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