Corel Painter 2019 review: Corel gets back to basics with an interface- and performance-centric upgrade

When Corel took stock of Corel Painter, the perennial go-to app
for digital artistry, the company decided that for the 2019
version, it would concentrate not on flashy headlining new
features, but on enhancing app interface and performance.

The new Painter now joins other visual creation and effects
software by implementing a dark interface and pairing that with
a complete app design overhaul. Painter 2019 also delivers
speed boosts and features that simplify and amplify creative
workflows. Oh, and there are 36 new brushes and a new brush
category.

Compared with
last year’s upgrade
, which showcased complex new brush and
texture technologies, Corel’s aim with Painter 2019 is more
modest, but still solid.

Painter 2019: Dark mode UI redesign

painter icons Jackie Dove

Corel has redesigned some 650 app icons with a fresh dark
interface, as compared with previous versions.

Painter has revamped its entire interface from top to bottom
with more than 650 redesigned icons and controls to accompany
its dark theme. It is lovely; the new icons are large, clear,
and easier to decipher compared with the previous version,
where they had begun to look tired, old fashioned, and less
friendly. As you choose a tool, it is clearly highlighted,
making it easy to track your tasks. Round icons offer options
for shaping brushes; square icons offer access to media
settings.

Backgrounds for palettes, windows, and screens are now dark
gray to better isolate colors. In total, three gray themes are
available, including the original light gray that many users
still like, and a middle gray.

painter new menus Jackie Dove

Painter 2019 debuts a new look for windows and menus, with
little round grabbers in the color wheel set on a neutral
gray background.

Painter 2019 features an updated, larger slider bar, complete
with a handy little grabber, which makes controls a lot easier
to handle. Holding down the Command key while dragging invokes
a precision mode that moves the slider slowly and in teensy
increments.

painter slider Jackie Dove

Bigger, better sliders with grabby ends make adjustments
easier.

Painter 2019: Color workflow

painter temporal color selector
Jackie Dove

You can customize the size of the floating color selector
and use the pin to position it anywhere you want on your
canvas.

With Painter 2019, Corel has overhauled its color workflow. New
circular grabbers in the Color Wheel make it easier to see and
set colors. Similar grabbers also appear in the floating
Temporal Colors Selector, which you can conveniently pin on
your canvas for easier hand-eye reference. The floating color
selector is easy to resize, move, and toggle on or off.

Painter 2019: Better performance

In addition to updating the interface, the new Painter version
concentrates on boosting performance. Those improvements will
be most obvious for artists working on high-resolution,
multi-layered canvases and using large brushes. Corel says
performance is 50 percent faster than the previous version for
zoom, pan, and rotate.

If you’re using an older computer, you may or may not benefit
from the improved performance, but you can still optimize the
app in the preferences by setting a separate scratch disk,
lowering the number of undos, using up to 80 percent of memory,
and setting the proper number of cores. Even on my older 2013
MacBook Air, most conventional canvas operations were snappy.

Features like Drag to Zoom with a Wacom pen tablet or mouse,
let you move your pointer up/down or left/right to zoom in and
out of your picture, offering more precision for the exact zoom
level you seek. Wacom Cintiq users will benefit from improved
multi-touch features for pan and zoom, though I could not test
that particular feature.

Despite all that extra power, the app’s startup and shutdown
still seemed surprisingly sluggish.

Painter 2019: New brushes

painter stamp brushes Jackie Dove

A bold new stamp brush collection debuts in Painter 2019.

Brushes are the heart and soul of Corel Painter and there are
several dozen new ones in the 2019 version. A new Stamp
category–for one-click textures and shapes–debuts for the
first time. They provide a convenient way for artists and
designers to add depth and personality to paintings and
commercial projects with shapes like trees, dragons, atomic
symbols, rocks, tribal tattoos, and more. Unlike most brush
strokes, stamps are generally applied with a tap of the pen or
a mouse.

painter brushes and color picker
Jackie Dove

Brushes and color picker with neutral gray background.

Existing brush categories like Sargent, Selection, Thick Paint,
Dab Stencils, Glazing, Airbrushes, Blenders, Impasto, Patterned
Pens, Real Watercolor, and Real Wet Oil also host new brushes,
while the app provides a handful of new patterns, like Fire,
Moss, Hazard, and more.

Painter 2019: Brush Ghost

Painter’s Enhanced Brush Ghost, which displays the brush
diameter on canvas, lets you accurately track the size of your
strokes. At first displaying an outline of the brush diameter,
it turns into an icon as you start to paint, letting you track
the exact location of your mouse or pen. You can now customize
the icon by shape, color, and angle.

While the enhanced version is the default setting in Painter
2019, you can still use the original brush ghost that emulates
the size, shape, and rotation of your brush stroke, if you
prefer.

painter brush ghost Jackie Dove

The enhanced brush ghost feature offers additional brush
cursor options.

Bottom line

I love the new Painter 2019 upgrade, and highly recommend it if
you are running older versions of the software, are a newcomer,
or work with high-end systems and large canvases. With a
relative lack of headlining new features, Painter 2019 may seem
more like an update than an upgrade, and may disappoint users
expecting more in the way of cool new brush tech. But if
performance or usability are issues for your workflow, the new
version will likely be worth the price to ease the creation
process. If you already have and are happy with Painter 2018,
you could easily skip this new version.

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