Ever looked at a painting and not too sure whether it’s been done using traditional paint and brush or been put together pixel by pixel on a screen?

Then it’s most likely to have passed through something as powerful and feature rich as Corel’s Painter series. This latest version doesn’t make any apologies for aiming straight for the pockets of the experienced user.

That said, there is a cursory nod to the first-time curious with an improved manual and a host of video tutorials that help you get to grips with what is a feature packed suite of tools. In fact, we’d suggest anyone who has used previous versions to have a quick run through the tutorials as a fresher as to what can be done.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to opt for Painter is the sheer breadth of brushes you can choose from. Brushes are controlled by the RealBristle tool, which strives to recreate how a real brushstroke would act, so the more pressure you lay on it, the fatter more splayed it will appear, while light strokes can be thinned to a single strand. Naturally, this all works better if you’re using a pen and tablet instead of a mouse, as you can better manage the brush strokes.

When it comes to getting colour into your compositions, the Universal Mixer offers as wide a range of colours as you could want. This may seem obvious but Corel has improved the way you mix, so it’s now easier to change tone and colour on the fly, as you would with real paint.

One of the main functions of this version has be bring greater scope to manipulating digital photos. While you can edit photos, the main thrust is to transform images so they have the appearance of more traditional art, so you can choose from a host of filters to make photos either take on the appearance of sketches to more fully-rounded paintings. Smart Stroke, which allows you to manually turn areas into painted tones has been drastically overhauled and is now far more attuned to the images it is manipulating.

This may all add diversity to the tools on offer, yet you’ll still need to be able to compose an image to get the most from Painter X. Things have gotten easier though as there are now tools to help you set a composition in place. This Divine Composition tool will help you work to traditional rules, such as Rule of Thirds tool, or even simply getting the horizon line in the right place.

Price when reviewed:

If we face facts, you are not simply going to go out and buy Painter X on a whim, it’s a tool for the experienced user and to this end it has to be one of the most accomplished packages we’ve seen to date.