Painter Essentials 4
Price: $99.00 ($69.00 upgrade)
Painter Essentials is to Painter what Photoshop Elements is to Photoshop. It is what I would call the “slimmed” down version of Painter, but still fully usable. Just like Painter, Essentials is a natural media painting program that allows the user to paint and draw on the computer with tools he/she might use in “real life.” Also, like Painter X (which I reviewed earlier this year), Painter Essentials 4 is packed with great new features. For a list of all the new features in Painter Essentials 4 visit here.
Probably the two most important features for many Mac users will be: 1. Is it a universal binary? 2. Is it Leopard compatible? The answer to both of these questions is yes. It is a universal binary, and the system requirements in the reviewer’s guide I received state it is compatible with 10.5 “with the latest updates.” I don’t know if my version had the latest updates (non were available on Corel’s website), but I installed it on a machine running Leopard and it worked without any problems that I saw.
While I’m on the topic of system requirements, the program requires 10.4 or later, a 700mhz G4 processor or faster, and 256mn of RAM. You can use a mouse or tablet pen for drawing in the program. I suggest the drawing pen. The software is also Windows compatible, but we won’t get into that here.
Besides the two features I mentioned above, the first thing past users of Essentials will notice is the redesigned workspace. The new workspace is a huge improvement over the older versions. It is much easier to understand and use. It is also less intimidating, which is what a program like Essentials should be.
All of your tools are accessible on the tool bar. Instead of a Brush pallette, the brushes and media are available through a drawer that appears when you choose the Brush Tool. One of the best new features is that your brush choices are recorded down the side of the toolbar. This way you don’t have to remember that exact brush you used five brushes ago. Painter Essentials keeps track of it for you.
Speaking of brushes- Essentials 4 is packed with a bunch of new brushes. This is one feature that I always found lacking in Painter Essentials, and Essentials 4 adds a lot to change that. The “RealBristle” brushes from Painter X are now part of Essentials. In addition to those brushes you have new charcoal brushes, a Sargent brush, pen tools/brushes, and the Sumi brush. All of these are welcome additions.
Not only are there more brushes, but there are more paper textures also. Paper textures help enhance your artwork by having the tool pick up the texture of the paper or canvas you are working on. The more options the better.
All of these brushes and textures come together to give you a more realistic painting experience on the computer. My only complaint is that there are times when the tools don’t interact with each other as one would expect. For example, using yellow oil pastel over red oil pastel did not blend the two together. I would expect the yellow to pick up a little red as it overlaps. This was the case with several of the tools. However, going over the colors with the blending tool helped give me the look I was going for. It would just be nice to get the blending effect while using the tool, instead of having to use the blender.
Below is a painting I started using as variety of brushes and media. With the help of the layers feature I did a sketch on one layer and the painting on another. Blending brushes were used to blend the lights and darks together.
These are just some of the new features added to Essentials 4 making it a fantastic upgrade. However, the feature that is going to sell tons of Painter Essential 4 boxes, in my opinion, is the new Photo Painting System. The Photo Painting System allows you to take a photograph and turn it into a painting. You can choose your brush and paint the photograph yourself, or you can let Essentials paint the photograph for you.
With a few clicks in the “Auto-Painting” window you can have Essentials turn your photograph into an oil painting, or a watercolor, or a charcoal drawing. It couldn’t be any easier, and it is just plain cool. I have never seen a better system for painting a photograph, and the results are fantastic. Seeing is believing, so check out the samples below of one of my photos.
Here is a time lapsed video of Essentials turning the photo into a painting. Depending on the options you choose, this process can take a long time. The original time on this video was about three minutes.
Here is the photo painted in another style and media.
You don’t have to wait for Essentials to go through the entire process of turning the photo into a painting. If you are happy with the results after 2 minutes (for example) you can click stop, and go from there. The longer you let the process run, the more details you get.
There are also tools to bring back parts of the original photograph. This is great for bringing some details back that the painting process eliminated.
Overall, I think Painter Essentials 4 is a great program and a great upgrade. It comes with a fantastic tutorial book to teach you about all of these new features. Don’t like to read? Watch the included video tutorials.
For those who have used Painter Essentials in the past, this is definitely worth the price of upgrading. For those interested in using Painter, but can’t afford the Painter price, Essentials 4 is a more affordable starting point. Although, I would have liked to have seen a lower price, maybe $89 instead of $99. You can determine if the price is right for you by trying the fully functional downloadable demo found here.