Digital Artist

Corel Painter versus Photoshop

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April Madden

It’s Corel Painter versus Photoshop! Find out which one is best for you and your art style

Corel Painter versus Photoshop

Many people ask me which is ‘better’, Corel Painter or Photoshop. The truth is that they’re both incredibly useful and work together remarkably well (especially with the Photoshop integration in Painter 12). Nonetheless each one of them does have some advantages over the other.

  • Photoshop has more brushes: It’s easy to make Photoshop brushes so there are thousands of homebrew brush sets out there to download, from traditional styles to contemporary ones
  • Painter has better real media brushes: Painter has more real-media emulation, meaning that its range of brushes are better at pretending to be traditional tools
  • Photoshop has more layer styles: You can add drop shadows, gradient overlays, adjustment layers and many other effects (which aren’t always compatible with Painter)
  • Painter has unique layer styles: Painter has the Gel layer style as well as unique Watercolor and Liquid Ink layer types to give a realistic look and feel
  • Photoshop is brilliant at image editing: It’s easy and intuitive to cut, copy and paste, create repeating motifs, group and modify layers and adjust colour
  • Painter is brilliant at image creation: Many artists prefer to do their initial sketching, colour blocking and final painting in Painter, making Photoshop edits along the way
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  • Photoshop has its own file type: PSD keeps layers and effects intact across different programs and is an industry standard
  • Painter has its own file type: Painter’s RIFF file type keeps unique Painter effects intact but is incompatible with other programs
  • Photoshop has lots of added extras: You can create 3D and even animation in Photoshop and buy plug-ins for specific functions
  • Painter has painting-specific extras: You can import textures and patterns to create unique brush effects specifically tailored to your painting or illustration

So which one is your favourite? Do you use Painter and Photoshop together – how and why? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook or Twitter. Personally, I like to start off sketching either in pen, pencil or with the Inkling, import my work into Photoshop to adjust the composition with Selection and Transform tools, then bounce into Painter to refine the sketch into line art and start applying values and colour. As I create details I’ll bounce back into Photoshop for some copy-pasting and Liquifying magic (particularly handy when you have a lot of repeating subjects like plants) and then back into Painter to work them up, and I’ll keep doing this until I’m basically happy with the image, when I’ll finally pop back into Photoshop to apply a texture overlay and some adjustment layers for the final tweaks. How about you?


  • Tony Lilley said:

    I currently only use Photoshop but would like to try out Painter when I get time. My digital paintings usually start off with a real drawing using pencil on paper which I then scan in or photograph if it’s bigger than my scanner. I then paint in Photoshop. I still also paint using real media acrylics, it’s still good to have that paint texture and a one off artwork on canvas.

  • Kat said:

    I’m currently experimenting with a whole bunch of different digital painting software, including Painter and PS. I’m struggling to find one product that does everything I want – convincing real-media brushes PLUS those lovely familiar photoshop round hard brushes with easilly variable opacity. I didn’t think that was an unreasonable thing to want, but apparently, it is. Or maybe there’s some glaringly obvious workaround I’m missing.

    Being a photoshop native, I’m really missing the opacity slider. What painter calls ‘opacity’ seems similar to what PS calls ‘flow’. Whatever it’s called, I miss being able to build up colour in semi-transparent strokes. I don’t know if it’s worth me learning a totally new way of painting after all these years just to be able to add some painterly brush marks. A bit of googling tells me other people are having this problem too. I’m sure this won’t be a problem for a lot of people but I’ve been conditioned to think like a photoshop user and it’s hard to adapt. Aside from that one issue, it seems like a very slick and user-friendly program.

    I really enjoyed using an old version of Open Canvas, and a trial of Paint Tool SAI so I’ll be looking into those next after I’ve given Painter a fair chance to win me over.

  • April Madden said:

    Have you tried the Tinting>Basic Round brush in Painter? I find it’s the nearest thing to the classic Photoshop Hard Round Brush, and changes in Opacity are fairly obvious with it, unlike some Painter brushes.

  • BULL said:

    Phoroshop is as explained, a industrial standard reference, but not the only tool to solve your images. If we don’t experiment with other software, we will be adobe molded and that kiils the possibilities to other enterprises to emerge. There is a lot of commercial and open source software that is becoming better on its own way and that give us a broader scope to produce. I love Painter and Artrage, but I still need Photoshop to polish my work. My best wishes: In a few years, Painter will not need of another software to accomplish its work.

  • Kerry Maxwell said:

    I think the bottom line is, it worth buying Painter if you already have Photoshop? For someone serious about digital media, not having Photoshop is pretty much out of the question. So Painter can be viewed as a (fairly expensive) Photoshop add-on. There are many features touted in Painter that I have found ways to achieve in Photoshop alone. Photoshop could use some improvement in the feel and function of brushes for certain tasks (comics and animation brush style inking), but overall the brushes are incredibly robust and customizable. I’ve always been curious about Painter, but it’s ended up with finding new ways to do things in Photoshop instead of shelling out the dough for Painter.