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3D DIRECT • March 13, 2001

The Artist's Canvas

Using Corel Painter to Create Painterly, Seamless Textures

by Eni Oken

One of the most interesting tools available for the texture artist is Corel Painter v6. Previously developed by Fractal, who merged into the company that became MetaCreations, and only recently passed to Corel, Painter is widely used by traditional painters and artists that have transitioned to the digital realm, but is still not heavily explored by 3D users.

Painter offers strong features including its array of brushes and variants, which allow the artist to create textures that have a loose, painterly feel, more so than traditional tools such as Adobe Photoshop. Although these two programs share file compatibility, Painter's tools are presented in, what I think is, a less intuitive way than Photoshop's equivalents. For example, even though Painter has recently incorporated "layers" into it's interface, Photoshop's Layer dialog is, to me, much easier to use. Texture artists could benefit from using both programs, exploring the strongest potentials of each package.

Basic usage of Painter

Because Painter's interface can be overwhelming with several palettes and dialog boxes, here is a brief step-by-step of how to get started in Painter:

  1. Creating a new image: Using the File>New option, create a new image by setting the size in pixels. You can also select the background color by clicking in the white square marked Paper Color.

    Notice how the main interface works—under each main dialog box, several options present themselves. By clicking on one of the little triangles, the option is open and the parameters can be adjusted. Figure 1.

    Figure 1: Painter's main window with the new file dialog box.

  2. Adjusting the Brush Tracking: If you are using a tablet, you can set Painter to recognize your specific hand weight and drawing style. Choose Edit>Preferences>Brush Tracking and draw on the blank area. This will automatically set the pen and tablet parameters to your specific needs. The Brush Tracking needs to be set each time Painter is started. Figure 2.

    Figure 2: Adjusting the Brush Tracking sets the pen and tablet to your unique hand weight.

  3. Painting with the brushes and variants: Under the Brushes dialog box, you can choose different types of media that simulate traditional inks, paints, watercolor, pencil, charcoal, chalk, etc. The icons show images of five basic brushes (Figure 3a), but you can get a complete list of all the brushes available by clicking on the left box below the icons (Figure 3b). Clicking on the right box below the icons lets you choose from the variants available under that specific category (Figure 3c). For example, choose Dry Media as the Brush and Chalk for the Variant.

    Figure 3: In the Brushes dialog box, choose the type of brush at the left and a variant at the right.

  4. Choosing the color: Painter has, what seemed to me, an easy to use color pickers—under the Art Materials>Color dialog, choose the main hue by clicking on the circle and adjusting value and saturation in the inner triangle (Figure 4).

    Figure 4: Choosing colors to paint with the color picker.

  5. Choosing the paper: One of the most interesting features in Painter is its simulation of paper grains. Under the Art Materials, choose Paper. Here you can choose different types of paper. The type of paper will show on the image when you use a brush that contains a weak grain factor. In figure 5, the Dry Media brush with the Square Chalk variant was used to paint over a canvas with the Pavement type of paper.

    Figure 5: Simulating paper grain on the canvas is one of Painter's stronger features.

  6. Adjusting size, grain, and opacity: The Controls box allows you to choose the size of the brush, along with the opacity you are going to paint with. Keep in mind that different brushes and variants will have very distinct behaviors. The Grain setting is available for only some brushes, and it controls how much of the paint is absorbed by the paper due to the paper's grain. The lower the Grain setting, the less paint enters the paper and more of the paper grain shows. Figure 6 shows the blue area painted with a very low Grain settings, and the red area painted with a high Grain settings.

    Figure 6: High and low Grain settings control the amount of paint that covers the paper grain.

  7. Color variability: Another interesting feature available in Painter is the ability to paint with multiple colors on the same brush. The amount of color variability can be adjusted under the Art Materials>Color Variability dialog box. Figure 7 shows how the brush Artists with the variant Seurat was used to produce a multicolored shower of dots in the yellow color range. Figure 7 also shows how the brush Brushes with the variant Variable Flat can produce a multicolored brush stroke.

    Figure 7: Using Color Variability produces some of the most interesting painterly results with different types of brushes and variants.

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