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Painter 2015: Faster, more stable, incredible new brush tools

Lesa Snider | Sept. 24, 2014
Painter 2015 gets much-needed improvements in speed and stability, plus picks up a jaw-dropping new Particle Brushes tool.

While these groundbreaking brushes are influenced by the movement of your stylus, they're infinitely customizable. Using the Expression menu located in a special palette for each of the three categories, you can tie aspects of that brush's behavior to pen velocity, direction, pressure, wheel, tilt, bearing, rotation, and more. All Particle Brushes are attracted to flow maps, a grayscale representation of surface texture.

By customizing the flow map, you can control exactly how (and where) the brushes do their special thing. You can even generate your own flow map from a photo, and the Particle Brush you're using will be attracted to the photo's dark areas, which is especially helpful in adding realistic hair and fur to your subject. This trick, when used with the Particle Flow Organic Texture brush, can produce a unique painting from a photo, too.

Better brush tracking and more
Teaching Painter about the strength and pressure level of the digital brushstrokes you make with your stylus (or, heaven forbid, your mouse) is crucial. Happily, the Brush Tracking utility got was upgraded in Painter 2015 and now visualizes your calibrating brushstroke as a power curve that you can fine-tune.

Handy sliders let you control the point in your brushstroke where you achieve maximum pressure, how fast the pressure increases, as well as the point in your brushstroke where you achieve maximum speed, and the rate of acceleration. You can also save your brush-tracking settings as a preset, which is handy for setting up different sensitivity settings for different brushes (say, hard media versus oil paint).

Like most creative software, Painter is riddled with palettes though this version includes several built-in workspaces that arrange palettes for the task at hand (this is especially useful for newbies). The new Quick Switch feature lets you swap between the two workspaces you use the most, and while it doesn't have a keyboard shortcut from the factory, you can assign one using Painter's Customize Keys preferences.

Also new in Painter 2015 is Universal Jitter Smoothing, which generates more realistic yet random brushstrokes produced by jitter, and a real-time effect preview that's handy for seeing texture on the canvas while you're painting. Other improvements include perspective guides, a Simple brush category (includes a 2B Pencil, Design Marker, Digital Airbrush, Eraser, Just Add Water, and Scratchboard Tool), plus tons of new content including papers, patterns, gradients, nozzles, flow maps, and more. Painter 2015 also sports temporal (onscreen) brush controls and a color wheel, an improved brush stroke preview, a simplified toolbox, command bar, masking tools, and more.

The bottom line
As a technical writer and author who's deep into digital imaging, I've witnessed some incredible technology over the years. To date, nothing feels as ground-breaking and artistically freeing as Painter 2015's Particle Brushes. With enough skill you could create similar effects in Adobe Photoshop, though they'd take far longer and they'd never look as good. For the artist, creative professional, or photographer who wants to take their imagery to the next (surreal) level, it's finally time to pry open a can of Painter 2015 (even if it doesn't actually arrive in a metal can anymore).


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