Corel PaintShop Pro X4

3/26/2012 9:03:22 AM

Corel PaintShop Pro X4

4 stars

$99.99 including VAT

We’re sympathetic towards Corel, which basically makes the most creative software but seems that they are always under the shadow of Adobe. Could this version of PaintShop Pro put an end to the domination of Photoshop Element?

There was a significant rethinking about the layout of the software. 3 working zones of it (Organizer, Express Lab and Full Editor before) are shown in 3 tabs: Manage, Adjust and Edit, Project Editor, which had handled tasks such as photo books, calendars, back up and uploading to Flickr and Facebook, vanished.  Most of its functions also disappeared, but the upload is integrated into the Organizer tab now. The attached copy of Corel Painter Photo Essentials 4 which we loved in X3 was another victim.

Nevertheless, upgraders don’t need to uninstall those additional applications, and the integrated layout of PaintShop Pro is a huge improvement. Corel said the performance was faster though we couldn’t compare directly. Because Manage mode doesn’t save thumbnails till we ask to see them; browsing the gallery is quite slow at first. Manage mode also has less options to sort and filter the gallery.

New things

Many new features help users to get more from their photos. HDR images composed of merging images taken in different exposure settings into a single image. It has been available since the X2 version, but currently it can control more with the ability to identify which bits in photos it should give priority, as well as adjust the brightness and contrast of highlight, midtone and shadow after merging. It is able to create anything from restoring hightlight and shadow to images edited clearly and dramatically. Nonetheless, there are awkward areas in images in our tests.

Photo Blend makes us exhausted to try to merge the best bits of a portrait group into an image. We have to make more rules we expected to avoid the shadow but it works quickly and efficiently.

Selective Focus is similar to Depth of Field introduced in Photoshop Elements 10. The focus zone is defined by a rectangular ring, so it’s suitable for the effect minimizing images in which buildings are the same as model villages. PainShop Pro changes subtly the sharpness to the blur instead of changing clear and blurred layers only; it seems more convincing but effects couldn’t be altered after applying.

Adjustment layers means you can edit images without ruin them; apply a lot of filters for images but save the settings instead of the outcome of their application. It means that you can easily change settings later yet you don’t need to reprocess again and again, and it will be easier to use more color blending in succession.

PaintShop Pro has provided development tools for Raw images since the X3 version, but unfortunately, they are not better than the imperfect efforts before. Tools display preview areas larger and include highlight restoring, but there are fewer processing options and the quality of the result is not enough.

Sending Raw files to Adjust instead of Edit mode has brought a different raw processing tool, which is slightly better in controlling the outcome quality. However, they are still worse than the excellent Raw processing of Photoshop Elements, especially with the noise reduction. Strangely, it seems that two modes processing Raw of PaintShop Pro don’t recognize each other. After using controls of Adjust tab and click edit, we were invited to Save As then process Raw from the start by using other worse controls.

Besides Raw processing, PaintShop Pro of Corel doesn’t lose Photoshop Elements about features and product quality, but those little things can make a big distinction. PaintShop Pro often tell us to wait while it updates the preview, that means setting effects requires efforts and low display after our actions through few quick strokes. It can say that the color editing based on curves is an advantage over Photoshop Elements, but now when both of them support layer masks, PaintShop Pro is not obviously better for advanced users. It is also not as strong as Photoshop Elements 10, but it’s not much worse.


Evaluation. It can’t beat Photoshop Elements, but with the powerful editing, this cheaper software has some pros.

Editing image software. Windows XP (SP2)/Vista/7, 1.5GHz processor, 1GB of RAM (2GHz, 2GB recommended), 1GB of disk space.


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