You’ve probably seen more than a few programs out there that claim they can turn a photo into a painting with a single click. For the most part, these applications all work pretty much the same. Unfortunately, it’s far too easy to tell them apart from actual art created by the hand of an experienced artist.
Enter Corel Painter Essentials 4 for OS X. This program is made by one of the oldest and most respected visual program companies in the market today. Corel has built its reputation through creating quality programs time and time again, and Painter Essentials 4 is no exception.
Based on the significantly more expensive Corel Painter 12, Painter Essentials gives users the ability to turn photographs into works of art while allowing for the creation of something entirely original on a blank canvas. A multitude of different tools are available to the user, including several different methods of tracing, painting over, and recreating the content of a photo. To start, you can choose to create an original work of art using a blank canvas or select a photo to turn into artwork. Once you’ve loaded a photo, you can easily rotate it, resize, add texture, and some other effects that you may expect to see in a quality photo editing application. Keep in mind though, this isn’t a full-featured photo editor. It’s a painting application with support for photos.
By clicking your paintbrush on the photo, you create a .RIF file that acts as a new canvas for your art project. From here, you can use your cursor as a paintbrush and activate a tracing paper feature that allows you to trade or paint your image on the newly-created canvas. The downside here is that your image looks much better with tracing paper on than it really looks once you export it. This takes some getting used to, especially if you’re unfamiliar with Painter Essentials or Corel software in general.
After a while of digging around the various brushes and settings, I was able to recreate a pretty artistic looking representation of the original photo with my own strokes and style taken into account. Perhaps one of the coolest aspects of this program is that you can recreate only parts of the photo you’d like to have represented in paint on the canvas, giving you the ability to put someone’s portrait inside a completely unique painting without disturbing the overall look of the piece. In a sense, the photo itself acts as a tool rather than the backbone of the entire image.
One thing I did notice was how much of the Core i5 processor was used as the brush size increased. The higher I set the brush size, the more likely my strokes would trail off the page long after I had released the mouse button. Whether this is a symptom of bad optimization or an underpowered system is anyone’s guess, but I’d expect a Core i5 MacBook Pro to handle anything a trimmed-down still image editing program could throw at it.
That isn’t to say that Painter Essentials 4 doesn’t come with an automatic process for users that don’t have time to create a painted image stroke-by-stroke. In fact, the Auto-Painting feature is one of the best I’ve seen yet, giving you the ability to see stroke styles, randomize them if you prefer, color preferences, texture, and even the brush you’d like the artwork to represent. The auto-painter will go through and recreate your image bit by bit rather than all at once instantly, giving you the power to stop it at any point and take over to put your own touches on the image. Corel isn’t known for making software that caters to beginners, and Painter Essentials 4 is no exception.
Expect to do some learning by trial and error, but like Photoshop, the results of your experience will show in your work. Corel Painter Essentials 4 for OS X is a powerful tool for turning images into art, and in terms of style, it’s leaps and bounds beyond any other one-click automated solution available on the market today.