Comparing Photoshop and Painter

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    Posted: 16 August 2007 08:47 AM

    I just downloaded a trial copy of Corel Painter X. I’ve never used it before. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple years getting my feet wet in Photoshop. Photoshop is amazingly comprehensive and powerful, but I’m not finding it as easy as I had hoped emulating traditional natural media look-and-feel. I’ve gotten it to do what I want, for the most part, but only after a lot of trial and error combining countless brushes, filters and layer styles. And unless I’m missing something, setting up and using custom brushes, styles and effects is not as straightforward as it ought to be.

    As I’m trying out Painter, I’m wondering if any of you are familiar enough with both Painter and Photoshop to help me with a comparison. That may help me focus on testing out the differences by not having to weed them from the similarities by trial and error.

    If I were to decide to use Painter either along with or instead of Photoshop, I would need to compile a list of reasons by boss should spend the money. It won’t be a huge deal, but he’s not going to buy it for me just because I ask.

    Thanks in advance.

    I should probably give a brief description of what I’m typically trying to do. I’m an architect. The workflow of a typical building design would start with hand sketches to quickly test many different ideas. 3D modeling in SketchUp is also used. As a design scheme starts to find its direction, it will move to 2D CAD to work out the floor plans. But CAD drawings aren’t the best media to present design ideas to clients - they’re too stiff and give the client the impression that the design has already been set in stone.

    What I typically do is import the CAD file into Illustrator where I tweak the CAD layers and line weights with an eye on what’s needed before the move to Photoshop. Once in Photoshop, my goal is to turn a sterile line drawing into something presentation-worthy. I make extensive use of layers, layer groups, layer styles, layer masks, clipping masks, shadows and text. I’ve looked hard for a Photoshop plugin that creates a sketch effect from straight lines. There are several out there, but nothing that I’m too happy with, so quite often I use a combo of filters in Illustrator to “squiggle” the linework.

    Another thing I’ve done only minimally is use an image from SketchUp and doctore it up in Photoshop. The goals are the same as with plans and elevations, and I’d like to be doing more of it.

    Here are a few examples of what I’ve done. Like I said, I’m not unhappy with the results. It’s the process I’m looking at. (And keep in mind that I’m not an “artist” - this is just part of my job)

    Example 1   Layers are great for creating many material/color options in one drawing.
    Example 2
    Example 3
    Example 4



    It depends on what you look at, obviously,
    But even more it depends on the way that you see

  • Posted: 20 August 2007 07:16 AM #1

    Painter tries very hard to emulate natural media.

    Photoshop does not.

    Photoshop existed in the first place to be an image editor. It therefore excels at this, but as the years have passed, tools that were introduced into Photoshop for enhancement/correction/editing have become tools for creative expression in their own right.

    Painter is aimed at artists who tend to create imagery from scratch, as opposed to Photoshop, which in the majority of cases is used to edit/enhance source images.

    If you look at showcase publications, such as Expos?, what you’ll find is that many images created by 3D artists use a combination of the two applications, and I believe you’ll find that many creatives develop their visual concepts in Painter and finish them off with Photoshop.

    I’m telling you this because I believe your strongest argument may be that the two apps complement each other. For some tasks, Photoshop will be the fastest solution. For others, Painter.

    Example? Perhaps you want to map some 2D art to a perspective grid - say, perhaps your client will be impressed to see their own branding on the wall of an entrance foyer. For this, Photoshop is quick and easy.

    However, let’s say you want to give your facade projections a seasonal makeover. A hint of fallen leaves for autumn, or drifts of snow for a spring thaw. In this case, Painter is quick and easy.

    But there’s nothing easy about Painter. You have no doubt by now discovered its myriad palettes and tools, which you can get lost in for days on end. And I feel that in its effort to emulate natural media, Painter is a tool most suited to those who have been trained in natural media.


    Karate ni sente nashi

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    Posted: 20 August 2007 09:34 AM #2

    I have to agree with the above poster 100% and add that Painter isn’t very useful (to me at least) without a Wacom tablet.

    Judging by your samples I would say you could do the textures and some of the lighting effects you seem to like in Painter and then add the final touches, composites and shadows in Photoshop. After examining your samples (nice work btw) I would think that adding Painter to your work flow would complicate things more then it’s worth. You seem to be doing great with Photoshop.


    - Gavin (DrShakagee)

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    Posted: 21 August 2007 07:58 AM #3

    Wow, guys, thanks for the great replies! Great information to have, especially for someone like me whose time doesn’t allow full immersion into the digital arts scene.

    Just after I posted I got suddenly busy and haven’t had much time to try Painter. I should be able to pick it up again today.

    [quote author=“coaten”]I feel that in its effort to emulate natural media, Painter is a tool most suited to those who have been trained in natural media.

    Although I wasn’t trained in the fine arts per se, I certainly took a few art classes and developed architectural presentation techniques with some intentionality. And I’m old enough to have cut my teeth on all of that before the use of computers (1980s). So, whatever artistic ability I have, I did learn in natural media, although that was mostly limited to pen/pencil drawings, markers, colored pencils and pastels, and very little in the way of “painting” media (oils, watercolors, etc.).

    [quote author=“DrShakagee”]You seem to be doing great with Photoshop.

    Thanks, I appreciate that. Like I said, for the most part I’m not unhappy with the results. I just feel at times I’m forcing Photoshop to do things outside of what it can do efficiently. I need to cut some time out of the process. BTW, I do have a 9x12 Wacom tablet - no way I could do this stuff without it.

    Thanks again, guys! I’ll let you know how it goes.



    It depends on what you look at, obviously,
    But even more it depends on the way that you see