Image editing software have become an essential part of a photographer’s life, whether he is an advanced amateur or a professional photographer.
Corel had been a pioneer in the field of image editing with their PaintShop Pro software. But of late, the software has lost out to Adobe Photoshop in popularity. Here is the latest from Corel, the PaintShop Pro x4, which, the company claim, betters Photoshop Elements 9 in functionality.
The PaintShop Pro x4 has a new redesigned interface. The new tabbed interface has three tabs similar to the Photoshop Elements interface. If you are familiar with the Elements 9 interface, you would feel comfortable using this interface. The tools can get you confused with the extensive customisation options, but Corel has provided a 194-page PDF user guide with extensive instructions about the software, which makes it a cakewalk. If you are still confused at any point, you can access the Corel Guide (installed along with the software) from within the interface. This guide provides exhaustive learning resources on every aspect of image editing with the PaintShop Pro x4.
Corel has incorporated a host of new features in the PaintShop Pro x4. These are HDR tools, Photo Blend, Selective Focus Effect, Vignette Effect, and Fill light/Clarity filter. HDR Tools have two settings—Exposure Merge, which combine images shot with different exposure settings, and Batch Merge, which combine multiple bracketed images into a single image with high dynamic range. In Photo Blend mode, you can combine photos of the same scene taken at different times so that you can remove, swap, or add details in the final image. This is useful if you have group photographs and you want to combine images of members with specific facial expressions or remove a person from the image without complex editing work. In Selective Focus mode, you can introduce a tilt-shift (miniature) effect in a photograph. This introduces shallow Depth-of-Field in such a way that the image will look like a miniature model shot with a tilt-shift lens. The software also has a new Vignette Effect, which allows you to introduce a soft outer border. With the fill light effect, you can brighten shadow areas without affecting other areas of the image.
This can be used to introduce a fill flash effect to your photographs. It helps in softening harsh shadows.
The Camera RAW lab
Apart from the new features, Corel has also enhanced the functionality of various existing functions. The software now has a button for sharing your photographs on Facebook and Twitter. This is good, considering that many photographers, especially amateurs, promote their photographs through social media. The built-in Camera RAW lab has an improved histogram and new highlight recovery option in addition to a larger preview area. The new interface has three tabs—Manage, Adjust, and Edit. The Manage tab is similar to the Organizer tab in Photoshop Elements, which allows you to review and organise your photographs. The Adjust tab provides some of the commonly used and essential editing tools (such as brightness, shadows, highlights, and saturation), and the Edit tab opens the full-fledged editing screen with all tools necessary for advanced editing functions.
As the name indicates, this removes unwanted red-eye effect from photographs.
The Manage Screen
The Adjust Screen
The Edit Screen
We tested the Corel Paintshop Pro x4 on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual 3800+ machine with 2.00 GHz processor, 3 GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 6200 TurboCache graphic card and Windows XP Professional installed with Service Pack 3. The software performed very well in our test. In fact, the simplicity of the software kept me hooked on to it. Once set up, mastering the software is not very complicated with help readily available at your finger tips. As in the case with any new system, migrating from Photoshop Elements or any other image editing programme will seem unfamiliar. But once you get a hang of it, the PaintShop Pro x4 does the same job without much hassle. The features like capturing and applying edits, batch RAW processing, scratch remover and object remover are valuable additions because of the simplicity and ease of use compared to other methods like the clone and stamp tools. The fill-light and fill flash options also proved great tools for editing images. The Perspective Correction tool was one of my favourites since it could accurately correct perspective distortion.
We encountered some trouble in installing the PaintShop Pro x4 on two of our computers, but we believe this was because of some compatibility issue of the hardware. Working with Brushes appeared resource-hungry since I felt that the operation slowed down in between. I do not have any major complaint except for the limited adjustment options in Camera RAW.
The PaintShop Pro x4 is in fact filled with effects and adjustment option, and it is beyond the scope of this review to mention all the goodies included.
Value for Money
The Corel PainShop Pro x4 can be downloaded at an MRP of Rs.4,500 with an upgrade pricing of Rs.3,500 if you upgrade from an earlier version. At this price, the software is good value for money.
The very fact that Corel has an Indian website quoting Indian pricing seems reassuring in terms of the support system in place. In fact, once the software is installed, you would not require any additional support, owing to the exhaustive user manual and the excellent tutorials online.
* Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP with latest service packs installed (32-bit or 64-bit editions)
* 1.5 GHz processor (2GHz or faster processor recommended)
* 1 GB RAM (2 GB or higher recommended)
* 1 GB of free hard drive space required (2 GB or greater recommended)
* 1024 x 768 16-bit displayWindows-compatible CD-ROM drive for installation
* Internet connection required to post photos online and download program updates
+ Excellent features
+ Easy to use
+ Elaborate Tutorials and Manual
– Possible trouble with installation
Key Features 17/20
Ease of Use 16/20
Value for Money 17/20
If you are a serious amateur/advanced amateur or a budding professional looking for a cost-effective solution to your image editing needs, the Corel PaintShop Pro x4 is a very good buy. But we feel, the release of this product has come very late since the competition has already upgraded their software to an advanced version from the one that Corel has compared it with. As always, we would recommend you to download a trial version of the software (for that matter, any image editing program) and try it out before purchasing.