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

Corel has been putting out yearly updates to its Painter pure media illustration software program for some several years with Painter 2021, it is introducing a membership choice for the very first time (£159/$199 a calendar year, £14.ninety nine/$19.ninety nine a thirty day period). Everlasting licences (£359.ninety nine/$429) are nevertheless out there for artists who desire that, and enhance pricing (£179.ninety nine/$229 with a price cut for early upgraders) applies if you’ve purchased any earlier variation — all the way back to when the software program arrived in an actual paint can.

Now that Corel has a several several years of once-a-year releases with characteristics that are really worth upgrading for, adding a membership would make perception. But buyers who desire to stick with perpetual licences can nevertheless hold out right up until a ‘must-have’ characteristic will come alongside.


Painter 2021 presents much more GPU-accelerated brushes.

Graphic: Corel

The 2021 variation also proceeds the effectiveness enhancement perform started out in earlier releases: there are much more GPU-accelerated brushes and numerous new AMD GPUs are now supported for components acceleration. Run the effectiveness optimiser with any other apps you expect to have open when employing Painter to tune the brush accelerator to your components (and to get a score that will show you system effectiveness).


Top: An primary Surface area E book with small marks nevertheless provides great portray effectiveness with GPU brushes. Above: A beefy gaming laptop computer would make an outstanding Painter system.

Images: Mary Branscombe / ZDNet

Even with a small CPU score on a very first-generation Surface area E book, GPU-accelerated brushes ended up nevertheless rapid and responsive with tiny or no lag, and switching from brush to brush feels a lot quicker than on earlier versions. You nevertheless have to search for accelerated brushes (form in ‘GPU’, ‘AVX2’ or ‘multicore’ to discover brushes that acquire benefit of that components). We might like to see a pre-designed brush set to make it less complicated to pick involving just accelerated brushes directly. With macOS Catalina, you can use an iPad as a 2nd monitor, employing Apple’s Sidecar characteristic, and Apple Pencil buyers can tilt the stylus at an angle to regulate the shape of the brushstroke (catching up with the sort of wonderful regulate that Wacom pens have extensive supplied).

There are numerous small advancements that will make artists much more successful: you can decide on the orientation of the canvas, set the form of layer you want to paint directly into and disguise the canvas solely, all from the new image monitor. More of the controls you perform with frequently, like Layers, which had lagged guiding when compared to graphics and picture modifying resources, are now a lot less complicated to perform with, with the resources directly on the levels panel. You can include a new layer, shift-choose several levels to group or collapse them, flip a layer vertically or horizontally, or ‘lift’ the canvas to perform on it. That suggests you can paint two watercolour levels with out a person impacting the paint on the other, and then merge them so you can include results to equally at as soon as.


Thick paint is supported by 16 brushes, offering you a good deal of media form solutions.

Graphic: Corel

Thick paint — which really appears like oil, acrylic and other textured paint — is no for a longer period restricted to a specific layer: you can use it on any layer, can set just how thick the thick paint is, and there are 16 new brushes that perform with thick paint — so you can use chalk, pastel and other media kinds with the texture of thick paint. If you use reference photographs you can change a picture to thick paint to paint on, or you can set the canvas to thick paint. The texturiser allows you utilize texture and thickness with out making use of new paint and colour: when you have the colour you want, that allows you get the suitable look for your portray with out getting to repaint it solely.

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Pick out to preserve transparency and you can paint around the distinct brush strokes on a preferred layer, which allows you concentrate on your paint results pretty precisely.

It really is also a lot less complicated to see what brushes perform with distinct layer kinds — and if you decide on up a brush that won’t perform on the present layer, Painter will offer to make a new layer. You can have that materialize automatically, or get the warning every single time so you know particularly what effect you are going to get.


The new AI designs do not paint the photograph for you, but they do make it a lot quicker to get started out.

Graphic: Mary Branscombe / ZDNet

Painter 2021 gets a comparable ‘AI styles’ characteristic to CorelDRAW the twelve designs give you comparable device-discovering-pushed results to well-liked cellphone apps that switch a picture into a mosaic or a van Gogh portray. That’s not an attempt to automate portray, but it does make it a lot quicker to develop a portray from a reference picture so you can then move on to much more creative electronic artwork.

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Painters get a whole lot of regulate around the new AI designs: you can set the level of element, how intently to match the colour and how a lot smoothing to use to remove the artefacts produced by making use of the style. Underpaintings allows you modify the brightness and saturation of the results, and when you get a mixture of these configurations that provides the look you want, you can conserve it as a preset for following time.


Clone tinting enables you to develop new compositions from present or AI-styled artwork. 

Graphic: Corel

The new clone tinting characteristic also works effectively for portray by hand based mostly on a picture, or for adding element to an AI style-dealt with picture. Cloning a picture source allows you paint spots of the picture into your image clone tinting allows you tint the image you’re cloning with a new colour, so you can include environmentally friendly to brown grass and nevertheless get the texture, or make waves a brighter blue as you paint them in.

If the AI style effect has been as well remarkable in a person place, or if you’ve painted around as well a lot of the primary image as you perform, you can clone parts of the picture back into your portray, adjusting the colour as you go. There’s a checklist in the brush palette with 14 new brushes that perform effectively with clone tinting, which includes pencils, watercolours and oils. The more durable you press, the much more of the clone colour you get the lighter your stroke, the much more of the picked tint colour is applied, so you can get a pretty subtle effect in a person place and ramp up the colour modify in one more.

This is a great mixture of advancements to the total portray workflow: effectiveness and artist efficiency are enhanced with some outstanding new resources that make it less complicated for painters to get particularly the results they want, and to experiment with results they may possibly not have tried out before. And if you’re new to electronic portray, you can get straight to the pleasurable portion with out shelling out virtually as extensive doing work out how to get started out.

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