Corel Painter 2017: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Painter brings a complete digital art studio to your Mac

Corel Painter 2017 with Texture Painting tools
Corel Painter 2017 with the new Texture Painting tools in use. Courtesy of Corel

 Corel Painter 2017 is the latest version of Corel's well-regarded painting app. But to call it a painting app does it a great disservice; it brings to mind a primitive bitmap painting app, like the original MacPaint. Corel Painter is unlike any other painting app for the Mac.

Perhaps a better description is to call Painter 2017 one of the very best digital art applications; it provides convincing counterpoints to the analog tools commonly used by those working with oils, pastels, watercolors, charcoals, and colored pencils. But it doesn’t stop there. Painter is an impressive digital art studio, ready for those already working in digital media, including illustrators, manga, comics, graphic novels, fine art, and concept art, just to name a few.


  • Simulates real-world painting tools.
  • New texture painting tools.
  • New interactive gradient tools.
  • New glazing brushes.
  • New Dab Stencils.
  • New Palette Drawers to maintain a clean interface.
  • Enhanced brushes.


  • Cross-platform GUI doesn't result in the best interface, but it's also far from the worst.

When Corel announced the release of Painter 2017, I just had to take a look. Painter has long been a favorite of digital artists for how well it simulates real-world tools commonly used in the arts.

Of course, having a reputation like that puts a great deal of pressure on the developer; can they bring new tools and features to Painter version after version? For Painter 2017, the answer is yes. Painter 2017 offers so many new features that I think Corel will be seeing its user base updating to the latest version.

Before we take a look at new features and capabilities, let's start with the basics.

Painter 2017 Installation

Painter 2017 is available as both a download and a boxed set requiring the use of a DVD for installation. I chose the download version, both because it's quicker and because most newer Macs lack an optical drive to use for installing the boxed version.

The download version is supplied in a .pkg format, requiring you to double-click the .pkg file to launch the included installer, which will perform the installation for you, making sure all the needed files are properly installed.

Should you decide to uninstall Painter, you can use the Finder to drag the Corel Painter 2017 folder from the /Applications folder to the trash.


Painter launches with a slightly revised welcome screen that includes four tabs: Learn, Get Content, Get Started, and Get Inspired. I usually bypass most app welcome screens, but if you’re new to Painter, the Get Inspired tab will show you a few images created by various artists using Painter, and the Learn tab contains tutorials for many of the features of Painter.

Getting Started

The Get Started tab lets you jump right into Painter; you can either open an existing project or start with a new canvas. In a nice touch from Corel, you can also choose from various tool layouts designed for specific users, such as comic, manga, illustration, photo, concept, classic, default, and a layout specifically designed for those new to Painter.

Of course, you can also create your own layout once you open a project.

User Interface

Painter opens with a fairly classic user interface for painting and image editing apps. The most often used drawing tools are in a narrow palette on the left, there are a menubar and toolbar across the top, and additional palettes, such as a color and layer palette, on the right.

In the center is your canvas. When you create a new project, you specify both the size and the resolution, as well as the canvas paper type and color.

Of Palettes, Panels, and Drawers

One of the new features of the user interface is palette drawers, an essential feature to keep your workflow from getting messy. That's a problem I always have. I prefer to have the palettes I like to use open for easy access, but I'm likely to end up with too many palettes open, overlapping or covering up the canvas and getting in the way.

Palette drawers allow you to combine one or more tool panels or palettes together; that is, a group of tools that are related to how you work. For example, you might combine texture brushes and texture samples into one palette.

Palettes can be collapsed into a palette drawer, essentially leaving just the small palette header with the palette's name visible. Double-clicking the palette drawer header expands the palette back to its original size, with all of its tools at your fingertips.

New Features of Painter 2017

Perhaps the most exciting of the new tools is Texture Painting. This new brush technology uses source blending to integrate complex textures into your projects. With texture painting, you can apply a texture to your brushes as you paint. Texture brushes can give an image a whole new look, from weatherworn to otherworldly; the choice is yours.

Texture brushes work with either an existing texture or one you create from scratch. You can combine just about any of the brush options with a texture brush to give you complete control. You can even add Dab Stencils, grain and smudging characteristics, to the brush.

An Interactive Gradient Tool may seem like a simple idea, but the ability to adjust a gradient after it has been applied to a canvas is a real timesaver. Painter 2017 comes with a large library of gradient templates, plus you can easily create your own custom gradients and add them to the library.

Dab Stencils is a way to create unique brush strokes based on the type of canvas, flow map, or texture present. I found that the Dab Stencils, in conjunction with a texture, created just the brush stroke I would expect if I was painting across the same texture in real life. Dab Stencils and Texture Brushes work so well together that I'm sure the combination will become a favorite of many Painter artists.

Glazing Brushes are also new to Painter 2017, and the feature is based on user feedback. Glazing brushes let you build up color using multiple brush strokes, with each application using stroke-level opacity. This lets each stroke apply the paint independent of previous strokes. The results are a smooth blend between colors.

Final Thoughts

Painter 2017 is an impressive update, with more than enough features to entice those already using previous versions of Painter to update, as well as to bring new users into the Painter flock. The new tools are a hit, especially the texture painting and dab stencils.

Painter 2017 is a must-have, or at the very least a must-try-out, for anyone working in digital art media.

Corel Painter 2017 is available as a full edition or as an upgrade for owners of a previously licensed full version with the original serial number. A demo is also available.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.