Corel PaintShop Pro X4 review

21 Sep 2011

PaintShop Pro X4 boasts a digital workflow that is the very model of streamlined efficiency – sadly the program as a whole doesn’t quite live up to it

Price when reviewed: 
66(£60 inc VAT)more
5

When PaintShop Pro first launched, almost 20 years ago, the world of bitmap editing was based around the occasional screenshot, onscreen painting and scanned photograph. Nowadays, PaintShop Pro X4 is focused almost exclusively on helping digital camera users get the most out of their ever-expanding photo collections.

This fundamental change has demanded a complete rethink of working practice, and PaintShop Pro X4 finally gets it spot on with a simple and intuitive digital workflow based on three tabbed workspaces: Manage for image organisation; Adjust for image enhancement; and Edit for full-blown image manipulation.

It isn’t only the workflow that is streamlined: PaintShop Pro’s interface used to betray its origins as 1990’s shareware; now it looks sleek, professional and cutting-edge.

Corel PaintShop Pro X4

The first task for any digital camera user is to get on top of their images. This is handled in PaintShop Pro X4’s Manage workspace, where photos can be viewed in thumbnail or preview mode. It doesn’t offer the advanced keyword, face and location tagging that Photoshop Elements and Picasa major on, but the manual and automatic collections and folder-based management are effective.

Another improvement surrounds the program’s handling of RAW files, a format that’s becoming increasingly popular as DSLRs go mainstream. To this end, the dedicated Camera RAW Lab has been updated, complete with histogram-based feedback and effective new options for automatically recovering highlights. Once you’re happy with the results, you can quickly and non-destructively apply the same changes to multiple RAW files.

The Manage workspace is also the natural home for other commands dealing with multiple images, such as emailing and creating print layouts. Again, PaintShop Pro X4’s options are weak compared to Picasa’s and Elements’, especially as the previously bundled Photo Project Creator for creating cards, albums, video slideshows and so on has been dropped (as has Painter Essentials). However, PaintShop Pro X4 does now let you share your photos online by posting them directly to Flickr or Facebook.

PaintShop Pro X4 also offers two important new ways of combining multiple images. The first, the greatly improved HDR Merge capability, lets you take bracketed exposures to bring out the maximum colour and detail in shadows, midtones and highlights.

Details

Price ex VAT £55
Price inc VAT £66
Overall rating 5
Ease of Use rating 4
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 6
Software subcategory Photo editing software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes