Review: Corel Painter 2020 — Now With More Spunk!

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This review may end up giving me emotional grief. (Or maybe that’s just an overreaction.) This due to my life-time devotion to Painter. So my time demoing Corel Painter 2020 has been a rollercoaster ride that tends to get stuck at the top of one of the large loops.

I believe one of the reasons why my experience with Corel Painter 2020 has been the painful experience with my new Huion display tablet. As much as I like that tablet, it has given me significance amounts of grief. I had to make adjustment to practically all of my software in order to gain some type of normalcy when painting or drawing.

Plus I might have a defective pen. It has a common hovering issue while the pen is slightly lifted above the screen. I have to physically twist the nip within the pen to get it to behave.

Enough of my troubles! Let’s go into the review dammit!

Selling Points for Corel Painter 2020

This is kinda important because we all inherently expect software publishers to give us new, game-changing features that will radically improve the way we work. Well, that’s not going to happen this year. Sorry kids…

I’m not pooping all over this year’s edition, but I would temper my enthusiasm until you have the opportunity to mess around with the demo. [Corel]

Here are the main selling points that Corel wants us to focus on and that we’ll go over:

  1. Performance Optimization – Painter can now take advantage of more of your hardware to improve or speedup various aspects of Painter. (i.e. ~ Faster Brushes)
  2. Interface Advancements – Corel Painter has consolidated a good number of its seemingly endless panels to make functions easier to access.
  3. Improved Brush Selector – A more PhotoShop like preview of brushes.
  4. Color Selection – New features and tweaks to enhance the way you choose your colors.
  5. Advanced Brush and Tool Controls – New new nugget of goodness along with some tweaks to your eraser, dodge, burn and clone tools.
  6. NEW BRUSHES!!! – That’s right, more brushes!!! Who doesn’t want more brushes?!
  7. Enhanced Layer Workflow – More subtle tweaks to the Layers Panel to make life easier.

You may agree or disagree as to whether or not these points are really worth upgrading or purchasing a full version for. But I don’t even want you to take my word for it. Let’s jump into each point.

Why My iMac Sucks Now!

Corel Painter 2020 has had a bunch of improvements and optimizations. This means that Painter 2020 is all around quicker and more nimble. That’s right, FASTER BRUSHES!!

Oh, you’ve heard that line before, huh?

This leads us into a conversation about Corel Painter 2020’s Brush Accelerator. This basically runs a test within Corel Painter, using various brushes, to allow the program to optimize itself. It also determines how to best leverage your hardware.

Corel Painter's Brush Accelerator test in action

Your mileage may vary. But Painter 2020 can utilize your graphic card’s GPU, the cores in your processor, RAM (a.k.a. memory), and AVX2 instruction set (should you happen to have it). In the case of Painter 2020, you should have lots of everything.

 

Running the Brush Accelerator on My iMac

Okay, I’ll admit that my Late 2009 iMac is a bit long in the tooth, but it still functions extremely well with most modern software. It does just fine with Corel Painter 2019. This is due to my Intel Duo Core processor and 16 GBs of RAM. But my Benchmark Score  was a 284. Below the recommended specifications to run Painter 2020.

brush accelerator report in Corel Painter 2020
This report deems my iMac below the minimum requirements for Painter 2020.

Not the end of the world. But what really annoyed me since I started demoing Painter 2020 was the fact that it didn’t recognize my graphics card’s ability to use OpenCL 1.2, but doesn’t use it. After some research, this became an absurdity to even integrate OpenCL into Painter due to the fact that Apple has decided to depreciate it in favor of Metal 2.0. MacOS has been stuck at OpenCL 1.2 for a few years anyways.

In the end, Painter 2020 with default to whatever it can gain the most leverage when it comes to your hardware. In my case, it would be the RAM.

Did I say Faster Brushes??!

Of course I did. And even on my wee iMac, most of the brushes in Painter 2020 seem fast. Even the most processor intensive brush, such as the Real Watercolor brushes seem to behave quicker. But I have to have Painter 2020 as the only program running to obtain a consistent speed.

As mentioned previously, your experience will vary. The more powerful the computer, the better your experience will be. That said, not all of the brushes in Painter 2020 have been optimized for GPU, multi-core processors, etc. But you may not actually notice the difference.

You can check to see if your brush was optimized by clicking the Advance button in the Property Bar panel. Then click on the Performance tab.

An example of a brush that has been optimized for Painter 2020
1.) Selected brush. 2.) The Advance button brings up the set of panels in #3. 3.) The Performance panel letting us know this brush was optimized for multi-core processors. (Click for larger view.)

UI Changes For Everyone!

Okay, you may hate the new look, but Corel has spent some time updating and reorganizing the interface. On the surface, it may only look like a face-lift just in time to keep up with Apple’s MacOS Mojave’s Dark Mode.

If you’re not a huge fan of the default look, you can always return to the good-old mid-grey, or whatever color makes you feel good, by opening the Preferences window and selecting Interface. Here you can also tweak a number of other aspects of the interface.

The big thing that I notice were that a number of panels (and Painter had a TON of them) are now integrated as drop-down panel within the Property Bar. They had covered most of the settings that you’ll ever need for brushes within just that panel. This is a huge time saver. This will also make adjusting brushes less intimidating for newbies.

Strokes Over Dabs

The Brush Selector has taken a cue from Adobe PhotoShop and previews the stroke for each brush, giving you a clearer idea of how the brush will behave. This has been long overdue in my opinion.

brush stroke previews in Corel Painter 2020
Users can now see previews of strokes that brushes can make in the drop-down menu.

The Magic of Selecting Colors

Upgrades to the Color Pallet

The Color Pallet has a couple of updates applied to it. The color sliders are now in color. This makes selecting a new color a little easier. The pallet can also be customized to add/remove whatever elements you wish. If your tight on space, you can bring up a compact version of the color pallet with just the sliders and background/foreground colors.

revised color pallets in Corel Painter 2020
Reviewing revised Color Pallets: 1.) Updated Color pallet. 2.) Options to customize Color Pallet. 3.) The Compact Color Pallet.

Tweaks to the Temporal Color Wheel

Corel has updated the Temporal Color Wheel with a few tweaks. The keystroke in Painter 2020 is now Command/Control+Alt+1. There’s a Left-Handed Mode which moves the swatch with the current color over to the right for the Saturation/Value Triangle. Also there’s an option to use Clone Color and to Pin/Un-Pin(This determines whether or not you want the Temporal Color Wheel to vanish when you start painting.)

a breakdown of the temporal color wheel
1.) Current color. 2.) Menu for options 3.) Value/Saturation Triangle. 4.) Color Wheel. 5.) Pin/Unpin. 6.) Switch to cloning. 7.) Swap foreground/background colors. 8.) Left-Handed Mode for moving color swatch.

Colors in Harmony

You may prefer chaos when it comes to color, but for the rest of us, we now have a quick, convenient means of quickly planning out a color pallet. Within the new Color Harmonies pallet contain the option of utilizing six different harmonies that dynamically update based upon your current color. This pallet also allows you to lock a given harmony that you like and prevent it from changing. You can save them more permanently to their own color pallet.

color harmonies pallet in Corel painter 2020
Option within the Harmonies pallet.

Advanced Brush and Tool Controls

Eraser, dodge, burn and clone tools are now more brush like. Corel Painter now provides these tools with all sorts of options that you’d find with any other brush.

options for Dodge Tool in corel painter 2020

Next to the Brush Library, there’s a nice little button that allows you to swap back to your previous brush. This is extremely convenient while painting quickly.

That’s Right, MORE NEW BRUSHES!!!

Just in case you didn’t know, Corel Painter now has more brushes! This includes two sets of brushes optimized for speed containing both simple and ornate brushes. There are also additions to both the Real and Digital Watercolor brushes. If you don’t like Painter’s 2020’s brushes, you can always switch back to the one of the previous year’s sets.

Enhanced Layer Workflow?

So what do we mean by Enhanced Layer Workflow? This means that the Layers pallet has been revamped to meet users’ desires. Corel has added more options to the contextual menu when you right-click over a layer. Collapsing, locking, selecting, and pasting are made easier and less difficult to accomplish. In Panter 2019, simple tasks such as collapsing layers can be hit or miss for me.

System Requirements

seagull painted in painter 2020
A seagull painted in Corel Painter 2020. The background used Real Watercolors. The bird was mainly painted using Oil brushes and Just Add Water brush.

Like anything else that’s new, you may as well find out if Corel Painter 2020 will be even usable on your current Mac and/or Windows computer. Here are Corel’s suggested technical specifications:

Mac/Hackintosh

  • macOS 10.13, or later
  • Intel Core 2 Duo processor
    • 4 physical cores/8 logical cores or higher (recommended)
  • OpenCL 1.2 capable video card (recommended)
  • 2 GB RAM
    • 8 GB RAM or higher (recommended)
  • 850 MB hard disk space for application files
    • Solid-state drive (recommended)
  • 1280 x 800 @ 100% (or higher) screen resolution
    • 1920 x 1200 @ 150% (or higher) (recommended)
  • Mouse or tablet
  • DVD drive (required for box installation)
  • An Internet connection to activate and register Painter.

Windows

  • Windows 10 (64-Bit) or Windows 7 (64-Bit), with the latest updates
  • Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon 64 X2 processor
    • 4 physical cores/8 logical cores or higher (recommended)
    • AVX2 instruction set support (recommended)
  • OpenCL 1.2 capable video card (recommended)
  • 2 GB RAM
    • 8 GB RAM or higher (recommended)
  • 1.2 GB hard disk space for application files**
    • Solid-state drive (recommended)
  • 1280 x 800 @ 100% (or higher) screen resolution
    • 1920 x 1200 @ 150% (or higher) (recommended)
  • Mouse or tablet
  • DVD drive (required for box installation)
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 or higher, with the latest updates
  • An Internet connection to activate and register Painter.

My Final Verdict

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about Corel Painter 2020. As I mentioned previously, I first installed it while breaking in my new Huion tablet. After some time, I’ve come to terms with both my tablet and with Painter 2020.

The software itself is pretty good. Corel has made it much less intimidating for new users by reworking the interface. A plurality of the brushes feel much faster, even if they haven’t been optimized by Corel. If you haven’t upgrade Painter in a while, 2020 is a good version to jump to.

But I have a few caveats.

First off, Painter 2020 requires more power in the hardware department. I suppose this is to be expected as Painter advances. The new features that we’ve covered are nice additions, but not enough for an upgrade from Painter 2019. They’re not dramatic enough to motivate me to make a purchase this year. I can easily live without them.

Lastly, I’m not a fan of yearly upgrades unless it’s from a cloud subscription, like what Adobe has. I’ve been conditioned to expect too much from any given software publisher whenever a new version rolls out. With a cloud subscription, I don’t have any real expectations other than the new version (if I’m paying attention) is stable and makes life easier. If there are just tweaks or updates to whatever, I don’t have to contemplate if upgrading is worth it.

Take the Demo fo a Spin

Don’t just take my word for it. If your computer is up to it, download the 30 day demo [Corel] of Corel Painter 2020 and see if it’s for you.

Corel Painter 2020 can also be purchased at Amazon. [Amazon]

Using either link directly supports this website and maintains the motivation of its author. Thanks!