Baby Hopper sitting in a kiddie pool. Painted in Corel Painter Essentials 7.

Corel Painter Essentials 7 Review

Corel Painter has been the standard-bearer for over a decade. But not everyone has the cash to even purchase an older version of Painter. Not to worry! There are plenty of alternatives out there. The ones that come to mind are Sai Paint Tools, Krita, and Clip Studio Paint Pro. The great thing is that these alternatives also come at a wide range of prices to suit your budget. (Yea capitalism!) Heck, even Corel has gotten in on this action. They are currently offering the budget-minded Corel Painter Essentials 7.

About Corel Painter Essentials 7

What is Painter Essentials 7 and who is it geared towards? I would describe Painter Essentials as Corel’s entry-level digital painting program. The program is streamlined and simplified for beginner artists and those new to digital painting.

If you’re a regular user of the full version of Corel Painter, you’ll notice the vastly reduced number of brushes. Fewer options when it comes to manipulating layers. This sucks if you’re an advanced user that’s capable of creating visual magic in a feature-rich monster like Adobe PhotoShop. But for people just starting out, solely maintaining the core features of Painter and simplifying the interface makes Essential 7 a lot friendlier for its target users.

fire ant painted in Corel Painter Essentials 7

Corel Painter Essentials’ Features

Painter Essentials 7 has all of the basic tools that are standard in most digital painting and photo editing programs. I.E.~ Brush Tool, Marque Tools, Fill/Paint Bucket, Eye Dropper, Layers, Etc, etc. Let’s run down some of the most notable features:

Easy Going User Interface of Corel Painter Essentials

Most computer graphic programs have user interfaces that fall into either one of two categories, super simple or insanely overwhelming. Corel Painter Essentials 7 falls more into the super simple category. That said, it’s simple, easy to use, but still has that professional touch. If you just want to jump in and paint or draw, the interface is rather refreshing.

Corel Painter Essentials User Interface
Click to enlarge.

Brushes Inside Corel Painter Essentials

The Brush Tool functions similarly to any other brush tool you’ll find. Just like in the regular version of Painter, you’ll have the option of creating both straight and freehand lines. If you own a graphics tablet, you’ll be able to fully utilize many of the Essential natural media brushes.

Now for some bad news. If you love to tweak and customize brushes to your heart’s content, it ain’t gonna happen in Essentials. Remember, this program is geared for newbies. Beyond size, opacity, and grain (simulating the texture of your virtual canvas), that’s it. That’s all a new user needs.

Unlike the full version, Painter Essentials 7 has a stripped-down selection of brushes. Or basically any type of natural media a beginner could use. But even if you’re a seasoned pro, will you really use all 500+ brushes found in Corel Painter 2020? (Maybe it’s more, I can’t remember.)

If you have the bright idea of importing brushes from the older version of Painter or copied from a friend’s version of Painter 2017, Essentials 7 will refuse to recognize them and won’t even launch completely.

I honestly believe you’ll be alright with the current selection of brushes in Painter Essentials 7. But you might be irked by the lack of Real Watercolor brushes. Corel still includes Digital Watercolor package of brushes.

Overall brushes in Essentials 7 are pretty damn speedy. And I’m running Painter Essentials on my slug of an iMac. Most brushes fly in real-time.

Layers in Corel Painter Essentials

I’m a big layers buff and take full advantage of them in Painter. The Layers Palette in Corel Painter Essentials 7 is much more simplified as compared to Painter. Corel’s just sticking to the basics in this version. That means no grouping and no lifting the canvas to a watercolor layer. You can collapse (merge) selected layers together and drop layers down to merge with the canvas layer. (Which is a quasi-layer. Think of it as an actual surface and your layers are sheets of clear plastic to paint upon.)

Essentials lack any special types of layers such as natural watercolor layers, ink layers, and FX layers. There’s also no checkbox that allows you to pick up colors from the layers below. Not the end of the world if you’re a newbie.

You can’t utilize masks with your layers. This is an issue for me because I’ve found masks to be useful due to the fact that you can trim things without destroying them.

How Painter Essentials Opens RIF Files

Corel has been pretty awesome about keeping RIF files (Painter’s native file format) backward-compatible between versions of Painter. RIF files created with either Painter Essentials or the full version of Painter can be opened by either program.

On a related note, Essentials can also open native Photoshop PSD files. PSD is a great format to use between 2D programs.

AI-Based Photo Painting

One of the latest features being pimped in Painter Essentials 7 is AI-Based Photo Painting. Auto-Painting has always been around, but the big difference is that the AI-based auto painting is more aware of details as opposed to just using random dabs that clone a particular point in the photo.

Corel provides a panel that makes Photo Painting super simple.

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Recommended System Requirements


  • 64 Bit versions of Windows 10-7, with the latest update applied.
  • Intel Core Duo or AMD Athlon 64 X2 processor with 4 physical/8 logical cores or more. AVX2 support will help.
  • 8 GB RAM or more is recommended.
  • A hard drive bigger than 2.8 GB of space.
  • A DVD drive is necessary if you purchase the physical version.
  • An internet connection to required to activate and register Painter Essentials.


  • macOS 10.13 or better
  • Intel Core 2 Duo with 4 physical cores/8 logical cores or more.
  • 8 GB of RAM is recommended.
  • A hard drive bigger than 1.6 GB of space.
  • A DVD drive is recommended for the box version.
  • An internet connection is necessary to activate and register your product.

Should I Buy Painter Essentials?

That depends upon who you are. If you can handle Adobe Photoshop then Painter Essentials is going to feel pretty limiting. So you may want to save your money for the full version of Painter (which is still pretty great) or consider more affordable alternatives such as Sai Paint Tools, Krita, and Clip Studio Paint Pro. Hell, try Krita first. It’s fully-featured, open-source, and FREE!

If your brand new to the wonderful world of digital painting and don’t wish to be bogged down by a ton of features, half of which you won’t use, then I would recommend downloading the 30 day free trial. The trial is available for both Mac and Windows.

It has a genuine focus on just painting. Essentials is simplified enough to where very few will ever be overwhelmed. Once you start to feel good using Essentials, you’ll have the option of upgrading to the full version of Corel Painter.