A Unified Format for Sharing Painter Brushes

In my last post, I pointed out some of the problems with the way Painter brushes are currently shared. There are so many different ways that work that the whole process becomes very complicated very quickly. Of course the studio|chris Brush Manager solves the installation issues in many cases, but it doesn’t cover everything as mentioned in my last post. With that, I present a draft of the studio|chris Brush Metapackage (“Brush Package” for short) – a brand new file format designed specifically for sharing and installing Painter brushes in a very consistent way – whether you choose to use the Brush Manager or not.

Package Icon

Brush Package icon draft.

The full specification for the file format is still being written, but the in-progress draft is available for review and open for discussion here in this post (feedback, questions, and suggestions are welcomed in the comments!). The new Brush Package format solves every single problem discussed in the previous post amongst others.

Brush Package support will begin with the next version of the Brush Manager.

A Note to Brush Publishers & Painter Instructors

For those of you who switched to creating only Brush Manager compatible ZIP files – thank you! We all have to work together to make installing our shared brushes as easy as possible for users of all skill levels. This new format is intended to continue along the path to simplifying for those that use the Brush Manager, but also for those who do not. As the format shapes up, I’ll need your help once again to switch over to the new format instead of normal ZIP files. I’ll gladly offer help to make the switch if you need it, but with the automated process to be built into the Brush Manager, you shouldn’t – just click a “Package to Share” button, fill in some important details and be ready to rock.

Of course, there are more features that come into play with the new format, but I can’t go into that just yet – but it is going to be great!

Painter Brush Sharing Gone Wrong – Let’s Fix It

The goal of the Studio|chris Brush Installer, and the most recent incarnation, the Studio|chris Brush Manager is and always has been to make installing, sharing and maintaining Corel Painter brushes simple and easy. The installing part is done – sharing is next on the list.

The Beloved ZIP Format

In the beginning, ZIP was chosen as the format to use for sharing and installing brushes for a few good reasons:

  • Painter “brushes” are really collections of individual files and folders. ZIP allows you to package all those loose files into a single file for sharing. Can you imagine downloading 27 files one at a time for brushes? I can’t.
  • ZIP files are common and easy to make with built-in support in modern operating systems or with commercial or open source software.
  • Many brush sets were already created and shared in the ZIP format, meaning those sets were already ready for the installer.

The honeymoon with ZIP is over though. While simple and easy, the ZIP format has introduced some problems in the installer and caused a lot of confusion for some users.

Brush Manager + ZIP = Sad

Here’s where it goes sour:

  • ZIP is common. Anything can go in ZIP files, and anything does go in ZIP files. Is the ZIP on your desktop Painter brushes, Photoshop brushes, software, a bunch of Word documents or all those old files you couldn’t stand to look at anymore but didn’t want to delete? Yeah, mine too.
  • Following the above, if you’re sure your ZIP file contains Painter brushes, are they organized in a library, a category or loose brush files? (I’ll wait while you check – no, don’t really go look.) The Brush Manager expects categories out of the box, and I believe you shouldn’t have to know that – it should just work.

Random Fact: The Brush Manager will work with the others (libraries and loose files) as well, but maybe not the way you’d expect (Remember the goal, simple and easy, so I’m not going to publish how it works [it is all in the settings] with non-categories, but if you’ve figured it out – awesome!).

  • For the Mac users, OS X is sometimes set to automatically unzip ZIP files for you after download. Then it tosses the ZIP file in the Trash – hey, we need that – just move it back to the desktop and continue with the installing.
  • OS X also doesn’t follow all the rules with making ZIP files from scratch. These files cause the Brush Manager to choke and not install your brushes.
  • Painter Brushes are cross-platform. There is no such thing as a “Mac Painter Brush” or “Windows Painter Brush.” Shared brush ZIPs usually have extra files in them that aren’t needed though. OS X doesn’t care about “thumbs.db,” and Windows will never use “DS_STORE.” These files are usually hidden on their respective platform, but the ZIP makes them visible and when they’re installed on the opposite platform, they’re not hidden anymore.
  • Even worse, from recent updates, OS X adds yet another invisible “icon” file to some folders – and its name contains an illegal character for the Brush Manager. This one little file makes the entire brush ZIP useless (for the Brush Manager) on both platforms.
  • This doesn’t relate to ZIP, specifically, but instead to the illegal character mentioned above. Some shared brush ZIPs contain illegal characters either in their filenames or in the category names inside to make them fancy and stand out. Let’s stop that – design a pretty icon instead! These characters/letters aren’t usually cross-platform and can make for some really ugly results with Painter and the Brush Manager.

There’s more, not relating to ZIP alone, but let’s just leave it at that. ZIP by itself just doesn’t make the cut  anymore.

Making the Bad Go Away

A change is on the horizon, and a new standardized file format that sticks to the goal will emerge that defines “Painter Brushes.” Your brush files won’t be mixed in with “that file of stuff I don’t want to look at anymore.” Before I post the in-progress plans, what would you like to see in a universal, easy to make and easy to share Painter brush package? What problems have you had with installing brushes?

Brush Manager Support for Painter 11

Corel began shipping the boxed version of Painter 11 today, so it is the perfect day to introduce public support for it in the Studio|chris Brush Manager. All new installs will automatically be the latest version, and for those of you who have already installed, just open the Settings panel and click the “Check for Updates” button to start the process. Be sure to update your settings after the installation as well.


From the outside, not much has changed between this version and the last, but there were a couple of very minor bugs fixed:

  • Update install ran twice during the update process in earlier versions (this caused updates to take twice as long). During the next update cycle, the update will install only one time.
  • The RSS panel at the bottom of the window loaded with a lot of filler text while waiting on to see if you had an active internet connection. That clutter has been removed. As a result, it takes the RSS panel a little while longer to populate, but at least you don’t see overlapping text while waiting.

You’ll also notice the large banner for painterLab.com (which is still in the works, but you may subscribe and know exactly when it launches!) has been removed and replaced with sponsor banners. Please visit and support the sponsors as they are helping to keep the Installer portion of the Brush Manager free for everyone and also supporting future developments. If you’d like to support development directly, you may also donate to the project with PayPal.

Also, I’d like to give a quick thanks to everyone for the kind words about the Brush Manager, here, in the forums and privately. Hope you all continue to enjoy it – things will only get better!

Corel Painter 11 Trial Now Available

30-day Trials of Corel Painter 11 are
available for download now
. Go test the new features.

Welcoming Corel Painter 11!

Painter 11 Box

Corel Painter 11 box.
© 2009, Corel Corporation.

The wait is over – Corel® Painter™ 11 is here – that’s right 11, not X1! Packed with new features and increased functionality, this is going to be the best version of Painter yet. The new features look great – and it looks like a lot of user-submitted feature requests from over at the Painter Factory community site were included. See – our feedback is important. Congratulations to the Painter Team on the release!

Now onto the stuff everybody wants to hear about:

What’s New?

  • Brushes – Adding to the already rich set of brushes available to digital painters, Painter 11 introduces RealBristle™ Dry Media, which includes Rendering Markers, new dynamic Pens and Pencils and Chalk that respond to the tilt of your Wacom stylus!
  • Selection Tools – The selection tools of Painter have been improved with a new Polygonal mode for the Lasso tool and improvements to the Magic Wand and other selection methods.
  • Color Management – Color management in Painter just got easier. Manage your colors in a familiar dialog window with clearly labeled dropdowns. Get color management right the first time, every time! There is also improved color management support between Painter and Photoshop.
  • Colors Wheel & The Mixer – Both the color wheel and the mixer palettes are completely resizable. If the color wheel is too small for your tastes, just make it bigger – same goes for the Mixer – mix more colors at once.
  • Transformation Controls – Resize, rotate, move and skew layers quickly with the new Layer Transform tools. No more jumping to Photoshop to resize or adjust a layer only to hop back into Painter to continue painting.
  • PNG Image Support – Save your Painter creations as lossless PNG files to share. Also allows opening PNG images to composite into your paintings.
  • Performance – Painter 11 is the fastest version of Painter yet with an up to 30% gain in performance for brushes from Painter X.1.
  • Of course, I haven’t gone over everything. There is more sprinkled throughout the whole program, but I’ll leave it up you all of you to find the goodies. Go check the Painter 11 page at Corel for more information.

Where to get it?

  • ESD (Electronic Software Download) versions and trial versions will be available directly from Corel on February 25, 2009.
  • Preorders for the boxed version are also being accepted and are set to begin shipping on March 18, 2009.

Your Thoughts

What feature (or features) are you most excited about in Painter 11 – what do you look forward to using the most? Leave a comment – Corel pops in for a visit every once in a while.