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Painter 7

Painter Unleashes Creativity, Digitally

by Jim Bray

Paint programs have been around for years, but perhaps never have they been as powerful and flexible as Procreate's Painter 7.

Painter is the kind of software that Leonard da Vinci would undoubtedly be using if he were alive today. It allows the artist a cunning array of stunts to perform with his or her virtual brush. And while it's probably best to use a graphics tablet with it, a well-wielded mouse can also perform wonders.

I've always wanted to try out a Paint program. I'm no painter, and in fact I'm only a self-taught designer but I figured if I could find software that could release my creativity in the same way programs like CorelDraw have helped me hone my design skills, maybe I could be hired to put the next coat on the Sistine Chapel.

Alas, 'twas not to be. Corel didn't name its "high end" division Procreate for nothing. I quickly (almost immediately) discovered that Painter is designed to help a pro create - and I am merely a wannabe with delusions of painting grandeur.

I couldn't make head nor tail of Painter! This caused me quite a bit of angst as a damn piece of software wrestled the more superior human being to the ground. But what can you do?

In the hands, or pointing devices, of someone who knows what he's doing, however, Painter can allow some great creations - and, fortunately, I have a friend named Dan who is a designer and a painter and when I mentioned Painter he expressed an interest in trying it - and I jumped at that chance.

A few days later, Dan e-mailed me a quick watercolor he'd done, apparently just by sitting down and having at it (after familiarizing himself with the software, of course). It was a self portrait - and it was really good. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

I haven't felt so inadequate since my wife watched Indiana Jones admiringly with one eye, and me quizzically with the other.

Anyway, according to Dan "The developers at Procreate have obviously paid extreme attention to detail in understanding the various media, textures and techniques required to accomplish such a vast array of visual options and to allow the professional illustrator, fine art enthusiast, and visual communication specialists an opportunity to use them with ease."

See what happens when you bring together the tool and someone qualified to wield it? The most intelligent comment I could have come up with about Painter was "Neato!" And the only thing I could figure out was that you need to set your PC's video to 32 bit colors; otherwise you can't read the various menus etc.

Dan says Painter 7's pallet options seem endless and the software has a comprehensive and well-managed interface for creating digital images and images for any visual application. He says that, without a doubt, Painter 7 is one of the most exciting things to have happened to the industry in recent history.

So much for me hoping that I was the most exciting thing to have happened to the industry in recent history!

Here's how Dan sums it up: "Sizing canvases with horse hoof glue and homemade gesso while grinding your own pigments for a full spectrum of paints are things of the past with Painter 7. All you require is your natural talent, imagination, and a good sense of composition; this software will get you into a world of illustrating and design techniques that gives the very best in the industry a run for their money."

That's pretty heady praise - but I've seen that self portrait.

Okay, there is a learning curve in understanding all that Painter 7 has to offer. As pointed out, I couldn't make head nor tail of it - but once Dan installed it he says that "After you create your first new file and start exploring the various palettes you'll find yourself being astonished almost continuously. The ease in selection of media and the tools necessary to apply them is very user friendly."

In addition to Painter 7's vector drawing capabilities, the software has an almost complete array of pens, pencils, chalks, oil pastels, paints, brushes, and countless other tools, and "it lets you use them as though you were creating an expressive rendering of life itself. The ability to draw with a sensitive line and to flood the image with "wet in wet" water color brushes or heavy impasto stokes from a pallet knife while maintaining complete control of the application of the inks is what really makes this program work."

Each tool gives the illustrator complete control over how it will function and how it will be applied. Not only that, a vast array of textures and lighting can be applied to all of the illustration, or portions of it, introducing the illustrator to countless new and exciting techniques that meet and/or surpass many of the traditional methods.

Painter comes with many innovative features that make illustrating a pleasure. A built-in perspective guide helps with single point renderings and a multiple point perspective grid can be created by using one of the layers as a reference grid. This offers the user a basic guide for such applications as architectural rendering; it also leaves all the creative license necessary to allow the illustrator to create whatever his or her imagination desires.

Painter's extensive masking tools and image editing tools are easily applied and greatly expand the possibilities for fresh and interesting visual approaches.

There's even a digital tool that can actually let you recreate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (without the marble or plaster or whatever they built the place with - and without the back strain!). It shows you how to paint in a style of the renaissance masters - or you can simply use it as an introduction to Painter's almost limitless array of illustrating techniques.

The bottom line to Dan is that, "Whatever the requirements, Painter 7 is an excellent companion to assist you in creating a vast variety of images and executing them with a new found passion for creativity and enthusiasm."

So while Painter 7 turned out to be a clear case of casting pearls before swine as far as I was concerned, in the hands of a professional graphics artist, illustrator, and/or painter this program can let you reach new heights in visual design.

I guess it's time to go back to school.

Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.


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January 31, 2006