Corel’s Painter IX; An Improved Application To Recreate Photographs
Now that Corel's Painter has arrived at version number IX, it gives some
indication that the application has been around for some time, over a dozen
years in fact. Even though it is very well established in the computer art and
illustration worlds it is not as well-known in digital photography. Part of
the reason is that in the past it had an incredibly complex user interface and
a steep learning curve. It also demands hand skills, something many like myself
lack. Indeed, that's a prime reason for adopting photography as a means
of visual expression. Gradually, by adding broader, more diverse tools and a
greater capacity to work directly with digital photographs through a cloning
process, Painter has now evolved into a more friendly, simplified interface
with a more direct command structure. With this version it has become an easily
accessible facility to artistically and imaginatively
I have worked off and on over the years with earlier versions of Painter but
never had sufficient time on a regular basis to fully learn and integrate its
complexities. Like most programs, if I left it idle for a while and then returned
I'd forgotten too much and became frustrated having to relearn so much.
This time is different because Corel's Painter IX has become so much easier
to work with and there is so little to memorize.
There is, however, one proviso. To be fully effective Painter is dependent on a computer user having a digital tablet input with a pressure-sensitive pen. In other words, you do have to paint with Painter. But because you are working from a photograph on a clone of the image it can be much more like tracing or painting by numbers. That still requires some eye/hand coordination, but I've done enough digital retouching, which is my justification for having a digital tablet, that adapting to what Painter requires comes easily, albeit with a little practice.
Hold on, don't go away yet--a tablet is easy to use and there are inexpensive models, plus if you do image cleanup retouching, do selections in images, or any layout or design work you'll find that a tablet is a great advantage. In fact, you'll probably wonder why you were ever satisfied with a simple mouse. For some years Wacom (www.wacom.com) has been the main name in tablets, and they have both a Graphire model that starts at $99, as well as their more "professional" and expensive Intuos model line. In addition, Adesso (www.adesso.com), the premium keyboard maker, among other accessories, just announced a full line of tablets with pressure-sensitive pens at affordable prices.
I believe the best way to appreciate Corel's Painter IX is to learn some of what it does and how to use the software, step by step. I'll assume you have some photo image files you can imagine as a painting. With Painter IX launched, go to the File menu and click on Open to select an image file. But, before you begin, there is one factor not mentioned specifically by Corel that you should take into consideration. If the image you selected is one made by a 4- or 5-megapixel digital camera, you can open and work with it and expect an effective result. But if it is a larger file, such as a scan at high resolution, you should down-sample it to a size like 8x10 or 11x14 at a resolution of 50-100. The reason for this approach is that the paintbrush strokes to recreate a clone of the image will be too fine and small to see in a print of a high-resolution image. So, by first reducing resolution, painting in a clone of your photo, and then restoring its resolution by upsampling to 300dpi, a print will then show the brush strokes effectively at its reproduced size.
To get a good feel and perceptual understanding of what the brushes do in
relation to the photo image from which they are getting color and density information,
you should actually try all of the Clone brushes to paint in different parts
of an image. You can paint in part of an image, see how it looks, and actually
just close and trash the clone image (your original photo image is still open),
and then click on the File/Quick Clone and get a fresh clone canvas back up
to try other brushes. You should also try different brush sizes, as well as
working with different Opacity percentages to get a feel for how these variations
behave and what they produce.