This month, TheCGBros had the opportunity to take a test drive of Paintstorm Studio, purportedly created as the go-to software for professional digital painting.
It is a relatively new piece of software released in the first quarter of 2015. Currently version-ed at v1.32 – 31.05.2015, it’s a Windows-only based package at the moment, with a Mac version promised to be in the works, and lists support for Wacom tablets as well as import of PSD files.
When first opening the program, we found it slightly non-standard but easy to navigate once we poked around a bit. The “dynamic interface” was pleasant to use making it easy to completely customize the workspace’s windows by allowing us to set settings such as color, opacity and scale in each window independently. Very nice.
While it has been said that the Paintstorm Studio is “missing some common tools and filters”, we have to say outright that we had an absolute blast with this piece of software.
The real muscle of this program is a robust “brush engine” that opens up an astounding array of unique and sophisticated brush setup capabilities, complete with extensive editing and control features including “bristle brushes” – traditional brush presets of any form and kind that give the look and sense of the application of real paint.
We were able to create our own custom panels with our favorite tools and presets, and setup our own hotkeys for custom brushes. Paintstorm Studio offers much of the functionality of Photoshop that one might be used to such as transforms, layer management, and the ability to set up the same type of shortcuts.
Some other notable features include the “stroke stabilizer” that allowed us to easily create incredibly smooth and controlled hand drawn curves, and the “stroke post correction” feature that allowed us to adjust the stroke by editing the intuitive graph curve settings on the brush.
To our pleasant surprise, there were an amazing number of graph presets and the parameters to edit them all made logical sense. It was nice to see the results of attribute changes quickly. We were able to create large vegetation variation including grass, leaves, flowers, stalks and trees in mere minutes by simply changing the brush’s profile curves and color. The software comes with a very useful “color mixer” similar to a traditional painter’s pallet board!
Other features that we found powerful were the ability to easily combine and blend different masks for brushes, and the “gradient brush” was very useful as was the impressive capabilities of the “fill tool” that can ignore gaps in outlines intelligently when coloring line art.
One of our favorite brushes was the “hairy brush” that effortlessly allows for creating unique color blends, with each hair containing its own color information. The number of hairs is that the brush uses is of course select-able, and we began creating amazing organic effects, especially when we started tweaking the settings such as color stretch and pen pressure.
Speaking of pen pressure, the program was both responsive and smooth, making it very easy to take control of the outstanding “dirty mode” feature that allows for a bleeding off of the brush’s main or selected color over the stroke depending on tip pressure. This takes the usually complex task of color blending and makes it easy.
Of special mention is the ultra cool “parameter binding to perspective view” enabling the ability to paint based on depth from the perspective camera. This feature alone saved us hours of time adjusting brush scale settings, allowing for almost effortless creation of beautiful digital landscapes. Used in conjunction with the “scatter brush” we came up with some phenomenally cool stuff.
With Photoshop being the workhorse of digital image creation, it tends to be challenging and time-consuming to master for many people. While Paintstorm Studio is both highly editable and customizable, the first time user would not feel intimidated by it at all.
Although we experienced some minor stability issues with a couple crashes that have been previously reported in other blogs, the sheer power of the program, along with the scant price of $19 bucks, including free lifetime updates – Paintstorm Studio is both a valuable and inexpensive tool to experiment with – and a helluva lot of fun to use.
We find it hard to believe that it will be priced like this forever, especially when compared to a monthly Photoshop license fee. We recommend that everyone who wants or loves to paint either digitally or traditionally – or just wants to have a really great time with a cool piece of software, definitely give it a go as there is something for every creative in Paintstorm Studio.