A long time ago, the divide between good and great photo editing products was easy to distinguish. Adobe has had a monopoly on excellence for several years, and the release of Corel Painter Essentials 7 won’t change that.
Beginner-friendly photo editing products can be found everywhere, with rivals like GIMP remaining the most popular free program. Corel released Essentials as a beginner-friendly version of their full photo editing suite. Unfortunately, the lite version strips out more features than the value can stand.
There are few things in life that invoke grown adults to throw a fit. One of those things is the install of Corel Painter Essentials 7. Although it is impossible to predict how the software will install on every setup, the failure of this program is consistent enough to warrant a mention.
This specific install issue seems to be isolated to Windows desktops, so Mac users will have no trouble. The program itself is small, and on a quad-core CPU should be installed in minutes. It’s just under 2GB and will fit comfortably on any flash drive with virtual operating systems.
The key here is getting it to install on Windows – period. Sometimes it will stall, and other times the program will refuse to start. The end result is multiple installers running at once in the task manager, but nothing showing up on the screen.
To keep things fair, some of these problems may boil down to user error. Getting the installer to run (and finish) required disabling antivirus/firewall software, disabling UAC, and a quick restart.
Windows recently pushed out an update, and as usual, should share some of the blame until further notice. The problem occurred on a desktop and laptop from completely different manufacturers.
Both computers were updated with the latest version of Windows and used the same antivirus package (Webroot). Installing the software on a virtual Windows installation caused no problems, as well as installing it on a thumb drive with a virtual OS.
Corel has never had a problem making a competent interface for their products. If you deal with multiple projects at one time, it never feels like the interface gets in the way. Everything is clean and easy to navigate, even when working on a screen that meets the minimum resolution specifications.
In fact, the interface is the best thing about Corel Painter Essentials 7. Part of that has to do with the smaller number of tools to deal with in what is considered the ‘lite’ version. Searching for the right tool or option takes a few seconds, and is a breath of fresh air for students that are learning to photo edit.
Every tool or option on the interface is carefully placed so that everything makes sense. When you decide to upgrade to a more powerful suite later on, the interface of Corel Painter Essentials 7 will be sorely missed.
Tools are the bread and butter of any photo editing program. Corel Painter Essentials 7 introduces new brushing technologies like Dab Stencils, Glazing, and Dynamic Speckles.
Glazing in particular is useful once you learn how to apply it correctly. The more important improvements to old brush tools are a welcome addition, including the expansion of tools like digital watercolor.
Instead of having basic tools to control the look and behavior of digital watercolor, users now have full customizability. Dry Paint, Set Diffusion, and Adjust Wet Fringe will be some of the new ways to manipulate projects in this area. Thankfully, Corel Essential Painter 7 didn’t cut this feature out when pairing down the available tools for this version of the program.
There is an adequate amount of brushes and tools overall, but nothing spectacular. This would have been a forgivable omission if Corel added a brush creator ability. Lacking this feature puts a slight limitation on projects that need an extra touch up.
If you have a reliable tool and it isn’t available with this suite, then navigating around similar tools is a hassle. Depending on the project, your final customizations may be far off the original intention when you keep subbing in replacement tools.
Ease of Use
Photo editing will never be easy work, but Corel Painter Essentials 7 does a good job of taking the stress out of the creation process. Part of this has to do with the interface and tool placement, while the other part comes down to how Corel handled the speed of the program.
Opening large files doesn’t take ages if you have the right hardware. The program itself is small, yet it has the capability to handle large files with no problem. The smoothness during previewing a manipulated image is nice, and kind of astonishing since it doesn’t take full advantage of modern GPUs.
Older tutorials still apply to this new version, so users of Corel Painter Essentials 6 should be fine moving to the new version. Moving from a completely different painting program to Corel’s suite is a painless process, and you’re less likely to forget some of the advanced tools and techniques.
This is going to be a hit or miss depending on your current setup. Mac users are fine and can laugh comfortably to the bank with the value they’re getting from this program. But for Windows users, Corel Painters Essential 7 is a hit-or-miss item. A bulk of this problem is outside of Corel’s fault zone, yet it is still something that other programs avoid.
The trial version should give you a general idea of what to expect from the program before committing to a full purchase. It is highly recommended to try this out on both a desktop and a laptop. The low system requirements are not artificial, and it will run well even on older Pentiums.
Users that want the most stability should ignore the minimum RAM requirements and go for the max. This is pretty standard for any photo editing software, but seems to be especially important with Corel Painter Essentials 7. If you thought Adobe Photoshop was a monster with RAM, then prepare to reach new levels with Corel.
The longer it’s used, the more apparent it becomes that Corel Painter Essentials 7 has a RAM management issue. Unfortunately, even if you have plenty of RAM, it will still run into problems during long periods of use. This anomaly also extends to laptop users that use the sleep and hibernate modes.
Corel opted to stay away from making the product subscription-based. This is a big win for the company as bigger names like Microsoft and Adobe push their subscription-based model.
The goodwill that Corel built up with this move became obliterated with their inclusion of advertisements within the program. Corel Painter Essentials 7 isn’t a free product, yet it contains nagware that rivals smartphone applications.
It should be noted that the advertisements are for brush packs that cannot be imported into a different suite. If you spend money to upgrade Corel Painter Essentials 7, then none of those upgrades will transfer if you ever decide to get Corel Painter 2020. This is not completely clear for new users and adds on to the story of the nagging advertisements.
How Does Corel Painter Essentials 7 Compare?
Corel Painter Essentials 7 already trails behind many free options on the market. Comparing it to the more formidable PaintShop Pro 2020 seems like an unfair match. The ‘big brother’ suite of Painter 2020 should be considered a better comparison, and yet still highlights a lot of the missing features of Painter Essentials 7.
|Corel Painter Essentials 7||Corel Painter 2020|
|Tool Support||9 tools||13 tools|
|Recommended User Level||Beginner/Intermediate||Intermediate/Expert|
|GPU Performance Support||iGPU||iGPU/NVIDIA/AMD|
A Bit of a Stumble
Corel Painter Essentials 6 was a good product for its time. Version 7 is just more of the same and was heavily advertised while users worked in older versions of the program.
Corel Essentials 7 is still a useful digital art tool to use for teaching or low-cost editing. As long as beginners are aware of its limitations, it maintains a decent price-to-value ratio. But in the long run, going with a free option while saving for a more serious suite might be the better play.