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Tutorial Tuesday: Blending in Corel Painter

October 31, 2007

I confess, I’m a Painter addict. I switched over from Photoshop about three years ago, and (for the most part) haven’t looked back. I’d say about 99.9% of any of my digital artwork is created in Corel Painter IX. I use Photoshop mainly for color touchups, resizing images, and scanning traditional media. I’m not a Painter “Master” by any stretch of the imagination, and pretty much everything I know about the program I’ve picked up on my own. Sadly, there’s a severe shortage of Painter tutorials out there.

One of the questions I get asked most often is about blending. If you’re used to Photoshop, you’re more than likely very familiar with the Smudge/Smear brush. While it has its uses, too many beginners rely on it heavily instead of searching for better blending options, and more often than not it makes a painting look blurry, distorted, and amateurish.

This is one of several areas where I feel like Painter really shines over PS. But the sheer number of blending options (or perhaps the fact that they’re not as obvious as the smear brush in PS), seems to confuse people who’ve recently made the switch.

What I’ve done here is a roundup of some of my favorite blending brushes. Feel free to bust out your copy of Painter and play along.

The first set of brushes here can all be found in your Brush Selector bar under “Blenders.” There are quite a few options there, but these are my top picks.

Smudge, Smear, etc.
The Smudge brush is probably my favorite. It blends pretty well, picks up every color around it, but gives you some grain as well. This makes it especially good for blending skin tones, where a little bit of speckled grain gives the skin texture.

The Smear brush, in Painter, is pretty similar to the one in photoshop. Basically, you’re fingerpainting. Nice smooth color transitions, but kinda blah. Not too bad if you don’t mind a little blur in your blend.

Somewhat better than the Smear brush, you’ve got the “Just Add Water” brush. Not sure why they call it that, but it does give a nice solid gradation between colors, and a little more personality than the smear brush.

I demo’d a few others, just to show some of the differences. Play with each one, in a practical setting, to find the ones that work the best for you.

Most of my paintings are done using the Artist’s Oils brushes. I like these because they come with the blend settings built into each brush. When you’re using the Artist’s Oils brushes, you’ll see a “Blend” percentage in your toolbar. By raising or lowering this percentage you can get different levels of blending for your brush. To blend, just paint and hold the pen down till its out of paint, then continue to paint over your stroke. For more options, play with the brush opacity. I prefer a low opacity brush (around 20-30%) with a high blend setting (90-100%) for most of my paintings.

I also like working with the Oil Pastels. These blend automatically, depending on your pen pressure. If you vary your pen pressure as you block in your colors, they’ll fade and feather into the colors beneath. Lowering or raising the opacity of your brush will also give you some nice blend effects. Oil Pastel blending isn’t smooth, but works well for blocking in color, or reflective objects that have sharper delinations between colors. I often use this brush for skin tones and hair.

The various airbrushes work the same way, and you can get nice gradual color changes just by layering almost transparent layers of color. Large brushes, set at around 4% opacity, will give you some sweet large area shading, especially if you build up the area from dark to light or vice versa.

If you’re into layering your colors, you can combine a lot of these brushes to achieve different blending effects. The result is usually far more organic and painterly than what you’ll get with just a smudge brush. The trick is to experiment and play with different brushes, and don’t be afraid to alter settings to obtain the style you want.

If you ever worry that you’ve lost most of the settings that make a particular brush work, you can reset them in the Brush selector palette by choosing the “Restore Default Variant” option.


I’m planning on continuing Tutorial Tuesdays in the future, mainly focusing on digital painting with Corel Painter. If you’ve got a question or a topic you’d like me to cover leave me a comment and I’ll see what I can do.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2007 8:35 pm

    Nice tutorial for a start. And very good idea of weekly tuts for Painter. You’ll teach others and learn more yourself 🙂

    I prefer blending with just add water and especially with grainy water in large size. I use it mainly for backgrounds, but also I did with it a jacket once, it gave it nice shiny texture. This and soft blender stump recently. But I use mostly airbrushes, as you said they need no blender. I need to try oil pastels and oils.

    (I’ve made account to leave comments and block my nick here and there.)



  2. June 9, 2008 10:06 am

    I’m kind of partial to the just add water blender, myself. I’m not that experienced at using Painter just yet, but hopefully I’ll have more time to work with it soon. I seem to have a harder time working with Painter than I do with Photoshop… probably because Painter’s brushes are so complicated to get right. It’s hard to get them to look exactly the way you want them most of the time. At least, that’s how it is for me.

  3. sparoow permalink
    August 16, 2008 10:34 am

    thank u for ur tutorial…..

  4. squeeko permalink
    September 7, 2008 4:27 pm

    Thank you so very much for this information as I am a recently Painter convert myself. I am using it it illustrate a children’s book and it never disappoints.

    Again thank you very much as this was was very helpful


  5. icicle permalink
    December 31, 2008 9:10 pm

    I have a problem with my blenders blending to white, not to transparency. Which then covers the color on the layer below.

    Any thoughts?

  6. Kizaki permalink
    February 5, 2009 3:05 pm

    HI i have a question: wheni use the blender i dont like those white borders cause they ruin the painting, my question is how can i use the blender without the white borders that appears when i blend borders T_T please help me

  7. saigo permalink
    February 8, 2009 7:17 am

    Any chance you could do a full-fledged skin and/or hair tutorial?

  8. June 23, 2010 9:26 am

    Thank you very much for the Tutorial! Just getting into Painter and blending is one of the first issues I have run into.

  9. July 29, 2010 10:10 am

    I work mainly with Painter IX Pencils and Paint with its Digital Watercolor. I experiment with various brushes and keep notes of the ones that work best for particular illos and why…these are some of my favorites…Pure Water, Defused Water, Flat Water Blender, Gentle Wet Eraser and New Simple Blender. The key as you say is to experiment and play.

  10. Quae permalink
    November 24, 2010 11:45 pm

    Thanks so much for this! I picked up Corel for casual art play, and I just found myself frustrated with its blending, and layering restraints. I’ll definitely try out the oil brushes!

  11. jolene permalink
    October 26, 2011 11:30 am

    thank u u just saved my life

  12. January 19, 2012 9:09 pm

    Thanks! This was a lot of help. I’ll be playing with the brushes tonight, see how that goes.

  13. Kianna permalink
    January 27, 2013 2:40 pm

    I just got Corel Painter Essentials 4 with my Bamboo Capture tablet for Christmas and I seem to be having problems with blending. Whenever I create a new layer and try to blend in that layer it starts to paint white instead of blending. Any tips about how to fix this?

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