Corel ships Painter 2020
Corel has released Painter 2020, the latest update to its natural media digital painting software, adding a new Brush Accelerator tool, plus support for GPU acceleration on the most commonly used brushes.
The update also introduces two new Fast brush categories, comprising 26 individual brushes, and updates colour picking, brush selection and layer workflow.
New Brush Accelerator utility, plus ‘up to 67x’ speed boost for key brushes via GPU acceleration
According to Corel, a key focus of Painter 2020 is performance, particularly when working with very large canvas sizes, or very large brushes.
The most visible result of the work is the Brush Accelerator: a new diagnostic tool that runs an automated benchmarking test on a user’s system, and optimises settings accordingly.
The test takes account of the number of available CPU cores, whether the CPU supports AVX2, the specifications of the user’s GPU, and system RAM.
The software’s interface also now shows which of the four each brush can take advantage of, with the option to toggle support individually.
Under the hood, support for CPU multi-threading has been improved, and – more significantly – “about 50% of the top-used brushes” now support GPU acceleration.
The latter leads to some significant performance increases: speaking to CG Channel before the launch, Corel said that it was seeing improvements of up to 67x in its internal tests.
“We had to go back to engineeering [to check the results]” said senior product manager Chris Pierce. “Typically we’re excited if we see 3x faster.”
The implementation is based on OpenCL, so it should work with any manufacturer’s GPUs. Apple recently deprecated OpenCL in macOS, but the API is still supported in current builds.
New Fast and Simple and Fast and Ornate brush categories
Other new features include two new categories of brushes designed to take advantage of the performance optimisations: Fast and Simple and Fast and Ornate.
Collectively, the two categories comprise 26 brushes.
There are also five new Expressive brushes in the existing Watercolor and Digital Watercolor categories.
Improvements to color picking workflow
Workflow changes include updates to Painter’s colour picker, which Corel described as previously having been “stuck in the days of MetaCreations“.
As well as synchronising the picker across every part of Painter’s interface, the new version displays colour ramps on the RGB and HSV sliders themselves.
There is also a new compact mode for the picker, plus an options menu when using the on-canvas Temporal Color Wheel, including a new mode for left-handed users working on pen displays.
The update also adds a Harmonies palette to the UI, which automatically generates standard five-swatch harmonies for the colour selected, including the option to lock harmonies individually.
Other workflow improvements: UI changes and more standard handling of layers
The release also updates Painter’s UI, grouping tools more logically in the properties bar at the top of the screen, and adding more palettes and flyouts for key settings.
In addition, the Brush Selector has been revamped, and now displays dab and stroke previews without having to hover over a brush entry.
There are also a number of more general changes to brush and tool controls, and updates to layer workflow, described by Corel as primarily bugfixes.
“We’ve fixed our layers so they work like everybody else’s,” commented Pierce.
Pricing and availability
Painter 2020 is available for 64-bit Windows 7+ and macOS 10.13+. New licences cost $429.
GPU acceleration works with any GPU that supports OpenCL 1.2, although when we asked, Corel informally recommended a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 or better for professional work, or its AMD equivalent.