How to Recover Your Custom Data After a Painter Crash

Hello Everyone,

OK, Painter crashed and no matter what I did, I could not open it again.  To start Painter I had to either use a Shift-Start or uninstall and re-install, which meant I would lose all of my custom brushes, papers, flow maps, etc.  Sound familiar; I hope not.  But, I know that some of my readers have experienced this same horror.  Well, all is not lost.  Follow along as I show you how I recovered my custom files.

The first thing to do after a crash is to try to open Painter again.  If that doesn’t work, then try rebooting your computer and then open Painter.  If that doesn’t work, then try uninstalling Painter, but when you start the process you will get the option to either repair or remove Painter.  Do not remove it, but do try a repair.  Hopefully, one of the above steps will allow you to open Painter again, but if it doesn’t, then follow what I did.

For a PC first copy and save your workspace information to your documents.  In a PC, go to Desktop > User System Folder (usually your name) > AppData > Roaming > Corel > Painter 2015 (or X3, or 12.2) > Your Workspace name…or default if you haven’t made a workspace.  Once you get to your workspace, copy the information and paste it to a new folder in your documents or somewhere you can find it again.  Do not copy it in the Painter user area.

If you are on a Mac, then go to your Finder Menu and select Go > Go To Folder and in the box that opens type: ~/Library and hit Go.  Now in the finder select Application Support > Corel > Painter 2015 > Your Workspace name…or default if you haven’t made a workspace.  Once you get to your workspace, copy the information and paste it to a new folder in your documents or somewhere you can find it again.  Do not copy it in the Painter user area.

Watch the following video about saving your workspace.

Now that I saved the workspace, I can open Painter using a Shift – Start or uninstalling and re-installing.  What is a Shift – Start.  It is a very neat way to open painter with a corrupted workspace or something that blocks Painter from opening.  Hold down the shift key and start Painter normally, but don’t let up on the shift key.  A window will open that asks if you want to set Painter back to factory defaults.  At this point, release your shift key and select all workspaces and hit the enter key.  At this point, Painter deletes all custom files.  That is why it is important to copy your workspace files before a Shift – Start.  The same is true if you uninstall and re-install Painter.

Once Painter is operating again, I want to import my saved workspace into Painter, but I have to prepare it for import.  I do this by selecting the contents of the saved workspace folder and zipping them.  Then I change the name to the name I want to use for my workspace, and this is very important, I changed the extension .zip to .pws.  Changing the extension prompts the OS to give me a warning that changing the extension can corrupt the file.  I ignore the warning and proceed with the changes.  Now the file is ready for import.

I opened Painter and went to Window > Workspace > Import Workspace > and navigated to my zipped file, selected it, and hit open.  If my workspace isn’t corrupted, it will open in Painter.  My experience is about 50/50; meaning that about 50% of the time this will work, but 50% of the time my workspace still crashes Painter.

The following video shows you how to prepare your workspace for import:

All is still not lost.  I can import my custom files individually from my saved workspace to Painter.  I started with brushes.  In my saved workspace folder, there are a series of folders and some files.  The first folder is Brushes.  I opened that folder and found another series of folders.  Each one of these folders represent a Painter brush library.  Three of them are the default brush libraries that came with Painter, Painter Brushes, Painter 13 brushes, and Painter 14 brushes.  Don’t let the name Painter 14 brushes confuse you; that is the name of the Painter 2015 brush library.  It is possible, if you have never created a Painter brush library, these three libraries will be all that you have.  You do not want to import these libraries again.  More on that later.

If you do have more than the three default libraries, you do want to import each library into Painter.  To do that, I opened the brush library folder and selected the contents of the folder and zipped it.  Again, I changed the name to the name I want to use for the library.  This time I changed .zip to .brushlibrary.  To import into Painter, I go to Brushes > Import > Brush Library and select my newly created file for import.  I do this for each library.

But, I also have some custom categories in my default brush library.  Most of you will, too.  It is not a good idea to import the default libraries into Painter, but you can import each category.  To import a category, I open the Brush library folder.  In the folder, there are another group of folders plus .jpgs with the same name.  I want to select one of the custom folders and select its companion .jpg.  I zip those two items and change the name to the name of the brush category and the .zip to .brushcategory.  Before import, I make sure I am in the library I want the category placed.  Then I go to Brushes > Import > Category and select my newly made brush category for import.

The video version for import follows:

But what about my custom papers, flow maps, patterns, etc. I can hear you saying.  Don’t worry, that is what I do next.  Back in the corrupted workspace, notice the folders called papers, flow maps, patterns, looks, gradients, weaves and so forth.  Those contain your media libraries.  To prepare them for import, I followed the same method used for preparing brush libraries.  For papers, I opened the paper folder and each folder therein represents a paper library.    I opened one of the paper library folders and selected the entire contents, zipped it, and then changed its name to reflect the name of the paper library.  I also changed .zip to .paperlibrary.  I did this for each paper library folder contained in the paper folder.  Next, I opened Painter and opened my Paper Library Panel and selected the fly out menu in the upper right corner and picked import paper library.  I navigated to my newly made paper library files and selected one to import.  I did this for each paper library.

I used the same technique for flow maps, patterns, and the rest of the media libraries, but each extension is different for each type of library.  To find the extension needed, I went to each type of library, for example, I opened the flow map library.  I clicked on the fly out menu or option button in the upper right corner.  From the list, I pick import library.  A window opens and in the lower left corner above Open and Cancel is a drop down menu.  If I hover my cursor over this menu, I will see the extension necessary to import the file.  In this case I would change .zip to .flowmaplibrary.  Come on…it isn’t that complex.  Watch the next video to see how to do it.

Import Custom Media files in this video:

So, what’s left?  Color sets, mixer pads, arranged palettes, and even custom palettes can be recovered.  Actually, these are easier to do, but there are a couple of tricks.  It is easier to explain in the following video.

Importing Color set, etc.:

That’s it.  Yes, I know it is a lot of stuff, but is way easier than rebuilding all your custom files from scratch.  In my case, if I lose a brush that hasn’t been exported, it is next to impossible to recreate that brush from memory.  However, if you are just using a custom brush set made by me or someone else, it is easier to just import the set again.

But even easier that importing the set again, it is best if you export the workspace monthly, weekly or even daily.  Let’s talk prevention.  A workspace has all the custom information…everything.  Painter offers the ability to export workspaces.  There is one warning.  It is static, meaning that the information is current to the date of export.  If you add more custom stuff, unless you export your workspace again, that new stuff will be lost.  I try to export my workspace weekly and if I am making a bunch of stuff, I will do it daily.  Then if Painter crashes, I can just import my exported workspace and be back in business quickly.  It is always good to export custom stuff individually, too.  You can export custom palettes, brush categories, brush libraries, brushes, paper libraries, etc.  But, for me, I find exporting my workspace routinely works well, and I don’t export custom files individually.

The next video tells you how to export a workspace:

That’s all folks.  I hope you never have a Painter crash and lose your custom stuff, but if you do, these procedures work well for me.  One last warning.  Every computer is different and your results may not be the same as mine.  I cannot guarantee everything will work the same for you.  Proceed with caution.



27 responses to “How to Recover Your Custom Data After a Painter Crash

  1. Thank you, Skip! This post is an excellent resource for everyone, not only for those unfortunate enough to experience a devastating crash, but also for those of us who want to understand how the different components of Painter are organized. Your descriptions of how to restore the papers, custom brushes, textures, etc. and the process for keeping a workspace export up to date, has given be insight into how Painter can be used and managed efficiently. Thank you again for making the effort to prepare and offer this post.

    • Thanks Mike. I appreciate the comment. I am glad you are finding it useful without a crash. I forget about basics sometimes and the fact that the information may be new or could be used in different ways. If there is any topic you would like to see explored, please let me know. Thanks again, skip

  2. Thanks Skipper! I have unfortunately been in this position and the only thing that saved me was remembering you always saying backup your workspace. I do it religiously!! Thanks for saving my sanity!!

    • Thanks Barb, great to know that folks are listening and heeding the advice to export the workspace. It really is important. Now if I can remember to take my own advice…LOL.

  3. Excellent stuff, Skip, this should be very helpful if one is faced with a similar situation. I created a folder on my desktop and on a external hard drive where I keep my brushes and workspaces. All of my brushes and workspaces are from great Corel masters such as yourself, so it would be painful to loose them. A good place to store stuff is on a flash drive or on a DVD. I remember not being able boot painter one time and remembered seeing seeing a video on rebooting with the shift key down and was able to open painter.

    • Hey Ted,
      Yep, the shift restart trick has saved many a day. Keeping your information backed up off your computer is very important. It is the only way to recover from a corrupted hard drive or if your computer dies. Thanks for mentioning it.

  4. Skip,
    I listened to you long ago and followed your advice and have always saved my workspaces as I change things and also the other custom stuff.

    It really paid off a few weeks ago as Painter crashed on start from a bad pattern file. I reset prefs on start and then imported a previously good saved .pws workspace and I was back in business….despite a crash error message that seemed to blame my video driver software like when I had a Photoshop crash for that very reason.

    So I was back in business with Painter with no losses and recovery was easy.

    None the less, I just did an apps data folder save as explained in your first video, because a saved .pws file is only readable/useable by Painter….and having all the separate folders and files is a much more understandable way to recover parts of a workspace…in the event a .pws file does not salvage what was needed…or I want to generate a new kind of workspace from the pieces I already have.

    At any rate…your explanations were very clear and organized…thanks for ALL the tips, for years now….you really provide great advice…it pays for us to listen and use your knowledge. Thanks for sharing.


  5. Skip, this is excellent, however it, the horror, happened to me last week and TWICE after I had to install everything again, luckily I had saved all my brushes, my flow maps, papers, etc. to my external hard drive, yay I did not lose my downloads.

    I will save this information and hopefully, there will not be a third time.

    • So sorry to hear about your troubles, Mayra. I hope it never happens again. If it does, I hope you are able to recover everything like you did this time.
      Good luck,

  6. Thank you Skip, this is valuable information. You are very giving and I very much appreciate it. I haven’t suffered a crash so far but now I will be able to handle the situation.

  7. Hi Skip, Hope all is well. Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve had two major crashes and lost everything. I didn’t have any of my custom palettes saved and after almost 6 hours of custom work done it crashed,again.Thanks again Skip!!! Have a great day.

  8. Hi Skip.
    I just got a Wacom Intuos Pro along with a copy of Corel Painter 2015.

    In your videos (and some other videos I seen) you got a custom brush library in it’s own window. How did you do that? Would love to be able to just have the ones I often use easy at hand.

    In this video for example it is called Custom 1. But I have seen other ones.
    I can not, for the life of me, find how to do it =/

    Please help =)

    • Hello Andreas,
      what you are seeing is called a custom palette. A search for custom palette should bring up a number of videos or other information about how to make them. I haven’t done a basic video about custom palettes since Painter 12 and do need to do one. But the video using Painter 12 does give the basic information about making a custom palette. You can find it here: Custom Palettes I also have one on You Tube…Custom Palettes for Categories. But if you do a search for custom palettes, I’m sure you will be able to find lots of information. Hope this helps. skip

  9. Hi Skip,

    I found this tutorial because of a problem i’ve got with painter 2016
    Painter crashed and was’nt able to restart.
    I backupped de roaming maps and used the shift option.
    By placing the maps and files back we discoverd a file: brush-variant-library-list.xml that caused te startup trouble.
    In this file the brush Speckle Wash is loading. When thats not the case and i load another brush, Painter doesn’t crash.
    When i change in painter my brush to Speckle Wash, The program is having a error and have to be shut down.
    When i try al this on my other computer the Speckle Wash brush just loads normal without problems.

    Do you have any ideas?

    Greetz Mees.

    • Hello Greetz,
      So sorry for the delay. I have a bit of a cold and haven’t been watching the blog carefully. I don’t know what to tell you. Speckle Wash works fine for me. But, I have heard of this same thing happening with others. I honestly do not know what to tell you. I suppose you might try exporting Speckle Wash from the computer that it works on…and then importing it into the computer that it doesn’t work on. It will come in as Speckle Wash 1 and that will tell you which is which…old versus new. I don’t know if this will work or not…I suppose it would if the variant was corrupted somehow, but I really don’t know what to do. My guess is there is some sort of conflict that is on the computer that is having the problem.
      Are you having trouble getting painter to work after using the brush? If so, I would delete the brush from your computer. If you do not know how to do that, let me know and I’ll walk you through it.

Leave a Reply