With novelties in focus, let's cast our glance a bit further from Photoshop, upon another image editor! The choice is a premier one—Corel Paint Shop Pro has been a well known and rightly respected title for years. If I recall correctly, this is version 12—this application is definitely not a newcomer. We already introduced an earlier version, at least the novelties it offered compared to its predecessors. So you'd expect us now to discuss the new features of version X2. This time, however, it's not going to be a fleeting review, but a longer series of articles which discusses the features of Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 from a theoretical viewpoint first, and a practical one afterwards. Don't recoil from the word "theoretical" already, it's just going to be an introduction. Let's see those new features then!
Compared to version XI, there are seven major enhancements. First of all, the look and feel were brought up to today's trends with a graphite-colored skin. Apart from being trendy, it also emphasizes pictures more than lighter backgrounds or borders could.
When time is running out
The basic user interface is rather crowded, but if you don't want to get involved in the depths image editing too much, you can choose Express Lab mode as a quick editor. Simply click the fourth toolbar button in the Organizer to display the Express Lab window with the image at the top, major editing features at the bottom, and the options of the selected editing tool on the right. Features include image straightening, cropping, autocorrection (brightness, shadows, highlights, saturation adjustment), portrait manipulation (removing skin defects, eye and teeth whitening, skin tone, slimming), a clone brush (for removing unwanted picture elements), a red eye removing brush and image rotation. If you need more than that, you'll have to return to the main window by clicking Exit Express Lab in the lower left corner.
Let's take a closer look at the Makeover tool, being one of the main novelties in version X2. It consists of five automatic retouching brushes. Automatic means no tool options offered: just select the one you want and click the area to be repaired. Makeover itself can be selected from the tools palette on the left. The five brushes appear in the options bar at the top:
Blemish Fixer: Removes skin defects, freckles, spots, minor scars. Just click the problematic area with the brush and it will "erase" it automatically by cloning textures of the neighboring areas.
ToothBrush: Whitens the selected areas. When dealing with portraits, obvious choices are teeth that can sometimes be greyish or yellowish. Each click whitens the area by one step.
Eye Drop: Can be used to lighten the iris and the whites of eyes, but basically it is a red eye remover. Once again, just click the area in question.
Suntan: Conjures a healthy tan on your pale portrait subject. Just paint over the skin surfaces. It can be used for darkening in multiple passes.
Thinify: A slimming tool for getting rid of those excess pounds.
The use of various Layer Styles is another novelty. Double-click the layer you want on the Layers palette to activate. The dialog includes a Layer Styles tab with six styles in the region on the left (Layer, the seventh one, regulates only the transparency of the selected layer), their names being Reflection, Outer Glow, Bevel, Emboss , Inner Glow , and Drop Shadow. These options will be particularly handy when working with vector text.
A broader dynamic range
The next fresh feature in X2 is the possibility to produce HDR images. All of you know the problem with building or landscape photos when the shadowy parts stay too dark or the light areas of the sky get bleached. Cameras simply cannot deal with as broad a range of dynamics as the human eye does. However, you can construct High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos out of several ones shot with different lightness settings. The feature is under File/HDR Photo Merge. You can take five or even more photos, Paint Shop Pro can handle them. After the construction, you can adjust the brightness and microcontrast of the final picture (using Clarify).
Mark what's yours
Another enhancement is watermarking. Until now, you could only use invisible embedded watermarks for protection, but from now on, you can simply put your logo on your pictures. Just click Image/Watermarking/Visible Watermark. First, select the photo to be used as a watermark (Load Image), then specify its layout (Tile/Center/Corner). Under Style, set size, opacity and, optionally, embossing.
What's in the tube?
The Picture Tube section includes 30 new graphics and a same amount of new frame templates. A few clicks, and you can produce creative graphics, adorn and frame your photos, or just create some fancy kitsch if you like. One thing is for sure: no graphical studies are required.
This feature is invoked with the Picture Tube Tool on the tools palette (or by pressing I). For frames, click Image/Picture Frame.
Well, that's all about the novelties in version X2, but stay tuned for the following parts of the series. If you like the software, a 30-day trial can be downloaded free of charge from the developer after a quick registration.