Corel Painter X

Painter X
Company: Corel

Price: $419.00 ($219.00 upgrade, $99.00 education)

2007 might be known as the year the big software titles jumped onto the universal binary ship. Adobe just announced CS3, Microsoft Office is expected later this year, and Corel recently released Painter X.

I have been a long time user of Painter. The last version I purchased was Painter 8, which did run on my Intel Mac, and I did notice a speed bump running in Rosetta. However, the speed bump of Painter X running as a universal binary is even more noticeable. In fact, Corel states that users will see up to a 5 times faster startup time, and other impressive speed improvements (of course this all depends on your processor and memory amounts).

Besides startup, the most noticeable speed enhancement is with the workflow. One of the downsides to using Painter in the past (and this was partially due to my machine’s speed) was the brush lag. I would make a brush stroke and the program would have to catch up. The brush lag is gone in Painter X. However, I did notice a lag in switching brush sizes. It was brief, but I had to wait a second for the computer to catch up. I could not start drawing immediately after some switches. Other than that, the speed improvement is fantastic.

Becoming a Universal Binary is not the only new feature of Painter X. Corel packed the new version with a bunch of other new features.

Real Bristles

Real Bristles is the “big” new feature. Corel says it “replicates the sensation of the interaction between the paint, canvas, and brush.” I don’t know if I’d go that far, but the Real Bristle system is a nice addition. It does a nice job replicating the various brushes, and (like the other drawing and painting tools) it just feels right.

Divine Proportion and the Layout Grid

Corel has made Painter more student friendly this year with the introduction of Divine Proportion and the Layout Grid. Basically, these are two tools that help the user make the “perfect” layout of a painting or drawing. They help with composition and emphasis. To the seasoned artist this is something that probably comes naturally, and without thinking. However, for students these are great tools.

Paint a Photo

Painter has had tools and methods to help turn a painting into a photo in past versions. This year another tool is introduced called Smart Stroke. The Smart Stroke painting system is great. You clone a photo, make it your tracing source, choose your Smart Stroke brush and paint away. The brush will automatically pick up colors and details from the source image, while adding brush strokes and paint texture to your painting. This is a great and simple way to turn a photo into a painting. It could not be easier.

The image below was made with several of the photo to painting techniques in painter. It took under five minutes to complete.

It’s All About Color

Two other improvements include the Match Palette command, and the Mixer Pallette. Both are tools that help you get the right colors for your image. I really like the Mixer Palette. Instead of using sliders to get the color you need, you can use the Mixer Palette like a regular palette and paint and mix your color “the old fashion way.”

If those features aren’t enough, there are even more new features in Painter X. One new feature is an automatic backup feature. When I cropped the saved image of the painting below, a second file of the original was also saved with _bak on the end of the name. This is a great feature. If you accidentally save a changed file and want the original back, Painter X has you covered.

I could go on and on about the new features of Painter X (including more photo editing support), not to mention all of the great old features which make Painter the Rolls Royce of painting programs. Plus, Corel includes a fantastic instruction book made up of over 300 pages (no PDF file here!!!) and free online training videos.

Not all program upgrades are worth the money. Especially when your talking about programs that cost as much as Painter X. I’ve been known to skip versions of programs every now and then. However, Painter X is one of those upgrades that is well worth the investment. It is packed with features, and you can’t forget the universal binary speed boost.

A downloadable demo is available at and to see some fantastic Painter samples visit rating 4.5 out of 5


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