Corel Painter is a quarter-century old, which makes it nearly as venerable as Adobe’s Photoshop. The software–originally known as Fractal Painter–originated the idea of creating art on a computer with tools that look like real-world art supplies: oil paint, watercolors, pens, and much more. It’s been refining that concept and expanding on it ever since.
And now Corel is taking some of Painter’s technology and putting it right inside Photoshop (Lightroom) in the form of a new product called ParticleShop. It’s a plugin that gives you a class of sophisticated tools Corel calls particle brushes. They simulate an array of elements from the real world, including fabric, fur, hair, flame, smoke, and light. As in Painter, they respond to pressure-sensitive input via a pen tablet, and you can adjust various settings to tweak the effects you get.
Unlike Painter, which is mostly about painting digital images from scratch, the assumption with ParticleShop is that you’re touching up a photograph. You can take a furry animal and make it furrier. Or add fireworks, lightning, or flames to a once-placed skyline. Or create effects that, though not realistic in the least, are still full of subtle detail. It’s great fun, and goes far beyond anything offered by Photoshop’s own brushes, which have never matched the ambition of those in Painter.
The “Shop” in ParticleShop may be a nod to Photoshop, but it also alludes to Corel’s business model. The company is selling a $50 ParticleShop starter pack with 11 brushes for $50. Within the plugin, you can also buy 11 additional brush packs, with names like “Dust and Debris,” “Fabric Fantasy,” and “Spaced Out,” each of which offers an additional 15 brushes for $30.