Paint Shop Pro Raw

This tutorial on the Paint Shop Pro Raw dialogue will work with version X3 only.  Paint Shop Pro X2 opens RAW images with Smartfix.

Similarly, you'll find this tutorial of little help until you shoot in RAW mode.

If you are unable to change the output mode of your camera, then you probably shoot in JPEG mode.

If when you've read this tutorial you find that the RAW editor isn't for you, you can turn it off.  In Paint Shop Pro X3 choose File > Preferences > File Format Preferences, in the General tab, un-check the Open Camera Raw images with RAW Loader to disable the RAW editor.

Paint Shop Pro Raw Files

Camera RAW does exactly what the label says.  It is the raw data from the camera sensor.  Whereas, JPG is image data which has been manipulated by the process engine in the camera.

If the camera chip is 4500pixel by 3000pixel, the file size for RAW will be just that,

4500 x 3000 = 13 500 000 or 13.5Mbytes.

The JPG image can be any value since the algorithms used by the processor (the maths to you and me) look at each individual pixel and its neighbours for commonality.  If a group of pixels share nearly the same value, then that’s what they become – a group of pixels with the same value and file space is saved.

The margin of error can be set to any value, and quite a wide range of, say blue in the sky, can become uniform blue.  Once that processing has been done, the original data is lost, and you cannot go back to the slight nuances of colour that the sky image once possessed.

A similar process occurs when you process and compress the file in ANY image processing software.  Progressively more and more data is lost.  This is covered in more detail on the Saving Your Work Tutorial.

The only downside to RAW is the support available.  Each camera, even within a single manufacturer, can have a different variant of RAW and so may or may not be compatible with Paint Shop Pro.  Corel’s customer support pages have comprehensive coverage of the cameras for which there is RAW support, and is up-dated regularly.  But you should not expect that support for your camera today will be available tomorrow and important images should be stored in a more accessible format like TIFF.

Paint Shop Pro Raw Development

A good image sensor will outperform analogue film for exposure range.  Analogue film is chemically developed to release the image.  The processing is always designed to suit the film and the EV range of the images it contains.  In a similar way the RAW editor in the image processing software releases the image from the RAW file to suit the EV range of the image. 

Unlike film processing, RAW processing leaves the original image untouched and you can Paint Shop Pro RAW process over and over again until you release exactly what YOU want from the image.

Analogue film photographers may be familiar with the maxim, "Expose for the shadows; develop for the highlights."  Providing there was sufficient detail in the shadows the analogue photographer could adjust the chemical composition of the developing bath and the time the film sat in the bath to get just enough detail in the highlights without them burning out.

If we compare the recording range of
  • Print paper is 8EV
  • An LCD screen is 8EV
  • Analogue film is 10EV
  • An average digital sensor is 12EV
  • A top digital sensor is 19EV

The RAW editor performs in the same way as the film development process, except unlike analogue film, the RAW camera file remains unchanged.  The only thing to change is an attached file that remembers the values you've chosen if you require them again.  But you can go right back in and set new values.

The purpose of the RAW editor is simply to set some basic values just like having a film processed at a D&P house - all the prints get a basic process.  Don't worry about the original images, they're still available for you to refine and improve to your heart's content.

Paint Shop Pro Raw Editor

Unless you’ve switched RAW editor off in the preferences, when you double-click on a RAW image in your browser or in the Paint Shop Pro workspace you’ll open the editor.

paint shop pro raw editor

The buttons are self-explanatory.


Perhaps the most important one is brightness.

This sets the top of the EV range that the editor will handle.

If you’ve an image with a wide EV range from a good camera sensor, it will out-perform the range of the paper or screen.  So you need to decide whether you’re going to “pull process”, ie not process the image as far, which in RAW terms means to set the brightness slider to -1 or -2 or -3.

Or, are you going to “burn out the highlights”, ie process the image more fully, which in RAW terms means to set the brightness slider to +1 or +2 or +3.

In any event, the image will want some TLC to get the tonal range to fit.  But see below for another trick you can use.


Unless you knowingly have an image with low or high colour saturation, you’re probably best leaving this slider set at the centre position.  Moving it to the left decreases the colour saturation; moving it to the right increases the colour saturation.


Moving the shadow slider to the right darkens the shadow areas of the image.

White Balance

Again, unless there’s really something at issue with the image, the white balance sliders are definitely best avoided.  If you’re tempted, small movements of the slider produce mega changes in the image.

Fortunately there are some pre-sets.  The larger the temperature value you choose, the warmer the image will become as Paint Shop Pro adjusts the image to that which it would look like if it’d been taken with light at the temperature you specified.

Noise Reduction

The noise reduction filter really only applies if you’ve taken the image with the ISO rating on the camera racked far too high or in a low light situation.

The save image settings check box writes a little note to the image file remembering the values you’ve chosen – but the original image is untouched – you can go straight back to it and process it again in a different way should you want.

An HDR Example

So what clever stuff can you do with it other than basic image processing that can be undone?

In the shot on Kerikeri beach, my DSLR coped with the wide lighting range of the subject, but when I came to look at the image I was disappointed and wished I’d gone for HDR.

I loaded my image separately 3 times and chose three different brightness settings.

paint shop pro raw multi

For each image, I saved the file as a TIFF file and closed it.

paint shop pro raw minus 3
Minus 3 Setting
paint shop pro raw zero setting
Zero Setting
paint shop pro raw plus 3
Plus 3 Setting

I’d now got a range with details in my shadows and details in my highlights across the three images.

paint shop pro raw hadr dialogue

Then using the HDR editor I re-loaded all of the three files.  With a slight tweak on the Brightness and Local tone settings sliders – I’d got a reasonable image with little fuss.

paint shop pro raw final hdr

You might also find the HDR page and the Tonal Range  Page useful and informative.

Page Links

Raw Files

Raw Development

Raw Editor
An HDR Example

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