Paintstorm Studio is a lesser-known piece of art software created by one artist and programmer that was frustrated with what was out there already.
I purchased Paintstorm Studio after being unhappy with the art software that came bundled with my Wacom Intuos. I was looking for something that could mimic realistic mediums with a reasonably cheap price point. Unsure if I was going to keep doing digital art at this time, I didn’t want to invest too much. So I did my research, dug through a bunch of “Best of” posts, and finally settled on Paintstorm Studio. Interested in learning more about what influenced my choice and what came after? Keep reading.
A note to my readers, I am in no way sponsored or influenced to write this review which is something you should always consider when choosing your art software and reading reviews. All opinions are my own.
Of course, if you’re on a budget, price is going to be the first thing you look at when making your decision to purchase a piece of art software or not. At $19 for one license, Paintstorm may not be free, but it is affordable for most. This license is transferable if you need it on a different computer as well, or you can purchase two licenses at one time.
If your computer (or tablet) cannot run a program, then there’s no sense in purchasing it. Paintstorm Studio boasts that it can run on Windows, Mac, Linux, and iPads. It does, however, seem to take a decent chunk of graphical power, seeing as the creator suggests implicitly to use a powerful gaming graphics card. There is also a warning that this art program will not run well on computers with integrated graphics cards. Be wary of purchasing if you have a laptop!
Check out the system requirements listed on Paintstorm’s website if you’re unsure if your computer is up to snuff.
I’ll be the first to admit. I like dark themed UI schemes as they’re just easier on my eyes. Paintstorm comes with a dark-themed UI straight out of the download package. The program boasts that it has a dynamic user interface, one of the key features. In the UI, you can not only move and resize panels to your tastes but also color them, change their transparency and lock them into various sections of the screen.
Yes, you read that right. You can color the UI Panels in Paintstorm Studio.
I’m sure someone out there is jumping up and down for joy, though it wasn’t something I used. I was too busy creating art to splash some color on my panels.
You cannot completely adjust the UI to your liking. For example, the default top bar I wanted to make vertical rather than horizontal, but there’s no way to change the orientation of the panels, just where they’re situated, their size, and their opacity.
What I do like, which I wish more programs offered, is the ability to keybind something directly from the interface. Hovering over “Lock Transparent Pixels” for instance, will bring up a tooltip that states what the button does, but also says “Press Enter to define hotkey…” This ability, unlike a lot of other programs, is an excellent feature as I hate hunting through menus to change a keybinding.
Paintstorm Studio Key Features
I would be remiss to you, my readers, and to the program itself if I didn’t list some of the standout features of Paintstorm Studio. Mind you, I’m not taking these from the list on their website which you can view yourself, but from what I’ve seen while using the program.
Standard to most art programs are your usual things such as layers, brushes, and a color picker But here is where Painstorm Studio can shine or fall flat depending on your preferences: The Brush Options.
Paintstorm Studio has a powerful brush engine under the hood, with options upon options to play with and adjust. Just in the general section, you have seven options to change your brushes, including a stabilizer which I know is vital to those of you that like pretty lines. Each of those options has more options hidden behind buttons. But wait, there’s more. There are four more options to add additional settings to your brush. It can be hellaciously fun to play with these, but to a beginner, it can also be a struggle as you can get lost in the various settings.
Thankfully, Paintstorm comes packed with a bunch of pre-made brushes to choose from to get you started.
Like some other programs on the market, Paintstorm also has a color mixer. While this is neat and I’m sure useful to someone, I much prefer mixing my colors directly on the canvas. They also include color swatches and the ability to create your own swatches.
Some features that really make Paintstorm stand out are the perspective guides and my favorite feature: The reference panel. This little panel got me addicted to Paintstorm for quite a while and made it difficult to try other programs. It allows you to place your references in a panel you can move about the screen rather than having to open another document.
If you want to see more features, watch the video below.
How It Draws
With any art program, there is at least some learning curve, but with Paintstorm Studio, I jumped right in and started creating. Okay, maybe I spent five minutes setting up my UI, but then I started painting.
I have to say; I like painting with Paintstorm. The paint and brushes act like traditional mediums, but it still has enough of that digital feel to help you correct mistakes as you go. (If you’re looking for Liquify, it’s called Warp.)
I never experienced any lag when painting even on canvas sizes set at their 4k resolution, but I also have a gaming pc. With the navigator, I could quickly move about the piece to the sections I needed to.
If I had one complaint about the painting experience in Paintstorm, it would be getting to your brushes and getting them organized. I’m not a fan of their organization system which uses small icons on a side or top bar with no indication as to what those icons are for. There is a lack of drag and drop for the categories to move them around. So unless you create a category for your most used brushes and stick it on top, you might have some difficulty finding them.
Alright, maybe two complaints, but I’ll get into that in the next section.
Help and Tutorials
For those of you that aren’t aware, my day job is a technical writer. This means I take information and organize it into content that’s easy to use and read for less technical people. Think help sites. So it’s a massive pet peeve of mine to come across a help site that even I have trouble understanding. And this is a great failing of Paintstorm. I give the developer credit, they tried, but it’s clear it’s written by someone who has built the program and not someone who has used it.
Worse, because there aren’t a lot of people using the program, there are very few tutorials out there.
I got so frustrated at one point that I briefly considered offering the Paintstorm devs my assistance in revamping their help site. I was watching an artist on YouTube describe their process and could not, for the life of me, translate that information into Paintstorm’s brush controls. I spent hours searching Google and even attempted to post on the Paintstorm forums to no avail. (It was the Flow setting in Photoshop if anyone is curious.)
What does this ultimately mean for my recommendations regarding this software? We’ll wrap that up in the conclusion. First, let’s make some bullet points of the pros and cons.
Let’s go over some things that might sway you into purchasing Paintstorm Studio:
- Low price point
- Modifiable User Interface
- Pre-Existing Brushes
- Powerful brush engine
- Brush stabilizer
- Perspective guides
Now here are some things that might turn you off from using Paintstorm:
- Lack of help and tutorials
- Occasional bugs that force you to reinstall and lose your settings (yes, this happened to me)
- The program is still under substantial development
- Lack of people making brushes
- Too many options in the brush settings can be detrimental to new artists
- Requires a hefty graphics card to run smoothly
Overall, once I get more experienced with art programs, I might return to Paintstorm Studio, but I have currently veered away from it while I’m studying art. I would recommend this program to artists looking for an alternative to programs for realistic mediums. Specifically, artists that are looking for a powerful brush engine to create their custom brushes or artists looking for quick functions such as perspective painting.
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