment with effects they may possibly not have tried out before. And if you happen to be new to digital painting, you can get straight to the entertaining section with out shelling out approximately as extended working out how to get started off.

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