PaintShop has been around for over 20 years. It hasn’t vanished because it’s a powerful graphics/photo editing application and —in a world awash with pedestrian software—it’s still a hell of a lot of fun to use.
But there’s more to it than that. Corel PaintShop Pro X4 Ultimate gives Adobe Photoshop a run for its money. I know that’s saying a lot, but we’ll take it one step further by adding that X4’s native filter set is superior. For example, Photoshop’s Pixel Bender Gallery doesn’t hold a candle to the Geometric effects in PaintShop Pro. Adobe relies on third-party vendors for their filter power. But then, the Ultimate edition of PaintShop Pro includes Nik Color Efex as well as KPT filters.
Add to this an astoundingly low price for PaintShop Pro X4 Ultimate and you have a STREET SMART Editor’s Choice award-winner.
Downloading a trial version of X4 should be enough to make graphic artists and photographers on a tight budget dive right in. Besides saving a bundle of moo, you’ll be able to do just about everything with X4. (If you need to do absolutely everything, Photoshop still rules.)
Here at Zoom Street we’ve found room for both applications, and use PaintShop whenever we want to create unique special effects. PaintShop offers built-in image management and all the tools to enhance or manipulate photos, as well as create original designs. Yes, you work with layers, masks and selections, and can export images in every imaginable file format—including “PSD.”
For newcomers, the interface sucks you right in. Upon launch it feels a bit like being in a theater on opening night—the anticipation of possibilities. If the array of tools seems intimidating, there’s a built-in Learning Center panel to guide you step by step.
Since High Dynamic Range imaging remains the rage, version X4 includes a complete set of HDR tools, including a powerful Batch Merge feature.
Selective Focus controls provide dramatic Tilt-Shift effects. (Click on screen-shots for larger views.)
An interface element we find particularly handy is to the ability to preview effects in small before/after windows, or you can opt to have results shown on the image itself.
Effects controls are easily adjusted via common slider bars.
The popular Time Machine feature (shown below) remains a crowd-pleaser. Here you can treat your photos to vintage styles such as Albumen, Cyanotype, Box camera, etc.
Picture Tube is pure fun. With this tool you click and place preset images with transparent backgrounds on top of an image. Clicking and dragging produces multiple images like the skulls we “tubed” in the example below. X4 comes with a gallery of images, but you can also create your own.
New and enhanced features include:
The HDR (high dynamic range) tools have been completely redesigned to give you more control over your results and help you take full advantage of photos taken with auto-bracketing features on DSLRs. Exposure Merge lets you combine photos taken with different exposure settings to create stunning, perfectly exposed images. For high-contrast backlit scenes, such as sunsets and interior window shots, you can bring out color and detail in the foreground, midground, and background areas. Batch Merge lets you merge multiple bracketed sets of photos. If you use an auto-bracketing feature often, you’ll find this to be an invaluable tool for processing HDR sets quickly.images.
Combine photos of the same scene to remove, swap, or add details in the final image. For example, remove cars and people from a street scene, swap in the best smiles from a series of group photos, or include multiple poses of the same person in one image. For more information, see Combining photos with Photo Blend.
Selective Focus effect
Selective Focus lets you create a miniature effect (also called a tilt-shift effect), transforming a real scene into a toy-like miniature model. You can also use Selective Focus to bring attention to important parts of your images — it’s perfect for blurring out busy details around your subjects. For more information, see To apply a miniature effect by using Selective Focus.
Vignette is a classic effect that lets you bring attention to the most important part of your photo by applying a soft outer border that fades to white or black. For more information, see To apply a Vignette effect.
Fill Light/Clarity filter
Fill Light brightens shadow areas of photos without affecting other areas of the photo. Clarity enhances subtle yet important details. For more information, see To brighten dark areas and adjust clarity.
New & Enhanced Built-in sharing to Facebook and Flickr
Share to Facebook or Flickr with the click of a button. For more information, see Uploading photos to a sharing site.
Enhanced Camera RAW Lab
The Camera RAW Lab now has a larger preview area and an improved histogram that makes it easier to assess your adjustments. New highlight recovery options can help reconstruct detail in overexposed areas. For more information, see Working with camera RAW photos.
Enhanced Tabbed workspaces
The application has been redesigned so you can move easily between photo workflows. Click the tabs at the top of the Corel PaintShop Pro window to switch workspaces. The Manage workspace gives you all the power to review and organize your photos. It also lets you access multi-photo processing options. The Adjust workspace puts commonly-used editing tools at your fingertips. Finally, the Edit workspace provides you with a full range of professional-level editing tools. No matter which workspace you’re in, the Organizer palette is always there — no need to go to a separate workspace or application to find more photos. For more information, see Workspace tour.
With new performance updates, including GPU optimizations, Corel PaintShop Pro is even faster than previous versions. Effects, such as Noise Reduction, Vibrancy and Tone Mapping, can now be applied and adjusted in real time.
Enhanced Full-screen review
Quick Review lets you review your photos in a full-screen window. The feature now focuses on speed and simplicity. You can quickly view, delete, rotate, and rate your photos. For more information, see Using Quick Review to review photos.
CLICK HERE to download a trial version of Corel PaintShop Pro X4.