by Mike McNamee Published 01/11/2004
Corel Painter IX
Painter is regarded by most people as the best natural media software around. This latest version has strengthened that position, with faster operation and better integration with Photoshop (where much of its output still ends up). Its use to the professional photographer is mainly the ability to quickly produce a very characteristic and painterly effect in a portrait. Such an image can command a higher premium when sold off the studio wall. The trick is to make it fast or sell it for lots of money or both! As part of our workflow theme this issue we had Carol Tipping do a "paint" job on a portrait of Tom Lee's and piled the pressure on by starting a stopwatch!
Comparing the Intuos 2 and 3, Carol found the older Intuos 2 to be faster whilst the New Intuos 3 was more sensitive. We felt that the higher effective bit depth of the high-resolution tablet required more grunt from the test PC. For the record, it was an AMD Athlon 1.8GHz processor with 1GB of RAM and a dedicated scratch drive. The Graphics card was an NVIDIA GeForceTi 4200 carrying 64MB of RAM. This is quite a modest specification these days although there must be lots of machines out there of similar power. The inability of the Wacom pen to keep up was manifest in missed "tapped" commands and in one instance the application temporarily crashed, before self-recovering. After working Painter for a few minutes the overload on the RAM was such that Carol had to pause whilst it caught up, thus disturbing the flow of her work. Carol loved the balance of the new pen; particularly the placement of the rocker switch, which she felt, was much more readily available to the index finger. Carol did not like the ontablet finger scroll much but on the plus side your Editor loved it. You have to learn the discipline of keeping your hands away from it when you are not using it, otherwise it zooms just when you are least expecting it!
In Painter Carol liked the new paint-mixing palette at lot. The claims for faster brushes were not evident on our PC. She felt that the Quick Clone feature provided too heavy a "tracing" of the underlying image and preferred her old technique of regular cloning, even though it involved 5 extra mouse clicks. The images reproduced here were each produced in about 20 minutes including the transfer of the clone to Photoshop for work using the filters and blending modes.
Can you do without Photoshop? We think not. We tried to reproduce the effects shown in the example pictures using Photoshop alone and failed to do so. It seems therefore that you are going to need both programs if you wish to maximise your creative flexibility. This is where the bundling of Painter Essentials with the Intuos starts to look very attractive - you will have enough creative power to get you started and a nice fancy graphics tablet to boot!
In Summary We both liked the new Wacom Tablet providing you have a high specification computer. Painter Essentials, Painter and Photoshop can give you quite a creative edge providing you have the artistic flair and/or the time to work at it - a bit like a marriage really!
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