Paint Shop Pro X4


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For most needs, Paint Shop Pro X4 more than fits the bill.

The Ultimate edition provides you with a Corel edition of Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 (full version with no restrictions), extra Picture Tubes, stock images from Fotolia and a printed guide to the program.

My recommendation would be to give the 30 day free trial the chance to persuade you that you don’t need a second mortgage to carry out quite sophisticated image processing.




Competitive Information

From a price point of view Paint Shop competes with Photoshop Elements and can generally be found for about one-third less than Elements.

 It competes with Photoshop from a feature point of view at a fraction of the cost of the full version of Photoshop.

What are the system needs?

Corel claim that Paint Shop Pro X4 will run on Windows 7, Vista and XP, and that it is more stable than X3.

Personally, I’ve run it on the first two operating systems and side-by-side with X3 with no difficulty.  I use WACOM tablets, both my Bamboo and Intuos performed as well as in X3 use.  It ran adequately on my laptop machine, but fine editing was really only possible with a tablet.

What’s new in X4?

The very first time you boot the software, the Manage screen will greet you.  It is in this screen that tagging, labeling and filing can be carried out.  Camera and image details appear at this point too.

At the top of the screen there are two new tabs - Adjust and Edit.

paint shop pro 4 first screen


The Adjust tab takes you to a basic yet comprehensive editing facility, just like the Smart Photo Fix in X3 in which a quick fix can be made to the image.  If you follow each of the sections and sliders down in turn, the brightness, contrast, colour balance, sharpening can be adjusted.  The software has a feature called Suggest Settings in which image settings are offered.


paint shop pro 4 adjust screen


The Edit tab takes you to the full X4 editor screen.


paint shop pro 4 edit screen


You can set the program to go to the tab of your preference at start-up, in the File sub-menus.  At this point you will meet the new RAW editor (assuming that the image is RAW).


Raw Editor


paint shop pro 4 raw editor


The RAW converter is not the most accurate one on the market.  It can lead to some errors in colour temperature and demosiacing with some camera RAW files.  Corel have promised that the problems occurring with some camera RAW files will be addressed in a Service Pack patch in the near future.  This problem will not occur if you’ve shot in JPG mode.

The new interface has a larger preview screen than earlier versions, apaint shop pro x4 raw settingsnd more basic editing adjustments can be made.

These basic settings can be remembered for the next time you access that image.

The adjustments are (from top to bottom)
  • Brightness
  • Saturation
  • Shadow
White Balance
  • Scenario (adjustable)
  • Temperature
  • Tint
Highlight Recovery
  • Adjustable
Reduce Noise
  • Threshold
When you choose, you are taken to the Edit workspace.




Workspace

In this lies one of my major criticisms of the software.  The workspace is too dark by far.  The programmers of Paint Shop Pro X4 have promised that an option to change the workspace to at least one other lighter shade.

Similarly the monochromatic buttons/icons can cause some confusion.  Again different button sizes and colours may feature in future patches or Service Packs.

The menu structure of Paint Shop Pro X4 is very logical and allows layers to be created and manipulated readily.

HDR and Merging

In Paint Shop Pro X2 we first saw High Dynamic Range.  Paint Shop Pro X4 has refined this process and added the Photo Blend feature which resembles the Photoshop Elements 9 Photo Merge Group Shot and Street Cleaner features, in which objects can be added to or omitted from an image manufactured from two or more similar shots of the same scene.

My own preference is for the Photoshop Elements 9 feature despite my loyalty to the Paint Shop Pro brand.


paint shop pro 4 merge


16bit Support

The one big edge that the program has over Photoshop Elements 9 is that the filters and adjustments are now 16 bit driven, bar one.  The histogram adjustment remains 8 bit.

The advantage of 16 bit images is that less of the original information is lost than is lost with an 8 bit image.

Two ways of adjustment are possible.  The Adjust sub-menus make changes directly to the image, e.g Colour Curves; Hue and Saturation; Colour balance; Sharpness.  The Layers > New Adjustment Layer sub-menus allow you to add a layer which can be repeatedly edited subsequently should you so need, but without destroying the original image layer.  But beware, multi-layered images are costly on disk space and working memory.  Paint Shop Pro X4 is not noted for economically recycling used memory space.

Curves

Colour curves in Paint Shop Pro X4 give much more creative control than Photoshop Elements 9.

In Photoshop Elements 9 your adjustment of colour curves is in 8 bit and restricted to changing the input values at 63; 127; 190


paint shop pro 4 photoshop elements 9 color curves


Whereas, in Paint Shop Pro X4 there is the same infinite possibility as in CS5, and with 16 bit support so that less of the image data is lost.  In Photoshop Elements 9 you are limited to predetermined presets in the Adjust category; in Paint Shop Pro X4 you can make, save and recall your own presets.


Paint Shop Pro 4 Curves


Plugins

Whilst Paint Shop Pro X4 has new brushes, and filters and editing tools, many of us turn to specialist filter plugins which have the edge, even over Photoshop CS5.  I’ve tested many of these in Paint Shop Pro X4 as well as in Photoshop Elements 9 and Photoshop CS5 to check that they worked and most do.

Selective Focus – Tilt-Shift

Why anyone should want to make the waterfront at Circular Quay and the CBD in Sydney look like a model using tilt-shift or selective focus, I don’t know.  But, you can, and I have, using Paint Shop Pro X4, since that is one of the new features in the Effects > Photo Effects sub-menus.  Old favourites like vignette; sepia; infra-red are there as well.


paint shop pro 4 tilt shift

What else?

I can’t show you all of the enhancements Corel has made since X3 that I’ve explored as a tester; some of the work I’ve seen from fellow testers has shown the widest range of artistic possibility from the product which matches the best out there in the marketplace.




Page Links

Competitive Information

System Requirements

What's New?

Raw Editor

Workspace

HDR and Merging

16 Bit Support

Curves

Plugins

Selective Focus - Tilt Shift

What Else?









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