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I know the professional design world is pretty skeptical of Corel products. I think at some point Corel was very influential in the market until it (the market) was taken over by Adobe. The thing is, Adobe products are somewhat more inspiring and intuitive (with the exception of Flash, perhaps) than the Corel software and I don't know if Corel Draw or Photo-Paint will ever re-establish themselves in homes and design departments. And yet Corel has one really unique product - Painter.
The great thing about Corel Painter is the whole idea of it. It allows digital artists to create fantastic images in all sorts of styles and manages to compete well with Photoshop in the field of digital drawing and painting. Yet, Painter is not an extended version of Photoshop. It is a separate piece of software with its own strong and weak points which I outline below.
1. Corel Painter provides an amazing simulation of drawing and painting tools. They are so diverse and exciting that sometimes after launching it I forget what I was going to draw!
2. Compared to Corel Painter 10, version 11 has an eraser tool in the tool bar (where I always expected it to be), not just in the brushes menu. Although I think they are still overcomplicating the whole eraser tool idea.
3. Painter has a colour mixer area where you can mix your own colours and feel like a real artist.
4. A Painter document can be exported into Photoshop with no loss of layers. This means you can continue working on your Painter image in Photoshop.
5. When you launch Painter 11, it shows you examples of images created in the program. This is very inspiring (although can be a bit distracting and even provoke jealousy).
6. Painter 11 works very nicely with Wacom Intuos4. These two are a perfect match! Your Painter brush will be imitating the angle at which you hold your stylus. This feature, when I just discovered it, made me spring in excitement. :)
1. Painter 11 has a tendency to crash very unexpectedly (so make sure you save your file often enough). It might me my personalised bug though. But I noticed that Corel Sketch Pad 11 does the same.
2. I use Painter at a pretty basic level and am probably not aware of all its capabilities. But very often I will want to finish my image in Photoshop.
3. Painter requires a quick and powerful computer, otherwise painting with big brushes will take you ages and the brush strokes will have nasty artifacts in them as well.
4. In an attempt to be as authentic as possible, Corel Painter can sometimes be restrictive. Why shouldn't I be allowed to use inks on oils? Who said that? And then there is all this paint drying business, which is a nice idea of course, but sometimes is annoying.
5. I still find the whole working area layout in Painter a bit inconvenient and seems like the most essential things are not arranged in the best possible way. Photoshop is still better in this connection. This is my subjective impression though.
So... The conclusion. If you enjoy digital drawing and have an opportunity to get Corel Painter 11, go for it. It is great fun as well as a powerful professional tool. I wish I had more time to explore it. I am sure it has a lot to amaze me with!