Corel PaintShop Pro Review & Product Details

Although Photoshop is a fantastic tool, many of its users could get by using Corel’s photo editing program, PaintShop Pro, without having to pay Adobe a monthly fee. PaintShop Pro has layers and can edit both raster and vector image types, which would normally need two Adobe Creative Cloud programs. However, you’ll be missing out on some of the most advanced features of Adobe’s premier picture editor, such as 3D modeling, complex typography, and face liquefy.

PaintShop Pro is speedier than previous versions, yet it lags behind Photoshop in several picture editing procedures. Similarly, while PaintShop Pro’s user interface has dramatically improved over time, it is still not as clean and cohesive as Photoshop’s. PaintShop Pro is a fine option if you’re a Windows user who isn’t dedicated to the Adobe environment, especially given its affordable price.

Corel PaintShop ProHow Much Does PaintShop Pro Cost?

PaintShop Pro 2022 costs $79.99 (or $59.99 as an upgrade from any previous version) and is regularly discounted. AfterShot (Corel’s photo workflow utility for importing and managing digital photographs), Corel Painter Essentials, PhotoMirage Express (converts still shots to animations), and additional brushes and backdrops are included in the Ultimate edition ($99.99, $79.99 upgrade). To receive the AI HDR Studio and Sea-to-Sky Workspace (see below), PhotoMirage animation, and additional brushes, you’ll need Ultra.

PaintShop Pro is available as a subscription via the Microsoft Store app for $7.99 per month. All updates are included, but no cloud storage is included, like with Adobe’s subscriptions.

For those who still object to Adobe’s transition to a subscription-only model for Photoshop, Lightroom, and Illustrator, the one-time purchase choices are a decent match. Both Photoshop and Lightroom are available for $9.99 per month, while Illustrator is available for $19.99 per month if you prepaid for a year. Adobe’s consumer-level picture editing program, Photoshop Elements ($99), does not require a subscription, but it has a more hobbyist feel than the company’s pro-level solutions.

Getting Started With PaintShop Pro

PaintShop Pro requires Windows 10 (version 1903 or later with the most recent Service Pack) to run (64-bit editions). To complete the installation, you must first install a little downloader tool. You must pick between 32-bit, 64-bit, or both—the latter option implies you’ll be able to use both 32-bit and 64-bit plug-ins. Following this, the application requested that I provide an email address in order to create an account, which just required confirmation by an automatically produced email.

ParticleShop brushes and ColorScript color effects (for $14.99 and $4.99, respectively) are two of Corel’s downloadable effect sets. PaintShop Pro was loaded on my test PC, which ran Windows 10 Pro and included a Core i7 6700 processor, 16GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics card.

What’s New in PaintShop Pro?

Corel invests a lot of time and effort on enhancing and expanding the legendary image editing software, using user advisory boards and program data to determine what customers want. AI Background Replacement, AI Portrait Mode, and a vastly better AI Style Transfer are among the new features in the 2022 edition. It also includes new Welcome and startup experiences, as well as compatibility for the HEIC and HEIF file formats used by iPhones. The upgrades include new brushes, color palettes, gradients, patterns, and picture tubes, as well as a Frame tool for putting pictures inside shapes.

The Ultimate edition includes a Highlight Reel video slideshow creator (similar to Corel VideoStudio), MultiCam Capture Lite for screen and webcam video presentations, and Painter Essentials 8 for PC drawing, sketching, and painting.

PaintShop Pro 2021 included a touch-friendly photography option with a split before-and-after view, which is useful for visualizing the results of your modifications. (A side-by-side option, like Lightroom’s, would be nice.) AI Upsampling, AI Denoise, AI Artifact Removal, AI Style Transfer, and the HDR Studio plug-in were also included in that version. The Sea-to-Sky Workspace is a key feature of this upgrade (only in Ultimate). It corrects underwater and aerial photos, such as those captured by a drone, as needed.

Other recent improvements included a host of new tools. SmartClone for blending multiple image choices; Refine Brush for selecting complicated objects like as hair or tree lines; new brushes, color palettes, gradients, patterns, and picture tubes; Text tool updates; and an enhanced Depth of Field tool were among the new features in the 2020 edition. Depth of Field is a feature of the Crop tool that allows you to place the focal region using a five-by-five grid of squares. 360-degree camera capabilities, an enhanced crop toolbar, pen and tablet compatibility, and a more customisable UI were all included in the 2019 edition.

PaintShop’s User Interface

The Welcome screen in PaintShop displays your recent files, product news, tutorials, and available add-ins. Select an image to work with, and the software will launch in one of four workspaces: Photography, Essentials, Complete, or Sea-to-Sky. The top of the Complete program window has only three tabs: Home, Manage, and Edit. The rest, with the exception of the plain Photography workspace, each walk you through an interface tour wizard to show you what’s what.

The photography studio is uncomplicated and user-friendly. As the potential of carpal tunnel syndrome from frequent mouse use grows, I value the option to utilize a touch screen more and more.

Rotate, Crop, Brightness, Color changes, One Step Photo Fix, and White Balance are all available in the Photography workspace. AI Upsampling, AI Denoise, AI Artifact Removal, and AI Style Transfer are among the more advanced features included. There’s also an arrow that leads to other options, such as the handy Local Tone Mapping tool, High Pass Sharpen, Fill Light/Clarity, Vibrancy, and Fade Correction. I’d want to have highlight and shadow adjusters here as well, but they’re missing. Although a Fill Light control compensates for the lack of a shadows slider, the Photography view provides a useful split-screen view to examine the effects of your modifications. You may also change the font and icon sizes, as well as the workspace colors.

Aside from highlights and shadows, another feature I’d like to see in this Photography mode interface is a simpler, one-button approach to access the program’s other, more complex workspaces—Essentials and Complete. Any mode may be selected via the File > Workspace menu, although using buttons would be faster. When you double-click on a slider, it snaps back to its normal setting, which I like to see in picture apps.

You may also start using project templates from the Welcome page. The Create window that opens when you initially launch Photoshop is comparable to PaintShop’s templates. The Blank Canvas tab in the New Image dialog offers a variety of options, including Photo, Paper, Web, Mobile, and Social. I don’t see a Clipboard option, like Photoshop has, that sizes your new project to a picture you’ve copied. Calendars, collages, cards, business reports, and social media are among the document kinds available under the New From Template option, which is similar to Photoshop’s. Although you may develop your own unique templates, the majority of them are in-app purchases in both programs.

Color and size of components such as icons and scroll bars may be customized in the interface. User Interface is the main menu choice for these items. You may increase menu text from here, for example, so that it doesn’t seem so little on a 4K display. (It works fine with my QXD 2560×1440 monitor as well.) The side panels of the main window can likewise be undocked or dismissed. You won’t have to start from scratch because the application contains sample images. The right-panel Learning Center, which assists you with various image-editing operations, is still included in the Complete workspace.

With a simple turn of the mouse wheel, you may zoom in or out to any magnification you like. PaintShop has buttons for 1:1 and Fit Image to Window, as well as the ability to zoom simply by using the mouse wheel.

You perform everything with PaintShop in the same window, unlike Adobe Photoshop Elements, which has a separate Organizer software, but you switch modes for different operations.

Importing and Manage Mode

Manage mode is where you arrange your photo collection, as the name indicates. Even though it has features for organizing and exporting, PaintShop is not a picture processing program like Photoshop. This is notably noticeable when importing images; instead of importing photos, it’s easier to simply open them. PaintShop does not have the large Import button found in workflow tools like Adobe Lightroom. You may import anything from a scanner, camera, or prior versions of PaintShop, including photographs, brushes, gradients, and Picture Tubes, as long as it’s saved in the normal directories.

You may use star ratings, as well as tags for phrases, people, and places, to organize and manage your images. You may also make groupings of images, known as Smart Collections, that fit certain criteria, such as date, name, or tags. Smart Collections allow you to construct a Collection based on criteria such as text in the file name or image size. The automated facial recognition feature in PaintShop has been removed, as has the feature in Photoshop.

Source navigation, which includes folders and collections, is located on the left side. The main content view—thumbnails, full picture, or a map showing photo locations based on GPS data—is in the middle. Double-tapping a thumbnail will bring up a full-screen preview with choices to rate, rotate, delete, or open the picture in the editor. When you save modifications, the images aren’t overwritten; instead, they’re stored in PaintShop’s proprietary PSP format.

You may also save in Adobe PSD format (but vector layers and other capabilities are lost), as well as dozens of other common image formats. Layers are kept when you open a PSD file made with Photoshop, and you may alter them independently to your liking. If you open the generated PSD in Photoshop, your adjustments will be completely editable. This implies that if you’re working with someone who uses Photoshop, you’ll be able to edit in PaintShop with them, but they’ll only see a flattened version of your project if you start in PaintShop.

Workspace Essentials

Though the Essentials workspace is greatly reduced, it contains many useful functions, and you may add and remove tools as needed. There are still 14 menu options along the top of the screen, compared to 11 in Photoshop and 10 in Photoshop Elements. PaintShop, like Photoshop, allows you to build unique workspaces, albeit Photoshop comes with six possibilities by default against PaintShop’s four. Quick, Guided, and Expert modes in Photoshop Elements may be thought of as workspaces.

One peculiarity of the Essentials workspace is the absence of the Manage button at the top, which is present in the other two workspaces.

Photo Editing on a 360-Degree Scale

When you first try to open a 360-degree picture file captured with a camera such as the GoPro Max, a dialog appears asking if you want to edit it as a 360-degree image or open it for modifications and effects. The latter has no effect on the photo’s geometry. Instead, you may only play with the lighting and color effects, as if it were a distorted 2D image. This preserves the 360 format with your lighting modifications, allowing you to share it on Facebook or with other 360 viewers. Corel offers a few sample 360 files to help you get started.

When you open a picture in 360-degree mode, you’ll see a distinct editing window as well as an explanation of what you can do with the file type. Straighten, Remove Tripod, 360-to-Panorama, and Planet effects are the only editing choices. After applying the effect, the last two transform the image from 360 to a standard format, such as JPG.

Straighten is the most helpful tool, and it performed admirably in my tests. This option eliminates your 360-degree photo’s unnatural curves and allows you to choose a viewing angle for the final image. Pan around with the mouse or utilize the Pan, Tilt, Field of View (zoom), and Rotate slider controls. Then, in the format of your choice, you save your work as a conventional 2D snapshot.

Remove Tripod flips your perspective to the bottom, where a tripod would typically appear. You use a circle, a free selection tool, or a square to choose the tripod, and then use Magic Fill to match the surrounding scenery. The Panoramic tool is primarily a crop tool; unlike the Straighten tool, it does not turn the image to a natural-looking panorama.

Tiny planet and its polar opposite, Rabbit Hole, are two planet impacts. On test photographs, the utility performed admirably.

The 360-degree editing window has one tiny annoyance: pressing Cancel after one action exits the editor. I frequently wanted to change from, instance, Straighten to Panorama, but I had to restart.

Basic Photo Retouching

Auto-correction is included in PaintShop Pro, as well as features like a histogram with lighting and color settings. In several of my test photographs, the One Step Photo Fix (accessible in all editing workspaces) fixed lighting issues. You have a lot more flexibility over the Smart Photo Fix dialog. To fix the white balance, choose a neutral area and use the Levels slider to balance a lopsided histogram.

Smart Photo Fix also displays before and after views so you can see how your changes and edits have turned out. The bottom of the corrections window also has a Revert button. After all, there are occasions when you’ve over-adjusted a photograph and just want to start over. The Back and Forward buttons are very useful in this situation.

The Effects menu in PaintShop goes well beyond the Instagram options, however it does include Instant Effects that are similar. The Time Machine feature allows you to view how your photo might have looked if it had been taken between 1839 and 1960. There are several effects available, including artistic, film, black-and-white, and scene lighting. When you click on an effect, you’ll get a preview of the effect alongside your original image. You may download even more effects if the plethora of effects isn’t enough for you.

Another flaw is the inability to regulate the consequences. As I discovered with the Instant Film effect, you may want to tone it down a little. The immediate effects in Photoshop Elements can be adjusted, but not in PaintShop.

Of course, you could fiddle with the image using the app’s various lighting and color settings, but it’s wonderful to have a slider that just sets the effect’s power, much like Instagram. Because applying effects may get untidy, there are Undo and Redo buttons. You may set a limit on how much disk space they take up, but otherwise they’re limitless. Autosave is available, with a minimum duration between saves of 15 minutes—a bit lengthy in my opinion. Another useful feature is the large Revert button, which allows you to start over if things have gone out of hand.

Image Cropping

The crop tool is by far the most often used picture altering tool. Although it may appear that there isn’t much to it, Adobe has enhanced Photoshop’s crop tool, including AI-powered auto-suggested cropping (now also found in Photoshop Elements). Corel also continues to invest on its own crop tool. By darkening the remainder of the image, it provides you a better notion of your eventual product. Overlays for composition guides such as the golden spiral, golden ratio, and rule of thirds are available. When you use the tool to rotate a picture, the crop box stays stationary as the image rotates, allowing you to view the outcome without having to tilt your head.

These are more overlays than Elements has (it doesn’t have the golden spiral, for example), and Elements spins the crop box rather than the picture. Elements, on the other hand, includes some cool cookie cutter crops like hearts and animal shapes, and Adobe’s cropping tools feel more responsive and precise than Corel’s.

Auto-fix, quick effects, and depth-of-field (aka bokeh) effects may all be applied using the Crop toolbar. You’d probably want to focus on those when you’re not cropping, so they’re only marginally useful. Crop as New Picture, which is not available in Photoshop, is my favorite option on the Crop toolbar since it quickly makes a new image utilizing the crop. The depth-of-field tool now has a blur grid in the 2020 release.

Image Tools and Effects that are Cool

Let’s take a closer look at a couple of PaintShop Pro’s newer, more interesting features, many of which use AI machine learning. I’ll start with the most recent of these, which debuted in the 2022 edition.

Artificial Intelligence for Background Replacement Artificial Intelligence for Background Replacement In Photoshop, replacing a photo’s backdrop used to be a multi-step, hit-or-miss procedure. That application, as well as PaintShop, have turned the scenario on its head, making it a one-click process. PaintShop’s AI Backdrop Replacement tool works with human models, while Photoshop and Skylum Luminar now include capabilities for modifying landscape background sky as well. In PaintShop, the latter is still absent.

AI Background replacement is similar to Photoshop’s Subject Select tool, which isolates and masks a human (or even nonhuman) subject in a photo and allows you to fill the background layer with whatever you like. PaintShop, on the other hand, makes the job easier by providing predefined backdrops.

This tool is the ninth item down in the Adjust > Artificial Intelligence menu. I’m not sure why it’s in the Edit, Image, Effects, or Enhance Photo option instead of the Edit, Image, Effects, or Enhance Photo menu. Perhaps an AI Tools panel would be beneficial? The tool is not available in the Photography workspace. It virtually perfected itself in testing, choosing me in a shot with a landscape background. A brush may also be used to refine, add to, and delete a specified region. You may choose between white, black, or transparent checkerboard views to assess how good the selection is.

You may either choose a canned background (beaches, skies, or attractive European town scenes) or your own background picture file in the following stage.

Portrait Mode using Artificial Intelligence. Portrait Mode using Artificial Intelligence. I was anticipating AI face modification features similar to those found in ON1 and Photoshop, however this tool is only used to choose a subject and blur the surrounding. It’s similar to the Portrait mode on the iPhone. The correctness of the selection determines the quality of the final product. For my test photo, the selection wasn’t ideal, but you may adjust it. Because the effect is meant to mimic lens bokeh, the fact that you may pick between round and hexagonal apertures is intriguing. I discovered that utilizing the latter with less feathering was the most effective.

Tool for framing. Tool for framing. This is similar to a collage maker, except it lacks preset arrangements into which you may place photographs and other items. It’s more of a custom frame tool that helps you manage layer groupings. You design rectangles and ellipses after hitting the toolbar button, then drop the images onto them. The program then constructs the relevant layer groups on its own. Go to the File > New from Template menu option if you want completely predesigned frames.

Denoise using Artificial Intelligence. Denoise using Artificial Intelligence. One of my pet peeves about picture processing is having to deal with many sliders to eliminate noise. The Corel tool analyzes the image, and while this takes time, the end effect is amazing, as shown below (left side is before, right is after). You may move the background around to suit your preferences.

It’s difficult to discern, but the way the noise was eliminated from the eye resulted in a much more realistic image. Despite the smoothing of some fine detail, the image seems crisper due to the removal of noise distortion. Denoise tools are available in a variety of menu settings, but the AI version is found under Adjust > Artificial Intelligence. The Enhanced option button causes the procedure to take longer in order to get a better outcome with less information loss. It reminds me of DxO’s PureRAW, which trades speed for better results in a similar way. Corel’s, on the other hand, aren’t as impressive as those provided by DxO’s program.

Upsampling by artificial intelligence. Upsampling by artificial intelligence. We’ve all dealt with images that were either too tiny or too low-resolution for the task at hand. When you magnify such photographs, this tool does a fantastic job of erasing the blocky look. The left side of the image above reveals the blocky artifacts, but the right side makes advantage of Corel’s AI Upsampling tool to generate a smooth, appealing effect. Although the program includes denoising, I was able to get this outcome without it. Photoshop has various enlargement sample choices, but none of them came close to this effect when applied to the same image. Blockiness and artifact distortion were still present in all of them.

AI Artifact Removal is a technique for removing artificial intelligence artifacts. AI Artifact Removal is a technique for removing artificial intelligence artifacts. This tool, which appears to employ similar techniques to the AI Upsampling tool above, is designed specifically for JPG picture compression. This is a one-click program, similar to AI Denoise, that presents a creative full-screen animation as it works. In my tests, the program only worked with one type of distortion: JPEG compression blocks. There is no correction for blotchier distortion.

Transfer of AI Style. Transfer of AI Style. This is an effect called Pic-to-Painting in an earlier version of PaintShop. It’s only accessible in the minimalist Photography workspace, where it’s found in an Instant Effects panel with other effects. These effects are similar to the Prisma-app frenzy of a few years ago, and they’ve emerged in a number of picture programs, including the rival CyberLink PhotoDirector. They utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to create art from your images that looks like Picasso or Van Gogh.

Corel comes with a wide range of painterly and creative effects by default, but CyberLink requires additional downloads and charges extra for some of the effects. You may customize the effect by adjusting the strength of the effect using a slider. The split before-and-after view, as seen above, is available in the Photography interface.

Strength, Color Match (new with the 2022 edition), and Smooth Image are three sliders that only modify the little preview thumbnail before applying the effect. One thing to keep in mind about the interface: to apply an effect, you must double-tap on the thumbnail, which isn’t immediately clear. After that, you’ll watch a startling animation of constellations. After applying one style transfer and then moving to another, the original one returned after processing, which looked to be a glitch.

Sea-to-Sky. This module has the same appearance as the Photography workspace, however it just has four buttons at first: Corrective, Scenic, Low Light, and Creative. It’s only available at the highest level, Ultimate.

Even though the effects don’t expressly specify “this one is for underwater, and this one is for drone shots,” almost every choice improved my underwater film shot. The effects on the ground were largely applied to the things on the ground, not to the sky, in a drone photo I tried. Though some color cast was applied, it did an excellent job capturing a foggy drone photo.

AI HDR Studio is an AI-powered HDR studio. AI HDR Studio is an AI-powered HDR studio. This feature is only accessible in the PaintShop Pro Ultimate version. Corel chose against completely integrating it with the other application. It’s only available as a plug-in from the Effects > Plug-ins menu, and it has a distinct interface from the rest of the application. It allows you to create single-shot HDR effects, however it also supports multi-shot HDR.

You choose a look from a menu of 16 example thumbnails and customize the effect to taste, much like with AI Style Transfer. The effects are a little too intense for me, but lowering the intensity slider will give you a more realistic boost. Unfortunately, this tool lacks a before/after split screen view.

Photo Retouching Expertise

When you go to Edit mode, you’ll have access to all of the tools. You can create layers, edit grouped items, and modify curves and levels much like in Photoshop. Layers are significantly better done than in ON1 Photo Raw, with an extra panel that provides a more Photoshop-like, clear view of each layer. With all the blending modes you’d expect, you can create Vector, Raster, Art Media, Mask, and Adjustment layer types.

Curves is a very strong tool, with up to 16 control points, allowing me to create some bizarre effects. The Retro Lab more than makes up for the lack of customization in Instant Effects. You may change the blur, diffuse, glow, hue, and more.

Smart Selection and Auto Selection are two selection tools that are comparable to Photoshop’s magic wand. The first performed a good job of allowing me to brush an edge-detected selection. The Auto Selection, on the other hand, is more amazing. When you draw a box, the tool picks an object from within it. This worked only with highly consistent backdrops (a clear sky, for example) and objects with well-defined edges in my tests. Even so, it’s a handy tool for removing a head and placing it against a new backdrop. It works pretty well in the correct situations.

Any decision you’ve made may be fine-tuned with the Refine Brush tool. It works well with challenging themes like hair and tree lines. A Refine Brush button shows in the upper right corner once you’ve made a selection. This brings up an adjustment window where you may change the size, smoothness, feathering, and border of the tool. To make your pick more visible, you may use a red, black, or transparent background. When you’re finished, you may choose from selection, mask, new layer, and new mask layer as export choices.

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