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
Once past the sizing detour, and with your photo image file open
in Painter IX, the first thing you need to do to be able to recreate
the image with paintbrush strokes is to open the File menu and
click on Quick Clone.
All Photos © 2005 David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved
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
The photo image
displayed on screen will now appear lighter and flatter. That
is what Painter IX calls Tracing Paper. It is really the active
layer that will record your paintbrush strokes. There is an extensive
selection of Clone brushes that can be selected, fortunately by
fairly descriptive names like Pencil Sketch Cloner. The menu to
select brushes appears when you make a single click on the icon
in the far right of the Brush Property bar just under the Menu
bar. The Brush Property bar will be active if the brush icon at
the top left of the toolbox is highlighted. Just go down the menu
list of brushes and select one like Smeary Camel Cloner. The properties
for that Clone brush will be set to a standard default, but you
can make the brush size larger or smaller as well as adjust Opacity
to the percentage of image density that is laid down by each brush
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.
you have selected a Clone brush you can begin painting with it.
I usually begin with the background. In this example I chose the
Splattery Clone Spray to give the soft, out-of-focus background
some texture. But any of the broader coverage, coarser Clone brushes
are suitable for the purpose of painting in a background.
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.
(Left) As you paint on top of the Tracing Paper with a Clone brush,
like the Smeary Camel Cloner I was using to brush in the detail
in this flower, you can turn off Tracing Paper by clicking the
small box at the top right corner of the active window frame.
Then the photo image from which you are working disappears and
what is on screen is just the image material you have painted.
This allows you to see your brushing results more clearly, and
allows you to fill in missed areas with more brush strokes, and
otherwise refine the image you have painted. The Wacom pressure-sensitive
pen I was working with, like an old-fashioned lead pencil, has
an eraser on the other end. So, if you don't like the way
a part of the image is painted in, just turn your pen around to
the eraser end and remove a section and then you can repaint it
in the way you want.
(Right) As a straight photograph this flower and bud made an OK
composition, but not a really compelling one as a photographic
print. So, I hoped I could do something with it in Corel's
Painter IX that would make it a more appealing and satisfying
picture. At least it would be good practice. So I first used the
Lasso tool to select the background and painted it in with a Thick
Bristle Cloner. I turned off the selection once the background
was filled in, and continued, beginning with a small brush size
of the Smeary Bristle Cloner to paint in the bud, then making
the brush size larger for the open petals of the flower. I finished
painting in the center of the flower with the Smeary Flat Cloner.
Compared to the original scan file image from film, the Painter
IX clone painting had acquired more texture and definition, just
enough to make a 12x18" print that is much more engaging
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.