Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Software: Paintstorm - First impressions

I've been experimenting with fairly new digital painting program called Paintstorm. You can download a trial version (fully functioning for 15 days) here.

The full license version costs $19.

Here are my initial first impressions:-

Following my first attempts at painting with free painting program Krita, I decided to take a look at very similar program called Paintstorm, which first caught my eye on Instagram.

Here is their promo video showing what it can do:

As with any new piece of software, learning to use it fully will take a lot of time, but I figured it was worth a first impressions write up - because my first impression will make me decide whether to pay for the full price version or not.

Here is a screengrab of the layout:

The toolbars seem to follow the same pattern as can be found on Krita and other digital painting programs. It's all fairly intuitive and I basically spent an entire evening trying out each and every paint brush option. The first problem I encountered that I did not like was the lack of a mini pop up window that informed me of the name of each tool. Krita offers this, as does all the Adobe products, but strangely not with Paintstorm.

The colour wheel and colour palettes seem simple enough and straightforward to use - simply click, spin and choose the colour you want. The mixer is pretty cool. It simulates an artist's mixing palette and you can add colours to it and have fun swirling them around to create a new colour.

I like the huge array of tools available - from standard pens, pencils and brushes to more exotic 'particle' brushes that paint stars, fire, flames, leaves, flower petals and many other specialised shapes and patterns. You could argue they are a bit gimmicky but I couldn't help use them a lot! Added to the many tools are the extensive fine tuning panels where one can tweak the size, opacity, transparency, spacing, scatter, density and many many other aspects to the tool. It is a tinkerer's dream. Personally for me, I only really need brush size and opacity/transparency.

Here is a bear painting I did. The bear line art itself was painted in Manga Studio Pro, then exported as a PNG file. I opened up a 7000x5000 pixel canvas board in Paintstorm and painted the various layers beneath the PNG bear. The whole file size was over 350 MB. And it struggled big time.

As you can see, I used a variety of chunky brush and knife tools to scrape 'paint' across the background. I also played with a couple of their crazy tools from the special effects panel to make the blast of lightning rage emanating from the bear's mouth.

Paintstorm didn't seem to like my massive 350MB file. Each brush stroke would be delayed when applied on the Cintiq and sometimes the tool just mutated into an eraser brush for no reason. Fast brush strokes were basically not possible. A similarly large file on Krita also struggled but not as bad as Paintstorm. In Photoshop, I have worked on 1GB files and noticed only the smallest degree of slowdown. One very good thing with Paintstorm however is the fact that it saves files as PSD files, which means they can be opened in Photoshop with all layers intact. There doesn't seem to be a proprietary Paintstorm file. It can also save as JPEG, BMP and PNG.

I tried another painting, this time on a much smaller canvas board measuring 3000 pixels across.

It seemed to cope a bit better and I was able to hand sketch the tortoise using the pencil tool very fast. Again, I couldn't help but play with the gimmicky crazy tools, so firing the rockets used the 'comet' tool and the background stars were created using the aptly named starfield tool.

Here are the stars in super close up:

Early conclusions
For most users 15 days trial period is probably good enough to know if it is something they will buy. Me personally, I think the little hitches when being used on a large file size have dissuaded me from purchasing the full license. It's a shame because for $19, it is amazing good value and contains a massive amount of tools and customisable functionality. I'm also sure, judging from the video above, that I have barely even touched the surface of what this program can do.


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