Corel PaintShop Pro X9 in Review
Staff Writer By: Nick Sorbin (nickcharles)
Corel's PaintShop Pro image editing software has been an affordable, and widely-known, alternative to Adobe's Photoshop for a long time. And, I would say as an image editor and design tool, it's a slim gap between the two in what each program offers. But, one way for sure that puts PaintShop Pro ahead is ease of use. Corel's recently released PaintShop Pro X9 shows this even more. It sports an abundance of new and exciting features to make it easier than ever to make your photos, and designs, look their very best. And, perhaps, it just might pull more users away from their current subscription plans elsewhere.
The new PaintShop Pro X9 does more to boost your creativity, with exciting new features, time-saving tools, and a more intuitive work environment. PaintShop Pro has a very wide ranging user-base, where photographers, graphic designers, and even video producers can enjoy and employ it in any number of instances. Though you might immediately see a program built for photographers, there is so much more to PaintShop Pro, that it can be a central part of most any workflow.
PaintShop Pro X9 is available in both a standard and an ultimate version. The Ultimate version adds in the new AfterShot 3 RAW photo editor, Perfectly Clear 2 SE automatic photo correction, and the new Live Screen Capture screen recording. The standard version is what I am reviewing here.
When you first start up PaintShop Pro X9 you are greeted with a welcome screen that includes a video tutorial library with everything you need to get up to speed on the software. There is also a 'Get More' tab on the welcome screen, which showcases additional products you can choose to purchase, like plug-ins, scripts, and brushes.
After closing the welcome screen, you get a full guided tour via dialog boxes that introduce you to the interface. The interface for PaintShop Pro is unique with its three modes: Manage, Adjust, and Edit. Via these three mode tabs atop the interface, you can shift work swiftly, without leaving the program. On first open, you are in Manage mode, but you can change preference to open the program in any mode you choose later on.
Manage mode allows you to organize your photos, and it does this very well. You can tag and rate images, and even create collections of images in any way. The panel on the left is your source folders, and the panel on the right displays the current selected image info, such as image file properties and camera data. Center screen is the image window, of course, and images can be displayed in full view, thumbnails, and map mode (location of the shot image).
The Adjust mode is mainly for quick edits and a good option for those that won't necessarily use more in-depth functionality. However, this mode is a bit more extensive than that quick description. On the left side panel you see a histogram and plenty of options for adjusting color and lighting. On the right side is a large number of instant effects you can apply, like film styles, portrait, black and white, and artistic. The center is the image window, with an organizer panel below it.
You can play around with settings and add effect on top of effect to get some interesting looks. If you've gone too far, there is a 'revert' button on the left side panel, as well as a button to allow you to see what the original image looked like. The Adjust mode is also where you will find a red-eye remover and some cool and easy makeover tools for blemish removal, teeth whitening, skin tanning, and even thinning your subject.
The Edit mode is the full deal, where you get access to all the tools and can work with layers. This is also where you can use content-aware object removal, and get down to other serious editing work. And, even if you are new to the software, the Edit mode is not too intimidating, as you have full help with a 'learning center' panel to the right, which can guide you with any task. It is also context-sensitive, so any selected tool will provide you the info you need to use it.
Overall, I really like the three mode interface that PaintShop Pro provides. It is well thought out, and I found it cool to use the Adjust mode for a quick, initial look, then move to Edit mode for further refinements.
Now, let's look specifically at a few of the new and enhanced features of PaintShop Pro X9.
First, there is a new Screenshot capture tool that is excellent, and fully customizable. It also features Smart Capture, which allows you to capture specific elements (buttons, menus, windows, etc.) as you hover over them. You can even create your own capture settings preset.
Special design projects can be made much easier with the New from Template. If you need a quick layout for cards or brochures, this is a nice feature to have. Some of these are free to download, but many are not free.
For me, I found the new interactive gradient fill to be my favorite of the new features. It works beautifully in real-time. Just drag the tool across an image, or selection, and work with the nodes on the gradient line, dragging color swatches onto it, or remove colors by dragging them away from the line. You can really make some dramatic changes to your images, and instantly see the effects.
PaintShop Pro X9 also introduces some nice text presets to save you time. Like the templates, though, some are free, others are not. The text toolbar has also been enhanced to make it easier to work with text.
Another big new feature in X9 is the Export Edit History, which comes in very handy if you want to recall the work you did. I don't know about anyone else, but I get carried away experimenting sometimes and can't always retrace my journey. Also, this is exceptionally cool for tutorial making purposes.
Getting Started with PaintShop Pro X9
There's a lot to love in PaintShop Pro X9. New features aside, it is wonderful for batch processing, organizing images, creating HDR images, quick adjustments, working with scripts, and the list goes on. There is plenty of help readily available within the software, and workflow is superb. I think the new and enhanced features make X9 a good choice for upgrade from previous versions, and if you are new to PaintShop Pro, I say it is something you should seriously consider.
Corel PaintShop Pro X9 is available for $79.99 ($59.99 upgrade) for the standard edition, and $99.99 for Ultimate ($79.99 upgrade). Upgrade pricing is available for those upgrading from any previous version. I'd like to also repeat that there is currently no subscription pricing.