Monday, January 2, 2012

The Illustrated Evolution of Painter UI

Most of the comments I have gotten about Painter's UI over the years have been about how much stuff there is in it. We did implement features about twice as fast as we could organize them, I think. This is a history of that process. If you need someone to blame for its complexity, blame me. If you need someone to praise for how well we handled the complexity, praise John Derry. The images come from a Japanese web site. The commentary is mine, of course.

Painter and Painter 1.2

Both Painter 1 (just called Painter) and Painter 1.2 use this kind of splash screen, which was a rectangular selection grabbed from the original art of the paint can which I painted for Painter 1. This artwork is found on the cans for Painter 1 and Painter 2, as well as the Painter 1 poster. It was painted in August of 1990 at my Mac IIfx workstation using a Wacom tablet and Painter 0.9, an early version of Painter.

Note the ugly dark-green Fractal Design logo (which I designed, BTW). OMG.

The Painter 1.2 user interface shows the very start of our UI. A palette each for tools, brushes, colors, and papers. For controlling brushes behavior, there are the brush size, brush behavior, and expression palettes. For selections in Painter (called Friskets in early versions) there was the frisket palette and the fill palette, which also helped control the paint bucket. Finally, a correction window was more a modal approach to the brightness and contrast of the image.

Note the color picker was a triangle, but with a hue slider at the bottom. The brush icons were a bit inconsistent, and featured gigantic images.

Painter 2.0

Painter 2.0 saw the influence of John Derry. John had a much more literal approach to splash screen design, as you can see. Also, note the inclusion of John Derry and Bob Lansdon as authors of Painter. Bob did work on the watercolor brush technology. Note also the trademark on Natural-Media.

The design of the splash screen is heavily influenced by the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, which features the same color scheme and gold press. The Fractal Design logo has changed, meanwhile, to the "Big FD" as we called it. The real Fractal Design logo has color paint strokes inside it. Here it was decided that the color paint strokes would ruin the effect John was trying to achieve. For the new logo, John Derry designed the shapes and I designed the brushy fill. Later, Cleo Huggins produced a high-resolution PDF version.

For Painter 2.0, we added Brush Looks, which were presets that we used as a tool to cut through the complex interface for the brushes A brush look was the combination of a brush, all its modified settings, and a paper texture. You could design the icon for the brush in the Brush Look Designer, another palette for trying out a brush and its settings before you went to use it. Most of the features added to Painter 2.0 were brush capabilities, including things like angled tips for the brush, clone location variability, control over the smeariness of a brush using Resaturation and Bleed. The random grain brush strokes capability allows the grain to move around with each dab of the brush that was deposited to the canvas, creating a much better textured look.

We supported tear-off brush variants, brush looks, and textures, so the screen space could be minimized for a user working on a specific task. Incredibly, we added scripts to Painter 2.0. You could play them back at a higher resolution. The brush stroke designer was driven by a script for a brush stroke that could play back with the new brush settings whenever you changed them.

I created two special effects that were unlike any other program at the time. The first was Apply Marbling. This allowed you to create marbled textures like you get when you drag rakes and tines through the surface of a liquid that has spots of ink on it. The second was Apply Lighting. This allowed you to light an image by conical light sources to achieve spot light and other natural lighting effects.

A new brush, called the New Brush Model can be seen in the Brush Behavior palette. This brush was characterized by a cylindrical arrangement of bristles, some portion of which could touch the canvas during any one point of the brush stroke. The diagrams for how this worked are shown in Creativity and Painter, Part 1. They are the yellow pages.

Painter 3

With Painter 3, John and I introduced the world to the image hose.Our new product manager, Steve Guttman, and two new programmers, Priscilla Shih and Shelby Moore are credited as well. We show the real Fractal Design logo here in all its colorful majesty as well. A reference to the '620 patent is seen at the bottom. This patent was for tiled textures interacting with a brush, and Lambert/Beer build-up, which enabled color pencils, charcoal, and felt markers.

John Derry's splash screen used a rocky texture background and the image hose to make it look more natural than it ever had before. The golden letters theme was maintained, though.

The Painter 3 interface was a radical departure from its predecessors, showing the organizational influence of John Derry. Toolbox buttons were now sculpted like the keys of a retro typewriter. The palettes are now gray-backed and the icons are much smaller. The numerous brush icons are now located in a drawer-like structure that can be opened up and closed. We first started toying with drawer-based interfaces in Dabbler. Each of the palettes has 5 graphically-represented sections. Friskets have been renamed to Paths, at the request of Steve Guttman. Our implementation of Layers, initially called Floaters, was debuted in Painter 3 as well. The Nozzle section in the Brush Controls helped the user choose the kind of images that are used with the image hose. With Painter 3, each action you did is now recorded in a script, so it can be played back, even at different resolutions. Color Sets, Gradations, and Weavings have been added. I added multiple undo as well. Painter 3 (including version 3.1) was clearly the single largest change to Painter yet.

An important UI feature was the ability to tear off art materials, like the color palette or the paper palette. Yet they were also nicely organized. This tear-off feature worked with any palette that contained icons.

Oh, and you could make a drop shadow for a floater with the push of a button.

Painter 4

Now comes Painter 4 in 1995. In Skagen, Denmark in the summer of 1994, I coded a mosaic tool, based on the polygonal boolean operations. In this model, one vector-based mosaic tile can be used to clip another. Outsetting operations allowed me to enforce grout requirements. The influence of the mosaic tool is seen in the splash screen, produced by John Derry. The gold letters are now bevel-edged. A dappling of light and shadow graces the image. The venerable Glenn Reid, Vahe Avedissian, and Christy Hall (now Christy Brandt) joined as authors.

Sorry, this UI screen shot is in Japanese. But you can see that individual art materials are torn off into their own palettes. There is a new art material: patterns. There are additional tools for Shapes editing and for shape creation. The gradations palette allowed rotation of the color ramp, and it also allowed different topologies for the ramp: linear, polar (radar), circular, and spiral. Scripts got their own palette, and it had a transport deck for playing scripts back like you might play back a video. Note that the Shapes tools got their own little mini-section in the tools palette.

Painter 5

In 1996, with Painter 5, we added several new kinds of brushes, including liquid metal, fire, and dodge and burn. The influence of these brushes is seen in the splash screen, created by John Derry. You can tell it is his by the painted mark of a hand, which is one of his signatures. Scott Cooper and Erik Johnson are now on the author team.

We added many new kinds of brushes to Painter 5. There were brushes for blurring and sharpening, for bulging or pulling the image around. There were brushes for fire, glow, dodge, and burn. There were liquid metal and transparent water droplet brushes, complete with shines. You could add grain with a brush and change the hue and saturation of a section of the image, while leaving the luminance alone, for easy tinting effects. A relief brush allowed you to draw the surface texture of the image separately from the color of the image, and you could even twirl an area of the image directly. The various distortion effects were supported internally by a vector field through which the image was advected for display, kind of like Kai's Power Goo.

In the UI, you will notice that the icons and the color picker and other screen objects are laid into the gray background rather than having a drop shadow as they did in Painter 4. This further cut down on screen real-estate, and provided less conflict for the eyes. Some of the icons went to half-height also.

Painter 5.5

In Painter 5.5, we added a web-safe palette, and some features for cutting your image into sub-rectangles for easier inclusion into a web page. This is especially useful when some parts of the page design use flat colors or have less detail and can thus be compressed more effectively than others. The additional web features of Painter 5.5 was the effort of some of our new Ray Dream personnel (Fran├žois Huet, Damien Saint-Macary, and Nicolas Barry) and Scott Cooper.

Meanwhile, I was working on a completely new brush model for the next version.

You also see a new logo on the splash screen, the trefoil knot of Metacreations. This company was the result of the merger between MetaTools and Fractal Design. I began spending more time talking with Kai Krause about new interfaces and features.

Painter Classic was a feature-limited version of Painter, kind of like Painter 4. It was a lower-cost product and designed to be bundled with scanners, cameras, and tablets.

Painter 6

When the feature set for Painter 6 was being discussed, I brought up my brush testbed. This project was my skunkworks for new brush models, where I had employed object-oriented programming using C++. In the new testbed, I had implemented several kinds of new physically-modeled brushes. The first was the multi-bristle brush. With this brush, each bristle had its own path and could allow for splay of the bristles. In addition, each bristle had its own color as well as its own internal model for picking up color from the image. The bristles were initial organized in a bristle bundle, which was based on an irregular tight-packing of spots. The look of the bristle bundle was based on the "monkey eye receptor" model, since the bristles were really in an organic cellular arrangement. To make this packing, I had a special tool for computing bristle arrangements that used reverse gravity to create a very regular spacing indeed. The arrangements were additionally computed in a fold-over square that could tile the plane with this arrangement. So I could compute brushes with an arbitrary number of bristles more economically.

Each bristle path was processed in space by using an exponentially-damped signal of (x, y) pairs. This led to a more physically-based model of the bristles, and gave each bristle a little bit of individuality. If I were to do this again today, I would probably start worrying about the capillary effects between the bristles, since that's more like the way the paint is actually transported through the brush.

I also developed a spatter airbrush model that had a physically-modeled trajectory for each speck of paint. And a proper concentration of trajectories. And to top it all off, it used the Wacom tablet and stylus to drive it as realistically as if you were using a real airbrush. I was quite proud of this brush.

Another brush I developed was a brush where images could be warped along the path of the brush. At this time, we were working with Alex Hsu of Creature House, whose Expression product we sold for a while. I couldn't be outdone by Alex, of course, and so I implemented this brush to warp pixels and do it using mip-maps so there were no undue aliasing artifacts. It could work with masked tiled images so you could draw chains and other cool figures quickly. The width of the stroke could be controlled by pressure with ease.

The marketing and development of Painter 6 are detailed in Creativity and Painter, Part 2. The war for Painter 6!

Metacreations' new three-hump logo was not my favorite, and it was the first logo I didn't have a hand in. Fortunately it was short-lived!

In the Painter 6 UI, we finally tired of not being able to access the deep features of the brush controls in a way that allowed simultaneous tuning. Therefore, we went to an expanding list, with disclosure arrows. On the front of a closed-down item there was a name and sometimes a picture of the art material or a swatch of color indicating what was the current color. We also put a salient parameter on the surface of the closed-down list item, such as opacity or the name of the current script. This could act as an important indicator when the list item is closed. Also, at the right end of each close-down list item is a pop-down menu of commands for that area of the product. This was another important feature for users.

Closed-down list items really cut down on the complexity of the program. they also let the users open up only the features they needed for the task at hand.

This wound up the most significant advance in Painter's interface, the product of John Derry and myself.

Painter 7

In 2000, Painter was bought by Corel and Tom, John, and I consulted for them for a year and a half, while helping to construct Painter 7. You will notice that Tom's name migrated mysteriously to the start of the splash screen credits. I can tell you I didn't have a hand in it; neither did I complain. After all, I no longer owned the product. As we constructed some really interesting features for the product, numerous Corel engineers started the process of taking over the code, and moving it over to Mac OS X.

Now, I'm not sure why they chose to label it under the procreate brand, nor why they put a bunny on it. At the time I found it hard to care, mostly because it was now their product. But I certainly didn't skimp on my enthusiasm for new features.

My Liquid Ink feature was based on a potential height field that metaballs were added into. It actually kept the height field in floating point. Because of the physically based viscosity and surface tension model, it was possible for blobs of ink to join together like two water droplets. this same technology was used for water droplets and also reflective liquid metal ink. What differed was the rendering of the color. Water was transparent, allowed for an amount of refraction, and had a shine model that used environment maps. Because the height field was floating point, it could be easily shaded like a ray-traced bump map. The Liquid ink used a reflection map for its coloring. This was based on a normal calculation from the height field, also from 3D bump maps.

My Watercolor implementation in Painter 7 used several layers to simulate the paint that was still wet, how it traveled, and its interaction with the paint grain. This became the most realistic form of watercolor available yet commercially. It used cellular automata to transport the dyes with liquid while it was wet, and interaction with the paper grain dictated where the ink would dry first, or get absorbed first.

If I had to do this again today, I would model individual paper fibers and use their capillary action to dictate where the liquid dye moves. There is just so much compute power available today; it's dying to get used for something like this.

My Woodcut feature allowed you to algorithmically select areas of the picture that were similar to a given color, process them to model the stickiness of the silk screen ink, and do a wood block stamp of that color onto a separate layer. This would allow you to create several "prints" on top of each other, like carved linoleum pressings.

Tom developed an improved PSD import, crafted continuous zoom, and I think he also worked on the perspective grid tool (though I'm not sure).

Much of my effects and brushes for Painter 7 were perfected with the assistance of John Derry, who contributed more than his share of good ideas, as usual.

The interface for Painter 7 did not change much, except to become "lickable" like the rest of the early Mac OS X aqua interface. Topologically, though, nothing actually changed that I can recall.

Painter 7 was the last version of Painter that I contributed to. It had been a long 11 years since the start. But Painter was a very fun project to work on!


And it was always a pleasure to work with the Fractal Design folks! ...and the Meta folks! ...and the Corel folks!

To think it all started in my house in September of 1990 and it might never have seen the light of day had Letraset not been such a messed-up place.

Nonetheless, blessings to Marla Milne, Martin Dowzell, Brian Cohen, David Taylor, and Mike Popolo who worked at Letraset in the early days. I have many good memories of that time.


  1. Any one still have a copy of the X2 splash screen? I saw it once on the internet, but can't find it any more. Here is a more complete list of splash screens.

    1. Actually, that's where I got most of my splash screens. I just had to comment on them and the UI of course. And I have no machine to run these old versions on. SO I can't supply the X2 splash unfortunately.

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  2. Hello, I am Toshio "dddo" Doi, a 'Painter' collecter :)
    (dddo's Painter collection! top)
    (Screen Shot Collection page)

    I love to use Painter,
    since I had encountered the Tin-Can of the Fractal Design Painter 1.2 English Version in 1992 at NipponBashi, Osaka Japan (the area like Akihabara Tokyo)

    I began to write the pages to want to tell the history (, and the review of new version) to the new users of the Painter (around the version 5 and 6)

    By the way, I miss the Painter X2 by trivial, I still keep Macintoshes to run these old versions on. I can supply the X2 splash, if you lent the copy of X2.

    1. Yes! Hello! Pleased to meet you!

      I'm quite sure it was your splash screen collection page where I got all the Painter splash screen images to illustrate the evolution of Painter and its UI. Your site is a fantastic resource!

      Of course, I have written many other articles about the history of Painter and how it was written. Complete with how all the ideas came to us, and stories of our past.

      As it happens, I do have a copy of Painter X2. But I may have the splash screen in my "history" disk. Let me see what I can come up with.


  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hey, Mark! Thanks for the great blog!
    I´m a professional designar, a long-time Painter fan (from Painter 5) I have been a beta tester in Painter 11 and 12.
    Well I´d like to know your opinion on Painter 12´s UI. IMHO it´s thorrible, toylike and and confusing.
    As a beta -tester I have a fresh licence of Painter 12 and I haven´t used . I really hate its look and feel. :( Of course I acknowlegde Corel efforts and it has great things but I´m wondering if it´s just me.

    1. I use Painter 12 almost every day, and I also used Painter 11. Painter 12's new UI is a bit spartan, with fairly easy-to-read monochrome icons. The idea is that there is less distraction from the UI for people who already know the program.

      When it comes to UI, I have been through the wringer with Painter during the years that I shepherded it. Really, I am the only one to blame for adding *so many* features in so many areas.

      All-in-all I find it pretty easy to use. The main thing that I like is the associated controls on the bar at the top. When you are doing a free transform, you get the various modes there and a commit/cancel ability with one click and ready to use. With selections, this is also true and I find that to be cutting edge and quite accessible.

      The list of most recently used brushes is also quite nice because i find myself going between them quite often and so this is an improvement.

      I do find myself searching amongst the palettes for the thing that I want to access, though. For each material, there should just be a library icon on the palette so I can get to the library. I find the triangular corner button-thingie to be difficult to understand, and I end up futzing with it endlessly trying to get something to happen.

      The most frustrating thing is, when using an Apple Magic Mouse, the image window keeps zooming in and out capriciously when I don't want it to. This is intolerable!

      So, yes, the UI needs some work.

      Do you think the Painter 6 UI was superior?

    2. Hi, Mark:
      I liked very much the Painter 6 UI and in my opinion, Painter 7 under OSX was almost perfect. A consistent, clean interface with expanding lists, where you were able to work in with a minimum of windows and menus if wished. Earlier versions were not that clean.
      You know what? I haven´t instaled Lion in my main Mac because I don´t want to get rid of Painter 7... Imagine. It was solid and fast as well, and I still wonder why Painter 7 flies in a old powermac or Macmini G4 under Rosetta and newer versions are slow and often crash in incredibly powerful dual core Macs with gigs of RAM.
      I was shocked when Painter 8 came out because I was obligued to work under Windows then and its UI was hateful. But happily I had my Mac again when Painter IX came back and, not being so good as Painter 6 and 7 UI, it was "nice and easy"
      Don´t get me wrong , I´m not a nostalgic at all . I´m cool with Painter evolving and liked very much certain changes. Painter X and 11 were not bringing revolutionary stuff but are still great.
      And I like Painter 7 when I want that spartan, simple UI and Painter X if I want more features. (Or Painter 11 despite its uglier dark grey background in menus)now I think it´s awesome, compared to P12 though)

      Of course, our good Corel guys have been brave giving Painter a UI workaround but I don´t find Painter 12 spartan at all. It´s ugly and confusing (these icons?these panels and palettes!!) and the have ruined very important things: For example the brush selector . Of course it has great ideas and features but I´d better would love the old UI ...and 64 bits support, full stability and reinventing and developing awesome features where Painter is still unique (oh my, it´s animation tools, its effects and filters remain the same, for example) better selection tools... Not bringing new features but making better what it has. No, you are not the only one.

      It´s sad, but as a hobbyist and fan I´m not pleased with Painter 12 and as as a pro I cannot trust or recommend it. Said this, I still love it and I´m glad Corel keep it alive and kicking. I guess it´s hard to make everyone happy.
      But...I´m still shocked by Painter 12. Not in a positive manner, unfortunately. I wanted "keep the good stuff bring new code" and got "old code , new stuff I dislike"

      Thanks for the reply. Having the chance to directly know your opinion (or John´s, Kaen´s...) it´s incredible. Wonders of the "internets. ;)

      Cheers and excuse my poor English.

      P.S. Do you know what happened to NetPainter? That was a neat feature, even with our crappy 56k modems. ;)

    3. I do remember that Painter 7 kept Painter 6's interface intact. Well, we were just going for features there, and Tom, John and I were under contract.

      I think my main point is that UI can be consolidated and features collapsed into more easily useful chunks. Painter has one of the most deep interfaces on the planet, because of the many ways that brushes can be constructed.

      I'm not at all sure what happened to Net Painter. Tom eventually became unable to support it and it had to be removed, I think. But I can't remember. It was an interesting experiment, but there were far too many problems to make it a real collaboration system.

  5. It is not necessary to say but I greatly admire you and your colleagues -Tom , John and the rest of the Painter crew along the time, Corel developers included- for such a wonderful work.
    I know that you will have to be polite but a sincere review of current Painter status would be awesome .


    1. Thanks you for your kind words. Corel has done lots of good work as well. And it's all amazing since there are so many features in it. A UI for such a thing is bound to be complex.

      My main desire these days is to make UI more magical. In other words, that it will do just as you want without having to specify so many controls to it. This requires endless hard work to make sense of the controls, particularly with Painter. But I have found that it is doable with patience.

      Painter's internals are out of date. The convolutions used are too slow and can be much faster in this modern day, particularly with OpenGL fragment programs, Core Image, and OpenCL. I'm referring to simple operations like Soften (Gaussian Blur) and Sharpen, which should have "sharpen edges only" capabilities. Multicore implementations are essential as well. I sense that they have been working on these and it is to be commended!

      It still amazes me that today Painter still contains nearly all of the features I packed into it.

      The hard work of creating new visual styles is something that Corel should invest in. This is the real progress of Painter over the years. I know there are some new brushes and even brush engine capabilities, but really this should be the main point of development for the Painter team.

      I'm talking about features like Mosaics, Impasto, Woodcuts, and Watercolors. These were genuine advances in the state-of-the-art and this is where Painter still needs to go in order to keep its edge.

      Where could they go? Engravings, photographic in-painting, deconvolution, vector field rendering, all the wealth of non-procedural rendering that has appeared in SIGGRAPH in recent years.

      Also, the world of paint is forever moving closer to the iPad and the multitouch environment. Corel should already have an offering in this space if they want to continue their presence in the space of relevant applications.

      If Corel is listening, they should view these words not as criticism, but as heartfelt guidance and well-meant suggestions from someone who has carried the torch for many years and did have a fairly good sense for what users wanted.

    2. Oops crossed messages You are answering many things I have just addressed!

      Of course Corel must not view this as criticism. I´m proud of Corel for all the hard work (I know how much they care!!!) and intelligence they show.

      "The hard work of creating new visual styles is something that Corel should invest in. This is the real progress of Painter over the years" I agree. Is there where no one (neither Photoshop) can beat Painter.

      Thanks a lot. Really

    3. "I'm talking about features like Mosaics, Impasto, Woodcuts, and Watercolors. These were genuine advances in the state-of-the-art and this is where Painter still needs to go in order to keep its edge"
      Where could they go? Engravings, photographic in-painting, deconvolution, vector field rendering, all the wealth of non-procedural rendering that has appeared in SIGGRAPH in recent years. "
      That sounds FANTASTIC. And agree on the iPad-iPhone remark:)

      Abusing a little bit :)

      Could you post something on the history/nuts and bolts (if you didn´t) of some Painter cool features (it´s animation section) I think you already wrote on Net-Painter, for example. And something on what you really love from recent versions (there is a lot exciting stuff, for sure. In my case such humble thing like the real pencils is cool)
      And ... do you think Painter would be technically able to have a solid CMYK support ? Why didn´t you implement it in the past?

    4. When I finally exited from Painter development, Engravings was one of my side projects I was thinking about developing for Painter. I had an idea that looked like it might enable good engravings much like Mosaics enabled real mosaic work.

      I was thinking that I could create results much like those on dollar notes or other currency, or perhaps Wall Street Journal portraits.

      There are plenty of cool features that could come from vector field rendering, as I have found out in my development since Painter.

      Painter does (or at least did) have CMYK support for the EPS format. But the main problem with CMYK support is spot color. The woodcut capability, that kept colors on each layer, was originally intended to allow for spot color separations, in a manner similar to silk screen work. This was made part of Painter 7. It could still be cobbled into a real spot color capability. (Is Corel listening? might be an idea there...)

      I'll see about your requests in future Painter-oriented posts, of which I'm sure there will be many.

    5. Spot color separations! That would be excellent. I was not asking for that: just was asking for CMYK support only that.
      I´ve never understood Painter´s EPS output (which apparently remains unchanged from Painter 7) It produces separate files for each colour instead of a simple file with inner channel separations in the EPS-DCS
      It´s well documented in Painter´s Help (like everything) but I didn´t get the point. Now I do. The woodcut!

      Now I understand why every version has so many incredible new features. :D So many good ideas!
      Real spot color and deeper vector capabilities... I buy it.
      Painter is so rich in actual and possible features!

      Add to my request list some comments on Painter 3D and Creature House Expression and their relationship with Painter.

      Thank you very, very much for the kind and wise notes.

  6. Really happy I've found a link to your blog from painterfactory boards. Thank you so much for this post, I need to save it somewhere I think, to keep those early painter screens around :) (I'm reading other painter-tagged entries as well atm).

    I'm also quite happy to see another long-term painter fan commenting here, and I can concur with many points already stated.
    Painter's direction was really disappointing for me for a few versions already. Corel are breaking features, and toss in amateur-centered gimmicks that might appeal to the casual audience, but are damaging to the program core.
    While I can't really comment on current interface (let's just say it works), the engine behind has aged terribly in the wrong hands.
    Painter 12 on a mac works so much slower than painter IX (a power-pc application) and painter 6 (that I am currently emulating through windows. I still have it!! I still keep it for classic painter watercolor, it was the best!! I'm so sad I can not run painter 6 natively on mac anymore.)

    At the same time, painter 12 was the first version to actually show some improvement and some late work on corel's own errors. I'm not excited for newer versions unless they re-think the overall approach to this great program's development, but I'm happy you've put so much into older versions. They've turned out to be the best.

    1. Ah, those were the days! But processor change and platform change and touch screens and all of it - they wait for no-one.

      Corel, with Painter 12, has consolidated the interface and I find it usable. That's saying a lot.

      At least the brush engine is still internally correct, and I can still change my brushes by changing methods, sizes, opacities, etc.

      I can still use gel layers. And free transform is actually usable now. They really made that one work, I think. I use it more than I used to, even on these blog posts. In some of the more recent blog entries I talk about how I do my more recent illustrations. Sometimes I like to use Preview (and I can scan directly into it under Lion). It has good color correction and scaling. Very effortless.

      But Painter has the best brushes, especially when I use the Wacom tablet. It just gets easier to clean stuff up and even to do entire drawings. Hey, I should know how to use Painter since I wrote so much of it. And I can still use it, so it's not far off from its original usefulness.

      But several things need to be revamped, like the effect interface. They need to be heads-up displays like modern apps. The "preview" inside the effect is way too small. Probably it needs to be a real-time preview of the whole image in many cases.

      I could go on and on. Perhaps the worst thing is that, when I use the Magic Mouse (sometimes do), the screen is always zooming in and out and I can't control it at all. Corel: please fix this!

    2. On the brush engine - they did break some things eventually (painter 12 was released with broken well/resaturation controls, that are partially fixed in the current build; classic digital watercolor mixing is, however, broken for a few versions already. I made a bug-report somewhere at painterfactory, and it was eventually reported before me, back in 2004, to no further reaction from corel. That's why I still keep painter 6 around, despite having to waste time routinely to launch windows, switch tablet to the virtual OS, and being limited by windows tablet shortcomings.)

      I wonder if apple will take a look at painting software market one day. I believe they have the right talent, resources and user base to tackle it.

      I absolutely love wacom and painter integration, indeed. They make a great use of all tech wacom has to offer. And I absolutely loved dabbling with art-pen back when other packages had no idea what rotation was!

      Fullscreen preview - corel are working on it for some effects, but I don't like how slow the full-screening turned out.
      Which is weird, since some painter effects (brighntess/contrast, color correction and equalizing) utilized full-screen effect preview back in those days, and it was lightning fast even for huge images.

      Zooming is also really weird for me, it gets off when I'm scrolling with macbook touchpad with painter in the background, but it's a minor thing and a few cmd and plus hits solve it quickly.

      I certainly hope painter will get better! It's an amazing package, and there won't be another one like that.
      Older brushes are still very unique, and, in many cases, superb, to other programs.

    3. I noticed the bleed/resaturation controls in the well were messed up with some brushes.

      Much of Painter was specifically written with Wacom's incredible expressive capture of the handwork in mind. Let's see there is the X and the Y of the tablet position, the pressure of the tip, the bearing angle direction of body of the stylus away from the tip), and the tilt of the body of the stylus from the vertical position. These make five degrees of freedom. The sixth degree of freedom, the roll of the stylus (like rolling a pencil to get a sharper or flatter side) would complete the information and allow even more expression, but I suspect that Wacom simply decided that one was too expensive.

      I spoke to the Wacom engineers about it in Japan. Actually the engineer I spoke to didn't speak English, but I did manage to communicate exactly what I was looking for using one of their clever "recording" whiteboards. And he definitely understood, since he was able to draw another diagram of the roll of the stylus.

      I knew it would take multiple passive resonators in the body of the stylus, and that this may prove too expensive.

      One last degree of freedom was related to the pressure. It was the proximity distance. This comes into play when the stylus is slightly off the surface of the tablet. But I considered that information to be less than ergonomically viable, considering the fairly short distance that was available.

      Wacom was ahead of their time, definitely. And Painter was totally up to recording and utilizing all the information that Wacom could provide. All it takes is one look at the spatter airbrush and you know what I mean.

      I don't comment on Apple.

    4. Not sure if this comment will reach you, Mark. I hope it does.

      In 1993, I was a traditional illustrator with a NY rep agency doing watercolor and oil illustrations for publishers like New Yorker, Mastercard, Public Television, etc. But an article in an issue of Popular Photography that year featuring an article on a program called Photoshop, and, more importantly, the accompanying photo of some red tulips with PS's watercolor filter, changed my life. I bought a ticket to Seybold Seminars at the Moscone Center where I would return each year for the next 5 years. At the end of that year I purchased a Quadra 950, Radius monitor, Syquest drive, scanner, graphics card, PS 2.5, Quark, et al ($29,600 to make the plunge) ... and a program called Painter 2.0. That program changed the course of our small business.

      I could write a book about the impact going digital had on us, but the result was a fascinating journey that has lasted until this day. I don't know if you might remember me, but I would have been the chubby artist from Idaho that sometimes brought books and magazines that we had illustrated in Painter to show you. If not, that's OK. What we both remember was the carnival atmosphere and excitement of those days, the pioneering energy of discovery that each MacWorld and Seybold had. I assume there may have been stress for you, but for us attendees, it was Disneyland for grownups. I still remember you getting a standing ovation at your exhibit when you demonstrated to us the new mosaic feature. You don't see that often at trade shows!

      As an illustration company we went on to find a niche in the international Christian and religious illustration market and today own the licensing company goodsalt-dot-com and have, as a company, illustrated well over 50,000 color illustrations created in Painter. I can still remember our first sale of a digital illustration in early 1994 - It was a watercolor of a new golf course map for the Pebble Beach Golf Club company. I recall being horrified to discover, a week after sending off the file on a Syquest 44, the paper texture feature in Painter 2.0. But the client was thrilled with the art and the rest is history. We never painted with traditional media again. We turned off the basement compressor to our airbrush stations and bought 4 Mac workstations and copies of Painter 2.0 for our illustrators.

      Again, I cannot begin to write all the great things that grew out of Painter for us, like our memorialreflections-dot-com funeral portrait business, the large illustration commissions impossible to do traditionally within the publisher's time constraints, and the digital painting workshops I was privileged to put on over the years from Tennessee to Manilla. Painter blessed my employees, my family and me personally in so many ways, empowering our productivity on a scale that cannot be really estimated (I tell my students that the increase in productivity alone approaches a factor of 10 when it comes to creating illustration commissions).

      Without Painter, I would have endured years of exposure to heavy metal paints like cadmium and who knows what put down the drain pipes and land fills. (maybe I should add a thanks from Mother Nature) Thousands of hours would have been lost to the requisite steps required to paint in traditional media - squeezing out the paints, stretching the canvases, cleaning brushes, washing up, recycling paint thinner, and on and on. Thanks, Mark, for sparing me that life and allowing me to ramp up my focus on content and visual discovery.

      I realize my comments mirror many other artists, and that I may seem a bit melodramatic and gushing, but, honestly, I cannot overstate the impact your software has made on my life. So I just wanted to pause and say to you, and your software colleagues, thank you for the hard work, time and effort you put into creating this incredible product. - Lars Justinen

    5. Lars,

      It's great to get up in the morning and read a comment about someone whose life was changed by Painter!

      I feel fortunate to know any artist who went digital and embraced the new path to illustration. Because you believed that illustration could be done on computers and Wacom tablets, you were an integral part of what I was trying to accomplish.

      You could say I was involved in the disruption of a whole industry: traditional media. And we knew at the time that it would be a tough road. This is why I hired artists to show our products, and why I hired the visionary John Derry to create new versions of Painter. We coined the phrase "natural media" and copyrighted it in the digital realm specifically to address the issue of disruption.

      Your comment about the heavy metal paints is true: antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, manganese, and mercury are all used in oil paint. You know what? I never used gloves or goggles when I painted. So that wasn't a good thing, I suspect.

      Still, when I demonstrated Painter, I actually used the phrase "none of the mess of traditional media". Believe me, I knew what that mess was! John and I kept a lab "off campus" that we called the "wet lab". We kept all the traditional media there and stocked it from local art stores. There, we actually got ideas for several tools in Painter, such as the scratchboard tool, serigraphy, woodcut, better water colors, gouache, and even a real spatter airbrush. Not to mention our ad campaigns, like "so hot so cool".

      Yes, we had a compressor. Silk screen equipment, and that means gesso too. And we had lots of folding tables, covered with paper so we could draw out our ideas at any time. Which we did quite a bit. Linoleum blocks and cutting tools. Ink. The usual stuff in a studio. We kept no computers there. It was a totally traditional experience.

      Both John and I liked to draw quite a bit so there was never any lack of illustration there.

      This was all done to make sure our painting and illustration tools had all the qualities of traditional media. We knew that people would compare the two.

      On the computer side, we also knew that certain features would take the artists and free them from their current constraints under traditional media. Features like tracing paper, unlimited undo, and especially layers. But it was the continual malleability that made digital artwork so much faster and less involved. You could erase and leave no traces behind. Adjust an inked feature after the fact. You could use multiple media. In the digital world, it was all compatible.

      I am able myself to create illustrations that I could only begin to wish I could create before. So I get what you are saying, totally.

      Thank you for your kind words and for the record, I do remember your name. And really, it has been my pleasure to bring you Painter.


  7. Thanks for taking the time to reply, Mark. Those were special times and I count myself fortunate to have been there and experienced the excitement and adventure surrounding the early days participating in this fundamental change in illustrating. And I've discovered your blog - I'll check in from time to time. - Lars

  8. Mark: Any insights on Painter 13 (AKA X3)? Thank you very much and keep it on. Your blog is ridiculously brilliant and interesting. :)

    1. Well, I haven't yet upgraded.

      But it's interesting that they should use the name Painter X3 for it.

      We used X for our experimental releases. The Painter X2 product was the initial release of layers - an important new technology that we just wanted to get out there (and years before Photoshop was to be able to duplicate it). I showed Painter X3 to crowds that were impressed by the altiVec performance of the powerPC Macs. It was the code name for the Detailer product: the ability to use Painter's features to create texture maps and bump maps for 3D objects.

      My understanding is that Painter X3 (the new one) is a solid release.

  9. Mark please note the splash screens are no longer displaying. Looks like you need to host them some where that won't be taken down.

    I hope your health is okay. My health continued to decline and I ultimately determined that it is likely bile duct obstruction due to likely gall bladder and/or pancreas damage due to a severe acute peptic ulcer in 2012 that leaked acid into my abdominal cavity. I am now attempting high dose curcumim treatment, since I am unable financially to leave the Philippines to get medical care that I can trust. I do note that clinical studies have shown that high dose curcumin eradicates pancreatic cancers in some people (very small sample size though). I wonder if Steve Jobs was aware of this. I have seen some significant improvement from this treatment (over the past week) after 3 years of decline and daily suffering with the systemic effects which rob one of their energy and brain focus as well as neuropathy, skin dysfunction, endocrine dysfunction, etc. I have fought valiently though and am proud of that. Take care bro.

    1. I see what you mean! Hmm. I will have to look into that...

      My health is about the same as last time.

      I have answered a more recent comment of yours at greater length.

    2. Mark I did not see your reply until now nor can I remember which blog to locate that other comment.

      Note they diagnosed my illness in January 2017 as Tuberculosis and it was only minorly in my upper lobe of left lung, and I had no cough so it is highly suspected it was disseminated TB (aka gut TB) which had probably infected my lymph nodes, and all over my body potentially. I did not have the resources to confirm where it was disseminated. I also had liver disease from this illness which was causing massive neurological and neuropathic damage. I been on the highly liver toxic standard (CDC) antibiotic treatment for the past 5 months and I am starting to improve. The meds are toxic for my liver and there is no absolute assurance of eradication. But I seem to be climbing out of this 6+ year health decline finally.

      Btw, I am really in need of a co-developer on my $billion potential blockchain project. I need someone ideologically compatible and seriously smart as well. I am working on a rough draft which give you some indication of my knowledge in that technological arena:

      If you know anyone or are interested, please contact me (email has always been or I am available as username ecash on the secure chat which I check more often. Any interested parties send a buddy request to get my attention)

      P.S. I still have an X2 CD laying around somewhere.

    3. Hey Shelby. I'm so relieved to hear you are coming out of the danger zone, healthwise. I have an X2 CD somewhere also, but I can't read CDs any more - I have transitioned away from that format, and also hard disks (except as a rescue backup). It's all SSDs any more.

      Just so you know, I believe blockchain, suitably modified is a very good candidate for securing data. More on that in later comment replies.

    4. Mark sincerely thank you. It has been massive struggle. I am still struggling with rollercoaster liver inflammation (sometimes feel great then crash), but hopefully this will abate in 18 more days when I finish the highly liver antibiotics.

    5. I sincerely hope you recover totally. I know it hasn't been easy in any way.

      There. I just wished-well someone who calls me a dinosaur. ;-)

      That being said, it's clear that new antibiotics are on the way. Personally I use soap and water to wash my hands. I really don't want MRSA and its similar bacterial brothers to become our demise. Based on what I've heard, it seems wise to stay out of hospitals because their overuse of antibacterials has left only antibiotic-resistant bacteria in its wake.

  10. I am a fan since Version 1.0 that came out in a cool Painter Can with floppies... I have become pretty much ensconced in using Painter 5.5 because of the great web slicer and all the features I am still exploring. I got the program working with Windows 10 so I am a happy camper. One question; any idea where I might get the Painter 5/5.5 user manual, I am looking for a tutorial specifically on the Movie option which I never quite got the hang of? Thanks and it is awesome to read about the creators of this amazing program!!

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