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Platform : Mac, Windows 2000, Windows XP
For some time now, Painter has been doing an excellent digital impersonation of natural-media painting. But it wasn't until version 8 that Corel tamed the program so that beginners were no longer overwhelmed by a plethora of palettes. The new Painter IX maintains this orderly interface, and adds several features that bring the program so close to real-world painting that you'll swear you smell turpentine.
For starters, Painter IX functions demonstrably faster. Corel has drastically reduced any lag time between when you paint and when the stroke appears on-screen. The process still may not be quite simultaneous when you're using extra-thick brushes, but under typical usage you should see no delay. New to the UI are the Brush Control palettes. In previous versions, making brush adjustments on the fly while painting was decidedly inconvenient. The new palettes, however, put this capability right on screen for easy access at all times.
The excellent Artists' Oils brushes mimic oil painting with astonishing verisimilitude. As in the real world, these brushes hold a limited amount of oil; strokes fade out on the canvas as the brush runs out of paint. In the enhanced Mixer palette you can reload your brush with red on one side and blue on the other and paint a multicolored stroke. You can scrape paint on the canvas with palette knives to blend colors and create textured effects, and the "Dirty" brush mode keeps your brush loaded between strokes with whatever combination of colors it last smeared through.
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