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Scratching the Surface: An Introduction to Textures in Corel® Painter™
By Jinny Brown

This tutorial is written for Corel Painter IX.5, though much of what it contains can be applied to earlier Painter versions. I hope it inspires you to explore Painter's wonderful possibilities!

While thinking about texture, I did a little research and found the words Textile, Text, and Texture have a common root in the Latin word textus, or "woven thing".

I think of texture as what we feel running our fingers over a surface. In the context of digital art, we use the word texture to describe imagery the surfaces of which appear to be three dimensional. Some digital artists refer to flat imagery used to add interest to an otherwise solid colored, smooth surface as texture.

Below, I'll demonstrate three kinds of texture: "flat texture", "in-between" texture (not flat and not really "3D"), and "3D" texture. We often see "3D" texture in Painter's thick Impasto and Liquid Ink brush strokes, and in Paper textures, with lighting and shadows to describe their higher and lower surfaces or their forms.

Then I'll show you how to:

  • Create a Pattern and use it to Capture a Paper,
  • Use your custom Paper to Apply Surface Texture to your Canvas,
  • Change the lighting direction when applying surface texture,
  • Add color to the texture, and
  • Paint on a Layer above your white, textured Canvas with brush variants that interact with Paper texture.

Painter's Brushes:

In Corel Painter IX.5, we can paint to simulate both "flat texture" and thick, "3D" texture using default brush variants and Papers, or our own custom brush variants and Papers designed for specific effects.

Painter's Captured Dab brush variants' brush dab shape and opacity can be based on any image or photo. These brush variants can paint with roughness or texture both within the brush stroke and along its edges. They can be adjusted to paint with varying overall opacity based on pressure, made to run out of paint as the brush stroke progresses, and can be controlled in any number of other ways to help provide the illusion of texture.

Figure 1. "Flat texture" created by painting with a Captured Dab brush variant.

The brush variant demonstrated above doesn't interact with Paper texture or paint thick brush strokes, thus the "flat texture" description.

Figure 2. Another example of "flat texture".

To create the second example of "flat texture" I painted on a new Layer using multiple colors. Next, I applied Effects > Focus > Glass Distortion to the painted Layer. Last, I placed the resulting imagery on a Layer above another color-filled Canvas to achieve the image you see above.

The brush variant demonstrated below does interact with Paper texture as the paint is absorbed into the Paper, but it doesn't paint thick Impasto brush strokes. The texture you see is the result of painting more or less in the same area with the Brush Controls' Sizing palette Continuous Time Deposition box checked. This means paint is continuously applied in the same spot until the cursor is moved.

I refer to this example as "in between", not "flat texture" and not really "3D" texture because we don't see highlights and shadows.

Figure 3. Custom Brush Category: WC Toothbrush by David Gell
Variant: WCTbrush_W in W Edge1
Default variant settings
Dab Type: Watercolor Airbrush
Stroke Type: Single

Figure 4. Artist's Oils custom brush variants.

Figure 5. Impasto variants and Artist's Oils.

Brush variants used in Figure 4 and Figure 5 paint thick and juicy "3D" brush strokes because they are Impasto enabled. This means brush strokes can have highlights and shadows just as traditional thick paint would. They can have varying degrees of thickness, or depth, and highlights and shadows can be controlled with light adjusted to come from any angle.

Painter's Paper Texture:

The following paragraphs will give you a general idea as to how Painter's Paper texture can be created and applied to an image. There's a lot to know, but nothing about it is difficult; it just takes time to learn how to get results you'll like.

Some Painter brush variants automatically interact with the currently chosen Paper texture, painting on the higher surfaces only, or if the Paper is inverted, painting on the lower surfaces only. Think of this as rubbing chalk on a sidewalk. Unless you press very hard to push the chalk down into the sidewalk's grooves, the chalk will only be applied to the higher parts of the sidewalk surface texture. Of course we can't "invert" a real sidewalk, but we can if it's in Painter. Fun, eh?

To know if a brush variant interacts with Paper texture, open the Brush Controls' General palette. If the Subcategory name contains the word Grainy, the brush variant interacts with Paper texture. The degree to which Paper texture appears in the brush stroke is controlled with the Grain slider, also found in the Brush Controls' General palette and on the Property Bar if the brush variant is a "Grainy" variant. In the context of Painter, we can think of "Grain" as another word for texture. Some definitions of the word "grain" are:

  • A granulated surface or appearance.
  • The direction of threads in cloth.
  • Tactile quality (something we can feel while running our fingers over a surface).

In the Papers palette, there are three sliders to control the Paper Scale, Paper Contrast, and Paper Brightness. There are also two buttons: Directional Grain and Invert Paper. Here are some examples using the Paper Scale and Invert Paper controls, Grain adjustment, Color Variability, and three interesting Papers:

Figure 6. Left, Paper Inverted. Right, Paper Not Inverted.
Chalk's Tapered Large Chalk, Grain 14%
Color Variability - H:14% S:10% V:13%
Paper Library: Crack Textures
Paper: Grainy Iguana Skin, Scale slider moved to 60%

Figure 7. Left, Paper Not Inverted.
Right, Black - Paper Not Inverted, Red - Paper Inverted
Oil Pastels' Chunky Oil Pastel 30, Grain 17%
Color Variability: None
Paper Library: Weird Textures
Paper: Bit by Bit, Scale slider at default 100%

Figure 8. Left, Paper Not Inverted. Right, Paper Inverted
Digital Watercolor's Fine Tip Water, Opacity 100%, Grain 100%
Color Variability: None
Paper Library: Subtle Textures
Paper: Smoke Ovals, Contrast slider moved to 125%

(Crack Textures, Subtle Textures, and Weird Textures Papers libraries are found on the Painter IX or Painter IX.5 CD in the following folder: CPainterIX > Extras > Paper Textures.)

A scanned image or scanned material, a painting, photo, or just about anything you can think of can be used to create a Paper. Even a Pattern can be captured to use as a Paper.

A few years ago, I created a custom Sandpaper Paper using the Pens' 1-Pixel Pen variant and the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift_Z (Windows), Command+Shift_Z (Mac) to automatically apply randomly spaced brush dabs all over a blank white Canvas.

A few ways this custom Sandpaper Paper can be used:

Figure 9. Left, The Paper.
Center, Apply Surface Texture: Using: Paper.
Right, Watercolor's Bleach Runny variant with
Color Variability from Color Set and my Sandpaper Paper selected.

Figure 10. The Sandpaper Effect
Apply Surface Texture, Using: Paper, Inverted box checked.


Create a Pattern, then Use it to Capture a Paper.

  1. Open a new Canvas, 300 x 300 pixels, 300 ppi.

  2. In the Color Info palette, set the color to 50% grey by adjusting the sliders to:

    R:128 G:128 B:128

    NOTE: In Step 3 and Step 4, when we select the entire Canvas and choose the Patterns palette menu command Define Pattern, Painter IX.5 is told to make a seamless Pattern tile. When part of a brush stroke goes off any side of the Canvas the rest of the brush stroke appears on the opposite side of the Canvas.

  3. Use Select > All (Ctrl+A, Windows or Command+A, Mac) to select the entire Canvas.

  4. In the Patterns palette menu, choose Define Pattern.

  5. Choose the Pens' Nervous Pen variant.

  6. In the Brush Selector menu, choose Record Stroke.

  7. Paint a short vertical brush stroke on the Canvas.

    Figure 11. The recorded brush stroke.

  8. Use Edit > Undo (Ctrl+Z, Windows or Command+Z, Mac) to Undo the brush stroke.

  9. In the Brush Selector menu, choose Auto Playback and immediately click in the Canvas to stop the action.

  10. If you don't like the result, use Edit > Undo (Ctrl+Z, Windows or Command+Z, Mac), then choose the Auto Playback command again and be ready to click in the image quickly to stop the action.

    Figure 12. The Pattern to be Captured as a Custom Paper.

  11. If the selection has vanished, use Select > All (Ctrl+A, Windows or Command+A, Mac) to select the entire Canvas again.

  12. In the Papers palette menu, choose Capture Paper and give your new custom Paper a unique name not already used by Painter, then click the OK button to save it in the currently loaded Papers library.

Use Your Custom Paper to Apply Surface Texture to the Canvas.

  1. Open a new Canvas, 650 x 650 pixels, 300 ppi (this is a good practice size).

  2. Use Effects > Surface Control > Apply Surface Texture.

  3. In the Using: drop down list, choose Paper, move the Amount slider to 40%, and click the OK button.

    Figure 13.

  4. To experiment some more, open another new Canvas.

  5. Again use Effects > Surface Control > Apply Surface Texture, setting the controls however you like, to see what happens.

Change the Lighting Direction.

  1. In the lower left corner of the Apply Surface Texture dialog box is the Lighting Sphere with a small circle positioned in the upper left area. That small circle is named the Lighting Indicator. Click and drag the Lighting Indicator to a new position.

  2. Look at the Preview Window to see the effect.

  3. Since it's not easy to move the Lighting Indicator back to the exact default position, if you don't like the effect, click the Cancel button to close the Apply Surface Texture dialog box, then try again.

Here, I moved the Lighting Indicator slightly up to the left:

Figure 14.

Choose a Pattern and Adjust the Reflection Slider to Add Color to the Texture.

There are other ways to change the textured Paper's color, for instance by clicking the Light Color square at the bottom of the Apply Surface Texture dialog box and choosing a new color. Here, I chose the default Painter IX.5 Pattern library's Lake Ducks Pattern and moved the Reflection slider to 24%:

Figure 15.

Instead of More Paper Texture Adjustments, Just Begin Painting Above your White, Textured Canvas with a Brush Variant that Interacts with Paper Texture.

In this example, I applied surface texture with the Amount slider set to 30%, then painted on a Layer above the textured Canvas with three brush variants, all of which interact with Paper texture but each has a very unique look:

Figure 16. From Left to Right, these Brush Strokes were Painted with:
Artist's Oils' Grainy Dry Brush
Charcoal's Charcoal
One of my Impasto Enabled Custom Brush Variants

Remember, we've only scratched the surface, as this tutorial's title indicates. You're limited only by your imagination and the time it takes to learn how to get around in Painter IX.5. You'll soon be doing sophisticated and interesting things with textures if you spend the time experimenting, understanding brushes, Papers, and the rest of Painter IX.5.

Have Fun, and Happy Texturing!

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