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Alexander Komarov from Paintstorm studio presented a Photoshop-alternative tool Paintstorm. It includes useful features from several digital painting software solutions, has a few unique features, and can be used to create seamless textures.
Believe it or not, Paintstorm was programmed by only one person – my brother Sergey Komarov. In this respect, Paintstorm may motivate other programmers as opposed to the common belief that only big corporations can create something meaningful today. Now the Paintstorm team consists of three people, they are Sergey (he deals only with programming), me (I do everything else), and our friend Leo (he helps with advertising and promotion).
Initially, we didn’t peg Paintstorm as a commercial application, it was just for our personal use. I had been drawing CG for quite a while for that moment. My brother and I have always been very curious, and I sometimes enjoyed exploring new software more than working with it. Anyway, I tried to learn all the available tools both for 2D and 3D. It has always been a wonder to me that in contrast to 3D with thousands of plugins and features, there are no competitors to Photoshop in 2D, which has barely changed in the last 15 years. There were other good painting applications, like SAI and Corel Painter, but they have both pluses and minuses. The lack of some obvious features nearly shocked me. We often discussed it with Sergey, and one day he decided to make his own painting program with necessary functions, just for fun. And when after two years of deliberate programming it turned to a quite sustainable application, we decided to develop a full-fledged version.
Surely, the current version has way more features than the first one, while the first one was very good, too. It is funny that being programmers by education we didn’t do programming after university, we were more into art. I suppose that it is the key – programmers usually are far from art. They can develop everything but they don’t understand what an artist really needs. The same is with non-CG artists, they will be puzzled if you ask them for a technical piece of advice. And those who worked in Photoshop and similar software for many years have already got used to their lopsided pipelines. There are a lot of different techniques in CG, from imitation of oil and water-color to manga. The majority of artists are improving themselves in a single style, while I have always liked to try different styles. Probably that was the reason why I knew what artists of different genres needed.
We also try to pay attention to our users, they often help to carry out interesting features. To some extent, the current version is a brain work of very many people. Practically every artist has in mind some features that could improve his or her work.
Need in a Photoshop Alternative
I worked in Photoshop for a very long time. It is really good for photo editing and making colorful advertising. But I have never painted there, used it only for post-processing and color correction. After all, Photoshop was not made to be a painting application. If you glue a brush to a hammer, you can paint with that tool but you’d better use it to nail.
I could spend a lot of time describing the disadvantages of Photoshop for artists but here are the main points:
- No stroke stabilizer. It is very important for anime artists. Recently, this feature was added but it is still very rough. There is an ideal stabilizer in SAI, for example.
- No color mixer. There is a Mixer Brush but it gives unpredictable results and has few adjustments. It can be used for a certain effect but it is not universal.
- No bristle brushes. Brushes in Photoshop are a collection of stamps with intervals. Leaving aside Paintstorm, there are good bristle brushes in Corel Painter and ArtRage. It is hard to explain why it is important but it is vital for oil imitation. Each bristle must carry its own color.
- The process of picking brushes is terrible in Photoshop, even in the new version. Plus, you can’t assign a hotkey to a brush.
As the main advantages of Photoshop, I’d, of course, include graphics engine and layers.
What Painstorm Offers
Now Paintstorm has its own unique functions but initially, we just were going to collect all convenient functions: Stabilizer from SAI, Bristle Brush from Corel Painter, “Close Gaps” function from Clip Studio, custom brush shapes from Photoshop, etc. But probably the main feature is flexible brush adjustments. Each parameter is not only changeable but bound to a diagram. Frankly, it demands certain skills from users. That is why Paintstorm is positioned as professional software.
See the full list of the features here.
For sure, one of the main problems of 2D software is an old-fashioned interface. It is static and not flexible in comparison with ZBrush and 3DCoat. In Paintstorm you can scale the interface in general and each window in particular, drag any instruments and brushes to the custom panel. You can also paint the interface. You can assign a hotkey to any brush, or even a combination, like Shift+a+s+d which means that with your hand on A/S/D you control 7 brushes and 14 brushes with Shift. It speeds up the work drastically.
We tried to make Paintstorm quick to use. Most functions can be launched with one click or a hotkey. In other programs, you sometimes need to open the menu, settings, brush settings, advanced settings, expand a necessary tab, click something else, etc. All of that is just to change some brush settings.
Our key idea was to unite all necessary instruments in one cross-functional brush, instead of making a few different instruments (like The Brush and Smudge Tool in Photoshop). Why make a separate clone-tool when you can simply switch the brush to the clone mode and get the tool of the same size and settings like it works with The Eraser tool. However, there are two types of brushes in Paintstorm: a usual brush (a collection of stamps, like in Photoshop) and The Bristle Brush (each pixel keeps its own color and paints with it in an ongoing way).
Parameters binding to the perspective is a unique function of Paintstorm. You can bind not only the brush size but also color, transparency, etc. Artists know that objects in the distance are colder (blue) and pale. So, for example, if you are drawing a forest, you will get an aerial perspective in addition to the usual one.
Also, I want to mention one more unique function which is Disable Transformation. It is hard to explain what it does, but the video should illustrate it:
One more feature – the symmetry. Nowhere else you will find a symmetry like ours. GPU engine allows working with up to the 100 rays of symmetry.
One more interesting feature is a possibility to choose a few brush shapes which can switch randomly or according to your settings.
Finally, Smart Color Correction Filter. In my opinion, it is underestimated and it is actually a very powerful color correction instrument with a few unique functions.
Paintstorm is one of the few of programs that allow the creation of the seamless textures. It is also possible to create very good texturing brushes, so Paintstorm is popular among texture artists. Also, the symmetry helps to do UVs. Paintstorm supports PSD layers and can be used as 2D software for 3D applications.
An example of the texturing pipeline:
Where do I get Paintstorm?
Paintstorm can be purchased on our site. A lifelong license for 1 PC costs 19$, for 2 PC is 29$. The license can be moved from one PC to another and be reactivated in case of reinstalling an operating system.
The license is universal and can be activated on Windows, Mac or Linux. An iPad version is purchased separately and costs less than 13$.