Corel Painter 2020 finally tames the digital painting software’s famously messy UI, and adds much-needed performance improvements through GPU support.
Corel Painter 2020 is now available and after last year’s version – called Painter 2019 – introduced a Dark UI theme and performance improvements, it looks like Corel has decided to again concentrate on making the user experience a key focus. This year’s version – with next year’s name – brings improved brush selection, a revamped property bar, universal colour selection and colour harmonies and a really big deal: GPU acceleration.
At first glance I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with what was on offer with Painter 2020. I do feel that these versions come round too often and some could be pushed out as updates rather than making users pay for upgrades – but I will admit to be being pleasantly surprised at just how much better 2020 works. This is mainly down to the new performance optimisations and the introduction of the new Brush Accelerator, which evaluates your system and applies the optimal settings to allow Painter the best performance from your CPU and GPU.
How to use Corel Painter 2020’s Brush Accelerator
The Acceleration engine can be accessed from the Welcome screen, under Preferences > Performance – as well as for each brush in the Advanced Brush Controls. You run it the first time you open Painter after you upgrade to 2020 – though it’s worth running again after any hardware, OS or graphics driver upgrades you install in case they positively or negatively affect performance.
First, you make sure close off any other running applications, the hit Optimise Now. Painter runs a script that generates a large, new large document and proceeds to generate a bunch of brush strokes using a large brush, enabling Painter to test your system. Once the test is completed you get presented with a display telling you how your machine fared.
You have an overall score, a bar telling you how each component contributes to the performance, an indication of whether your system meets the recommended spec and then another breakdown on the key areas Painter looks at.
If you want to test out the brushes that have been optimised to make use of the GPU, open the search from the toolbar and type GPU. This will display a list of brushes that will allow your GPU to help process brush strokes, making them faster and more responsive at larger sizes.
You can really see the difference this makes on large brushes by turning off the acceleration via the performance palette under the advanced brush controls, the brush lag is really noticeable. You can also search for AVX2 and multicore to view brushes that have those optimisations. At the moment not many legacy brushes can support these new accelerations – it’s just the stamp brushes – but hopefully down the line more will be able to take advantage of the new system.
Taming Painter’s UI
Painter’s interface has always been an issue for artists due to its myriad of brush options – and with each new version, Corel has seeked to streamline and improve the user experience, while still maintaining access to the controls. 2020 is no exception and here Corel has made some changes that really are useful – though in part because some past versions have actually made matters worse.
First up, the Property Bar now groups tool options into relevant sections: Stroke, Size, Opacity, Grain, Media and the like. Everything is a bit easier to understand and more importantly the enhancements mean that there are more options and flyouts available directly from the Property Bar (below).
This means that less screen space is taken up by palettes and palette drawers, which you just don’t need a lot of the time. These flyouts themselves have combined relevant properties. For instance the new ‘grain’ group combines the paper grain options along with papers and paper libraries and they also have icons to display the relevant palettes as well.
As the Property Bar is now context sensitive, groups and icons all change depending on the brush you have selected. For example, if you’re using an airbrush the property bar will display options relevant to that category. Change to an oil brush and they’re different again.
The Property Bar also changes to display the properties for whichever tool you have selected – whether a brush, selection, gradient or eraser.
This new Property Bar and how it streamlines the UI is a huge improvement, everything is far more appropriate to what you’re working with making options easier to find and user friendly.
You can go a step further and via the preferences turn off the Property Bar labels and the Brush Selector labels making it even more compact. This is great for users who are already familiar with Painter and don’t really need the labels.