• Price When Reviewed: 230 . 119

  • Pros: Faster and produces more realistic work than previous editions.

  • Cons: Steep learning curve for new users.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

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For natural media artwork, Painter is second to none. Instead to trying to take on the 800-pound gorilla of the imaging world that is Photoshop, Corel has stuck rigidly to Painter's core functionality. This may confine it permanently to a niche, but what a niche it is.

Painter is no amateur daubing tool, though it can be used that way if you want. Instead, the application is designed to provide digital artists and illustrators with a toolbox to rival that of their paint-stained counterparts in the physical world.

While Painter, thankfully, avoids trying to take on Photoshop, the tools are similar in one sense at least: Painter's market may be more specialized but it dominates it, just as Photoshop does the general imaging market. This latest update offers no reason to think that Painter's domination won't continue.

For those unfamiliar with Painter, it works in a way similar to Photoshop's brushes, but aims to more realistically emulate an artist’s traditional set of tools, brushes, pens, pencils, paint knifes, chalk, Conté crayons and so on. Like Photoshop, Painter is a raster-based imaging application; unlike Photoshop, it recreates real-world art.

By simulating an art studio, Painter allows for the rapid creation of natural-looking artwork without the mess, ooze, hassle and need to go back to the easel when it all goes wrong.

Increased productivity is the name of the game with this new edition of Painter. All of the new and improved features result in not only a wider range of tools for graphic artists, but also improvements in user interface, speed and workflow.

Like any decent update to a product, Painter 11 is loaded with a bevy of new features. Top of the list is 'Hard Media Variants' – 40 new hard media brushes – and the ability to create your own using the Custom Hard Media Variants menu. This development makes customization easier than with previous editions of Painter.

The now resizable Colours palette (above)has been redesigned so that all colour controls are accessible on a single palette. The sliders from the old Colour Info palette have been added, making it easier to adjust everything in one place.