Corel Painter 12.1 Brush Management, A Primer

Hey Friends,

I worked on this post for a while.  The topic is brush management.  I hope this post and its companion page explains the file structure for Painter brushes in a way that is understandable.   I truly believe that problems with brush installation are going to disappear as soon as we get started using the new Brush installation system that made its début with Painter 12.1.

I have a video that gives information about the new system, but I also have a rather long written document that explains the “behind the scenes” file structure.  Look for the document on my blog page Brush Management for Painter 12.1.  I provided the same document as a PDF, which you can download and keep as a reference.  Also, re-visit any of the download pages because I have added files that automatically load a library or a brush category into Painter 12.1.  The video will explain it.

Before I forget it, I want to say that all this information is my understanding of how it works.  I am not an expert in any of this.

Here is the video that explains how we load and share brushes going forward in Painter 12.1.  I want to thank the developers for making the new system.  It is fantastic.

I hope you enjoy the video and the PDF.  Comments are welcome.



40 responses to “Corel Painter 12.1 Brush Management, A Primer

  1. Thanks for the fabulous Brush Management Manual, Skip. I have printed it and saved the pdf as well. I am so excited to see it publishes. I have read most of it already. Great Work!
    Thanks Again,

  2. Skip ; wonderful video tutorial, love love love and a hug !
    The brushes loaded in beautifully and thanks so so much
    for taking the time to sort t his out and explain in such


  3. thanks Skip..getting ready for a new system this year and in the meantime, reinstalling my system in the pc i have..will have a great model to follow when i install painter again..

  4. Skip, thank you so much for the time and energy you put into this. I’ve been looking for this kind of information and look who provides it…just like Christmas every day.

  5. Thank you Skip for developing both the video and the PDF. I appreciate how much work that is. Under your guidance at DDA I have revamped the management of my previously installed brushes – I had brushes all over the place. My brushes are now managed appropriately and I enjoy knowing how these management systems work and want things done the most efficient way. I am certainly excited about the ease of the new system. Again, Thank you. Winifred

    • Thank you Winifred. I have had a blast with you in the class…your enthusiasm and willingness to try anything inspires me. Thanks for stopping by and making a comment.

  6. Thanks for providing this info. Having just been through the brushes class you taught, I can say that this would be a very good video & pdf to include in the week 1 stuff. It really made it understandable.

    • Hi Jim,

      I am adding it to the class. I actually started working on this at the first of the class, but it proved to be a daunting task. I kept re-writing and I just couldn’t finish it. I’m glad to hear that it made it understandable…that is great news.


  7. HA Skip

    Love your videos, they make it easier for me to do my ART work. As Lynn Myers said Yipppeee!!!!
    I can stop and start your videos and do the work with very little reading. This makes it much more fun for me and I achieved much more.

    • I heard that they were out on the Japanese site yesterday. I didn’t want to look…sigh…I know I will want one…LOL.

      I guess I better go take a look.

      Thanks, Skip

  8. Help!!!!

    I have some brushes that I really like when I am painting animals. I have tried everything and can’t get them to load. When I try to select the brushes, Corel says that I can’t open an empty library. I have a document I did that I could send for you to see exactly what it looks like.
    The first thing I see is what I am calling a library – Sirkis Animals. When I open the library I see different categories, dog hair brushes, wildlife brushes, etc. There are icons within that folder or what I am calling the categories. When I open a category, inside are the files for all the brushes/variants within that category. Each brush has has a NIB and STK file and a XML document. I wrote to Fay and she told me put the folder within Corel>Corel Painter 12>brushes>Painter Brushes. It didn’t work.

    • Hi Kathi,

      I am a little confused with your explanation. You say you have a document. Then you say the first thing you see is what you are calling a library. Where are you seeing this. Are you seeing it in Painter 12 in the library panel menu? Or are you seeing it when you are in Windows Explorer? If you are seeing it in Windows Explorer, can you please give me the complete path that leads to Sirkis Animals.

      I’m not sure what is going on, but it may be that you need to update Painter to 12.1 and then to the Hot fix. When you open Painter go to Help > About Corel Painter and in the box that opens, look in the middle just above the window on the left side and you should see some numbers and a date. Please tell me those numbers and date…I’m not sure there is a date, but I think there is one.

      After I hear back from you I can better tell you what to do.


  9. Hi Skip
    Your videos and PDF have been wonderful in answering most of my initial problems in dealing with P 12.1, a program entirely new to me. I acquired Painter 12.1 as an adjunct to my many years with Photoshop Elements, and a great improvement over Painter Essentials 4 in adding painterly effects to photos.

    Unfortunately for me, I do not see if or where you have dealt with bringing in Painter 12’s Extra Content. Experimentation with Painter menu import commands for libraries or categories or brushes seemed to do nothing with the Extra Content equivalent items.

    Consequently I copied a brush category (Nature Brushes) from Extra Content and pasted it into Win XP-SP3 C:\Program Files\Corel\Painter 12\Brushes\Painter 12 Brushes\ and it was present on next program launch and those brushes worked fine.

    I later decided to remove a couple of the Nature Brushes. P 12.1’s Remove Variant command was grayed out and unavailable for either brush selected. So I manually deleted them from the Program Files subdirectory where they had been first pasted by me. Fine, both brushes were gone from the program. But a search with Windows Explorer still found brush files of the same name in my Documents and Settings Owner directory. So P 12.1 had created those additional files on its own, and to do a complete removal of brushes that I installed manually now means checking there too.

    Interestingly, brushes provided with P 12 in its Painter Brushes library, and those in its Painter 11 Brushes library, also have the Remove Variant command grayed out. It only shows on brushes I have added from outside the program such as the ones in your Skip’s Thick Paint. (And no, I would never really remove one of your wonderful brush variants 😉

    So some mysteries still present.

    Best regards, Steve in Thunder Bay

    • Hi Steve,

      Thank you for your kind words about the videos and the PDF. Unfortunately, I think I have confused you with those same videos and PDF. Let me see if I can straighten it out. Let’s stick with brushes first.

      The brush import command for Painter 12.1 requires that the brushes, categories, or libraries be in a particular type of file with an extension of .brushvariant, .brushcategory, or burshlibrary. The Extra Content does not have the information for brushes in this new file type, therefore as you discovered, you have to manually install them into Painter 12.1.

      You installed the brush information into the “Application” area and not the “user” area as I suggested. That will work and some folks do make that choice, but then some functionality like remove brush variant will not be available because Painter cannot write to the Application Area after the initial install. To save brush changes that you make on the fly, Painter creates an identical folder in the User Area (you referred to it as Document and Settings Owner Directory). That is why you found the extra information after you manually deleted the brush information from the Application Area.

      The approach I think is best, is to manually install the Extra Content brushes in the User Area (Document and Settings Owner Directory). You will need to install them into a particular workspace…either one you created or the one called Default that Painter Created. After doing this, the remove brush command will work. And as you have discovered, you may not remove any of the default brushes from the program, but that is because they are installed in the Application Area. Take a look for Skip’s Thick Paint in the same place as the Painter Brush Library; you will not find it. You will find it installed in the User Area because that is the way the program works.

      Tip: If you have already installed a number of “Extra Content or Custom brushes” in the applications area, use the Brushes > Export > Category command to export the .brushcategory file to a folder in your documents. Then delete the folder and JPEG manually from the Application area and User Area. Then using the Brush > Import > Category command, import the .brushcategory file into Painter 12.1. It will be installed correctly like Skip’s Thick Paint.

      Hope that helps clear up the brush information.

      OK…second part about importing other information from the Extra Content. If you decide to import anything other than the brush information from the extra content, treat it as legacy information. All of the media panels work the same way, so lets import a paper from the extra content. You would go to your Paper Library Panel and click its option button/fly out menu and select “Import Legacy Paper Library…” and navigate to the paper library file of your choice in the Extra content and click Open. That’s all there is to it.

      Hope this helps clear up any misunderstanding. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. I know you are going to love Painter. It is a fabulous program.


      • Hi Skip
        Thank you for a timely reply that has completely clarified both what I was doing wrong, and how to do this the right way.

        Since I have only just started importing a couple of libraries, I will do as you suggest and start from scratch and put them all into the User (in my case Owner) section.

        I just this past few minutes used Windows Explorer to make a new library folder in User (Owner on my computer) and manually pasted a jpg and matching brush category folder from Extra Content into it. Opened Painter and the new library and category was available and the brushes worked fine. As you said, for a bush there the menu option Remove Variant was now live and available to use.

        Incidentally, your good humor during the videos makes the lessons fun. Too long you say? Not in my opinion. You have my permission to go on for hours 🙂

  10. Hello Skip!

    (I apologize – sorry, I think I posted to the wrong page a couple of minutes ago)!

    I spent the last couple of days/nights watching/reading your amazing threads (not all) but enough to endorse that this content deserves to be enthroned on top of the official Painter websites.

    I encountered a couple of issues, but could get rid of them after all. So, my attention now is focussing on a last point. Before I read the XXXL-PDF on “Brush Management for Painter 12.1“, could you please tell me, if it deals with the following issue:

    I don’t really see the ignition point for a new empty library, assuming I want to start one from scratch…

    Before I go on, I’m on:
    – MAC OS 10.7.5 (but I think the issue is also relevant for PCs)
    – Painter
    In the user area, I created an alias (cmd L) of my brushes folder. It leads to ~users/username/Library/Application Support/Corel/Painter 12/Working Space/Brushes/… ,in order to get through the hidden library gate in OS X. The alias is located at ~users/username/… , that makes it possible to save into the area I want to reach.

    So, I don’t really see the ignition point for a new empty library, assuming I want to start one from scratch out of an opened document with work in progress.

    It is possible to create a new category within the selected library, or to save or to copy a new brush inside an actual category, but my intention is rather to create a new library, where I’ll be able to store all the variants I’ll be creating in the future – keeping the same category names and structure as in the Painter 12 library, in order to make things easier to find (see the screenshots, please).

    If I choose the “export prompt”, I only get the following choices:
    – export/brushvariant –> leads to the dialog-box where I can target a place on the hard-disc. It’s also possible to create a (library)folder and a sub-(category)Folder, but even if they appear as a library/category after restarting the application, they do not contain just the one brush I’d like to see inside, but for some reason, they contain exactly the same categories and brushes as the Painter 12 library.
    – export/category –> leads to -> choosing a category from the currently selected library and save it where I want. But it’s not empty.
    – export/library –> leads to -> exporting one of the available libraries (Painter 12 or 11). But It’s just like creating a clone of one of the already existing libraries.

    And a last thing, if I choose export/brush-variant (still talking about the brushes-palette-context-menu/export), it is possible to generate some folders via the OS in Brushes (user area), e. g. …/PAINTER BRUSHES 32/AIRBRUSHES …but, they are just simple categories’ folders – with no xml-information.

    These 4 screenshots show:

    a) The path to my own library:

    b) The application showing the Painter 12 standard library (user area) content:

    c) The application showing my own library content (user area) coming from nowhere – this is strange:

    d) The application showing my own library, how it should be (user area) – I faked it with Photoshop, in order to better explain what I’m trying to achieve:

    Any hints would be much appreciated 🙂

    Sincere Hugs!


    • Hello Gestyle,

      The XXXL PDF will help. But, let me see if I can sort it out for you.

      First starting a new library from scratch isn’t available in the new brush management system. You cannot click inside of Painter and create a new library. If you export an existing library, like your Painter 12 Library and then import, you just get a duplicate library. You could remove all of the categories in the duplicate library leaving one. You must have at least one category in any library for Painter to recognize it. I don’t think making a duplicate library is the best method.

      What you want to do is use the old method of creating a new library, which I believe is explained in the PDF, but I haven’t read it in a while and I am not completely sure. The PDF starts with how it used to work and ends up with how it works today, that is why I think it will help.

      Basically, you go to your Brushes folder in your User area. When you open the brushes folder, you will see the Painter 12 Brushes and Painter Brushes folders. You want to save a file here…Painter 32 Brushes I believe is the name you want. Just save an empty folder under Brushes in the User Area.

      For Painter to recognize the folder, you need something in it. Go to my Bristly Dabs Download Page. Do not download Bristly Dabs Library or Bristly Dabs Category. Do download the link called Bristly Dabs Download. It is a zipped file, sometimes Macs automatically unzip files, which is OK here. After downloading, if it isn’t unzipped, then unzip it. You will find two items after unzipping. One is a folder called Bristly Dabs and the other is a Bristly Dabs.jpg. Copy the folder and the jpg…do not open the folder, just copy the Bristly dabs folder and the Bristly dabs.jpg and past it in your Painter 32 Brushes library.

      OK, now you have a new library with one category in it. Open Painter and open the brush selector drawer and go to Brushes Library. You have Painter Brushes, Painter 11 Brushes, and Painter 32 showing. Click on Painter 32 and your library will switch to Painter 32 and in the brush drawer your will see Bristly dabs with all of its variants. I know you didn’t want this category, but it is the easiest way to get you where you want to be.

      Now you can go back to your Painter Brushes library. Select a brush in any category that you want to copy to your new library. Let’s say you select one of the airbrushes. Now go to the menu bar and select Brushes > Export > Category. When the window opens, export to somewhere you can find it…outside of any Painter folder…I usually put mine in a folder in my documents. You will get a file that looks like this: Airbrush.brushcategory.

      Now in Painter switch to your Painter 32 library again. This is important, because when you import the category it will go into the currently active library, which you want to be your Painter 32 Library.

      At this point you have a new library called Painter 32, with two categories, Bristly Dabs and Airbrushes.

      Hope this helps.

      Hugs back to you,

      • Hello Skip,

        I needed a little more time in order to go through your very clear and exhaustive document. There’s only one sentence I did not really understand in it:

        Page 6: “It is important to note, that only Dab Types that are captured will have a JPEG file. All other variants will have a NIB, STK, and XML file only”.

        a) What do you mean with “captured”? – vs. what: DEFAULT brushes ( /categories or libraries)?

        b) Is this capture issue specific to PRIOR versions to 12.1 or does it also apply to 12.1? (I guess it doesn’t, but I’m not completely sure).

        c) At which place can one find non-captured variants without .jpg? Or at which state/time?

        d) Are we talking about a companion-.jpg, the one sitting next to a category folder or some .jpg inside the category folder? (maybe this other .jpg deserves a name too. Perhaps insider-jpg 🙂

        I performed the steps you recommended. So, I had an Airbrush.brushcategory stored somewhere, waiting for being imported for testing-purposes. Probably because of my data structure at that point, PAINTER crashed, as I tried to switch over to my custom library PAINTER BRUSHES 32. It brought an error message saying “Cannot select an empty library”. This is how my user area structure looked like:

        (These AIRBRUSHES folder and AIRBRUSHES.jpg had been previously added by drag ’n drop. As well as detail.brushvariant I think).

        So, I removed the both category and .jpg called “AIRBRUSHES” in order to be able to switch over to my own category called PAINTER BRUSHES 32. This worked, as it only contained your “Bristly Dabs” folder and its companion-.jpg.

        My next step was to import the Airbrush category “Airbrush.brushcategory” from somewhere on my hard disc into my PAINTER BRUSHES 32, so I could see how the file-structure looks like, and at least, in order to see, that a simple category import works, even if my aim was not to import the category as a whole:

        So with my library PAINTER BRUSHES 32 selected, I went to the flying out menu and > remove category > Airbrush in order to clear it.

        Then I switched back to the default PAINTER 12 library (user area), clicked on the category “Airbrush“, then selected the brush called “Detail” and clicked in the flying out menu on “export”, stored the file “Detail.brushvariant” somewhere* on my hard disc.

        After these steps I switched through the fly-out menu back to my library PAINTER BRUSHES 32, selected the fly-out menu again but clicked on “import > brush” this time. I went and fetch my “Detail.brushvariant” and as an option, added a category I called “AIRBRUSHES”. That was quite all.

        I didn’t want to keep the default companion-.jpg generated automatically by PAINTER, so I opened the companion.jpg in Photoshop, made this quick magenta on black version and replaced/saved it. Now, this is how my file-structure now looks like:

        I think it’s important to stress on a particular point here: the reason why my library wasn’t recognized and led to the crash at the beginning was that I just PLACED (drag ’n drop) the “Detail.brushvariant” file into my AIRBRUSHES category folder. The file was not expanded. This expansion is precisely what PAINTER does, when we import a brush from somewhere on the hard disc. Do you agree?

        Now, everything seems to work.

        Just by nosiness, I’m wondering if it’d be possible to create a library by drag ’n drop only, like

        – first, creating the folders PAINTER BRUSHES 32 / AIRBRUSHES

        – then adding an .XML-file into AIRBRUSHES

        – starting PAINTER

        If I read you right, Painter would generate the other needed files around as soon as I save the dab as itself. I would get the STK, NIB, JPEG and companion-.jpg automatically created and I could customize the companion-.jpg afterwards, is that correct?

        Okay, I do not really need to do this as the import/export solution works fine now, but just in order to prevent some mess in the guts of PAINTER one day… Being aware is better.

        One last thing: I don’t really understand the reason for COREL’s choice of not-enabling the creation of new libraries from scratch. If it’s a strategic choice, what’s the strategy good for?

        Oops, I also wrote quite a tome… :))

        Hugs !


        *Somewhere on my hard disc: from my point of view, it’s quite a help to store the exported brushes, categories and libraries in a file-structure which is similar to the one used in the PAINTER-menus. Just an idea.

        • Hi Geestyle,

          Sorry for the late reply and I can only do some of it tonight, but will follow up tomorrow with the rest of it. First, lets deal with your questions about Captured Dabs.

          a. Go to and open Window > Brush Control Panels > General. At the top of the General Brush Control Panel, you will see Dab types. It doesn’t matter what brush you have selected. Click on the down arrow next to Dab Type. A list will open containing the names of all the dab types. Captured Dab is a dab type. Of all the dab types, it is the only won that is determined by a captured image. It is loads of fun to make images to use for Captured Dabs.
          b. Captured Dabs have been around from the very early days of Painter to the present and future versions of Painter.
          c. I wouldn’t say that any brush is a non-captured dab variant. It is either one or not. The other variants would use another dab type, like static bristle, or camel hair.
          d No…the companion jpg has nothing to do with the captured dab. There is one companion jpg outside of the brush folder. The jpg that are used for the captured dab will be inside the folder with the other three variant file types.

          OK…that’s it for tonight. Catch you tomorrow.

            • Hey Gestyle,

              Looking at your screen capture, the pink box that you have outlined contains the Dab Profile and Brush Calibration. Look at the tabs in the next box down. You will see allgemein, which is the General Brush Control Panel. Click on the allgemein tab and it will open. At the top of the panel, you will see dab types…dab Typen…which is a drop down list with a downward facing triangle. Click the triangle and the list will open. This is the list of dab types that are possible with Painter. Captured Dabs is one of those types.
              I hope I have clarified your confusion,

        • Hi Geestyle,

          Ok…let’s see if I can finish answering your questions.

          You asked, “Do you agree?
          Now, everything seems to work.”
          Yes, I agree.

          You asked, “If I read you right, Painter would generate the other needed files around as soon as I save the dab as itself. I would get the STK, NIB, JPEG and companion-.jpg automatically created and I could customize the companion-.jpg afterwards, is that correct?
          That is correct.

          You asked, “One last thing: I don’t really understand the reason for COREL’s choice of not-enabling the creation of new libraries from scratch. If it’s a strategic choice, what’s the strategy good for?”
          Can’t help you with this one. I am not privy to Corel’s strategies.”

          And you stated, “*Somewhere on my hard disc: from my point of view, it’s quite a help to store the exported brushes, categories and libraries in a file-structure which is similar to the one used in the PAINTER-menus. Just an idea.

          Interesting idea, but I would do it differently, which doesn’t mean better. I have a folder in my documents called Custom Painter Stuff. Inside this folder I keep all my saved custom stuff and materials used to make the custom stuff. So my path would be My Documents > Custom Painter Stuff > Painter 12 Exported Custom Libraries > Cool springs.brushlibrary, Bristly Dabs.brushlibrary, etc. That’s all I need to backup my libraries. Another folder under Custom Painter Stuff is Painter 12 Brushes. Here is where I keep others custom brushes that I have downloaded and categories of my custom brushes that I want to share as well as any variant I want to share. I would not place every brush here.
          I export my workspace at least weekly to a folder called Workspace 12. Now, if Painter has a problem and I cannot open the program without reinstalling or using a shift start to open the program, I can restore Painter to my workspace at the last time it was saved. Everything is restored…all custom stuff, brushes, palettes, papers, etc. It is great insurance.

          Hope this helps…Hugs,

  11. Hello Skip,

    I’m probably posting at the wrong place but I’d like to catch up the occasion in order to ask one thing about the WACOM Art Pen Set-up. To keep it short, here is a screenshot:

    Any idea how to configure things? The physical tip of the felt pen (6D-Art-Pen) should lead how the virtual tip rotates in the application.

    After a couple of exchanges with Wacom, it is not obvious if the 6D-Art-Pen really delivers 6D…



    • Hi G,

      Your link is showing AI. I don’t use Adobe Illustrator and am unfamiliar with how the 6D Art Pen would work with AI. Actually, the 6D Art Pen works only with the Intuos 3 and I have retired my Intuos 3. I am currently working with the Intuos 4 and the Intuos 5 and do not have a way to go back and test with the 6D Art Pen. Otherwise, I would test it in Painter for you.

      I will say that I was never happy with the 6D art pen because of the angled nib. I had difficulty controlling barrel rotation, but that may have been because I was pretty new to Painter at the time. I much prefer the new Art Pens that work with the Intuos 4 and Intuos 5.

      Sorry I cannot be more help,

      • Oh, thank you for answering so quickly over the weekend, Skip!
        Actually, I’m also using PAINTER and MANGA STUDIO, apart from ILLUSTRATOR and PHOTOSHOP etc…, in combination with a CINTIQ 21UX. I indeed created the image from an Illustrator Screenshot, but I’m actually trying to setup things in PAINTER and in the other applications as well.

        The beauty of the angled nib would consist in its similarity with the real COPIC marker nib – recreating the feeling of drawing on a sheet of layout paper, with a broad and a thin nib-side able to be rotated – if only there was an official consequent explenation or video-tutorial how to set up the device.

        After a couple of years searching for a clear “how to” document from WACOM on 6D-Art-Pen, I must wonder they issued a tool with a great promise and a catastrophic documentation ending by:

        WACOM saying “Ask ADOBE / COREL”
        ADOBE / COREL saying “Ask WACOM”

        …typical **beep** situation. 🙂

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