Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 review

Price when reviewed

Over its long history, Paint Shop Pro has built up a great deal of bitmap editing power, but it’s also come to seem dated and increasingly out of tune with the times. New developer Corel is determined to address the problem, though, and in particular to ensure that Paint Shop Pro focuses on the all-important digital camera market.

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 review

This focus on digital photography is evident throughout this X2 release, beginning with PSPP X2’s striking new graphite interface. But it isn’t just a cosmetic improvement: the neutral grey background makes a real difference when it comes to accurate colour correction.

Imitating the high-end Adobe Lightroom (web ID: 110680), PSPP X2 expands its support for raw format files produced by top-of-the-range cameras. Realistically, though, the program’s non-professional target audience is far more likely to be working with JPEGs, and so will derive more benefit from the new ability to combine bracketed exposures to create raw-style images with greater dynamic range. Even more welcome is PSPP X2’s introduction of a poor man’s version of non-destructive editing. When you edit an image, you can automatically save the original in a hidden subfolder; regret your changes and the new Restore Original command lets you start again.

But the biggest practical advance comes in the form of PSPP X2’s Express Lab view. This is a dedicated full-screen workspace, offering the most common correction commands and tools. Crucially, Express Lab enables you to quickly navigate through a folder of images, rotating, straightening, cropping and correcting as you go.

In terms of power, the Express Lab’s deliberately simple colour-correcting capabilities are unremarkable, although the histogram view and colour-cast removal capabilities go some way to make up for the lack of selection tools and control over image sharpness. The Express Lab’s hands-on retouching tools are more impressive: the Makeover tool can quickly give photographic portraits a lift by removing blemishes, whitening teeth and giving pallid skins a subtle tan. Two new options have been added in this latest release with the Eye Drop brush to whiten bloodshot eyes, and the Thinify brush. With one click on this you can instantly apply months’ worth of dieting.

The Express Lab provides almost everything the average user needs to quickly enhance multiple photos, but for in-depth work on a single image you need to return to PSPP X2’s default workspace. With features such as its extensive filter set and support for vector drawing and artistic media, Paint Shop Pro has always prided itself on its creative capabilities. This release draws attention to long-standing capabilities by adding new picture tubes, frames, patterns and preset shapes. It also adds support for layer styles, with which you can automatically add drop shadows, glows, bevels, embossing and reflections.

Instead of adding creative capabilities, Corel again focuses on improving core photographic tasks. As such, the existing Black and White filter has been revamped to offer full-colour channel mixing and filter control when converting colour photos to greyscale, and four new photographic stylising filters have been brought in from the Nik Color Efex Pro collection. Minor tweaks that still manage to improve workflow productivity include the ability to create a new file when cropping, simplified Save As and Resize dialogs, and dedicated new Save for Office and Copy Special commands that automatically resize and select a file format based on what the image will be used for. And if you want to share images on the web, you can apply visible watermarks.

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