Latest version of Painter uses standard layering

Latest version of Painter uses standard layering

BY WILLIAM M. FRAZIER | SPECIAL TO GCN

I hope the Painter illustration package has found a permanent home with Corel Corp. and doesn't stumble as, say, WordPerfect did under successive owners.

Painter, which came originally from MetaCreations Corp. of Carpinteria, Calif., last year was sold to Corel along with MetaCreations' Bryce and other graphics programs.


Corel has abandoned the floater construction in Painter, which improves the illustration tool's user-friendliness.
Corel Painter 6 runs under Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh operating systems. Corel provides technical support via the Web, fax, e-mail and toll-free telephone, but online help is not as good as it should be.

When you press the F1 key, the Windows standard for help, nothing happens. Worse, there is no dedicated Windows help file.

Choose an item from the Help menu, and Adobe Acrobat Reader launches to display the user manual in Portable Document Format. I want devoted, context-sensitive help.

Worst of all, not every online link under the Help menu works correctly. Every time I selected Help/Online Support, I was taken to MetaCreations' Web site with the message 'URL not found.'
Despite the unhelpful help, Painter 6 does have some outstanding improvements over the previous version. The most obvious change is the restructuring and consolidation of the numerous palettes.
The Tools and Brushes palettes are mostly as they were. Everything else is reorganized under three headings: Brush Controls, Art Materials and Objects.

The Brush Controls palette has everything needed to wield and customize a brush. There are 14 separate sections; those that don't apply to a specific brush are grayed out. Key parameters for each section, such as brush size under the Size section, appear on the bar and can be changed without expanding the entire section. That gives the user immediate feedback about which sections affect a particular brush and what values apply to the key parameters.

The Art Materials palette holds the color selector, backgrounds, gradients, weaves, patterns and nozzles. A small graphic shows the current selection.

The Objects palette reaches into the drawing layers and masks. The Floater palette of previous versions is gone'along with the term floater'and replaced by the Layers and Dynamic Layers sections. This eases the learning curve for users familiar with Adobe Photoshop or any other paint program that uses the layer metaphor.











Box Score
Corel Painter 6

ILLUSTRATION PACKAGE


Corel Corp.; Ottawa;

tel. 613-728-0826

newgraphics.corel.com/products/painter6.html

Price: $399; $149 upgrade from
earlier version



+ Good tutorial on CD-ROM

+ Floaters replaced by industry-standard layers

- Online help errors


Real-life requirements:

Win9x or NT 4.0, 200-MHz or faster
Pentium, 32M of RAM, at least 15M of free storage; Mac OS 8 or higher version, PowerPC Macintosh, Adobe Photoshop 3, 4 or 5, same RAM and storage requirements

Painter now has a Recently Used Files list under the File menu, something I've wanted for a long time. Another addition is Dynamic Text for editable text objects. You can tilt, rotate, stretch, scale, type and edit text on a curve.

Previous versions of Painter's brush engine applied paint to the canvas in a series of dabs, varying the size, spacing and distribution. The dabs weren't noticeable unless you applied a very large spacing parameter or a fast brush stroke.

Brushing up

The new brush engine applies continuous, 1-pixel lines of color that represent individual brush hairs. Multistroke spooling keeps track of strokes when you draw faster than your computer can track; no information is lost. And Motion Damping smooths the brushstroke path, giving curved strokes a more realistic appearance.

Taken together, these improvements make illustration faster and more intuitive than before.
Painter now works with the Intuos graphics tablet, pen and airbrush from Wacom Technology Corp. of Vancouver, Wash. The Intuos pen has 1,024 levels of tip pressure sensitivity, and the airbrush has a finger wheel to regulate paint flow, just like a real airbrush.

Painter's airbrushes no longer are restricted to circular patterns. You vary the tilt of the pen to change the pattern from a circle to a conical shape, again like a real airbrush.

Painter's abandonment of the floater concept in favor of industry-standard layers is a quantum leap in ease of use. A new layer, ready to paint, appears at a single click in the Layers section of the Objects palette. The Layers section has tools to change layer stacking order or opacity, hide a layer or lock it to prevent unintended changes. But the floater concept is still present in the Objects palette's Dynamic Layers section. Besides the Dynamic Text option, there are dynamic layers for Bevel, Burn, Glass and Liquid Metal.

Among the many bitmap-editing programs on the market, Painter stands out for its natural-media quality. Except for newcomer Deep Paint [GCN, May 8, 2000, Page 31], no other program comes close to the way Painter simulates traditional artists' tools. If you need a computer art tool that looks and acts like the real thing, get Painter.

William M. Frazier is postmaster of Taholah, Wash.

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