Corel's Paint Shop Pro: New Features, Same Old Value

By Dan Muse
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Small business owners, as you well know, do many jobs. You may be the IT guy one day, the bookkeeper the next and the graphics person the day after that.

For the days when you're wearing the graphics department hat — whether you're working on your Web site, a sales presentation or print marketing materials — you've never had so many options in terms of image-editing programs, photo-sharing services, publishing software, digital cameras and so on.

While it's true that getting images into your print or electronic documents has never been easier, it's still never as simple as some people or companies might describe. How often do photos come out of your digital camera ready for the task at hand? They need to be cropped, resized, cleaned up, lightened, darkened — and those are just the basics. That's where image-editing software comes in.

Your choices range from free and very low-priced options up to Adobe PhotoShop, which will cost you between $600-$700. However, for years many photo enthusiasts, designers and more recently small business people have found Corel's Paint Shop Pro offers a way to get the best of both worlds: professional quality at consumer prices.

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI, announced today, is the latest in the venerable Paint Shop line and it continues to deliver more options, more ease of use and better price-performance. Whether it matches Photoshop is arguable, but it's certainly close — except when it comes to price. In that category, at $99 Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI is a clear winner.

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI
Our original was a bit dark. However, using the Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI correcting the lightness and color was a snap as was adding a frame and some marketing copy.
Headlining in this release are the new Color Changer tool, the Time Machine and a Photo Organizer. The Color Changer lets you change the color of an object — such as clothing, a table, carpets or an area in a photo — with just a few clicks. You can change solids and textured ones. Corel says the resulting color change is realistic because the tool detects and analyzes variations in brightness caused by real-world illumination and then reapplies the illumination to the new color to produce a realistic effect.

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI
Using the Time Machine feature, we added a nostalgic feel to a summer 2006 beach shot. It's fun tool that could someday come in handy when you are working a marketing piece.

The Time Machine, which may be more fun than functional, lets you see what your photos would look like if they were taken in another era — such as the '20s or '60s (see photo). According to Corel, it replicates the process by which photos were developed in various ages of photography to recreate a realistic look.

The new Photo Organizer, which is built-in to the Paint Shop Pro Photo XI application, is a one-stop photo management center that locates photos based on a variety of criteria such as Date Taken, File Size, File Format and more. The Organizer lets you also assign keywords, ratings and other information for even more ways to search for photos.

The Organizer is customizable so users have several options that help integrate it into their workflow. In addition, metadata editing and the capability to view and extract frames from video files make the Organizer an essential, time-saving tool for hobbyists and professionals alike.

Corel continues to make it easy to discover the software features — no small task in a program such a Paint Shop (or Photoshop) that is packed with hundreds of features that offer precise controls. But if you're just getting your image-editing feet wet, the Learning Center shortcuts are a good way to accomplish basic image editing tasks. However, to really the tap the power of a program such as this, you need to experiment and, yes, even read the manual.

Also new in Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI are Photo Trays that allow you to sort and group your image and the capability to view to video and extract frames from the clip.

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI's new Film and Filters features are designed to let you apply effects to an image to make it look as if it was taken with a variety of traditional film and filter types without having to invest in additional camera accessories or additional plug-in filters.

A new addition to the popular Makeover Tools is a Skin Smoothing feature that removes any wrinkles, blemishes or scars from the people in their photos. Other Makeover options include tools to whiten teeth and add suntans.

A new Quick Review feature is designed to help you manage slide shows by letting you apply a quick fix to a slide, set a rating for a slide, add captions and rotate images in a slide show.

Enhanced features include the following:

  • The Curves and Levels dialog boxes now offer more control over some of the most critical image adjustments such as contrast, color and levels
  • Improved Corel Painter and Corel Painter Essentials compatibility is designed to allow you to open and save images as RIFF files to create a seamless workflow with popular painting and illustration software.
  • A new Crop Tool offers the capability to get the exact dimensions they want in a snap. When you select your corping area, the Paint Shop display a dialog into which you can enter dimensions of the photo.
  • You can open and edit RAW files from leading digital cameras.
  • The product is shipped with a two-hour video training CD, Getting Starting With Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI, from Lynda.com
While the latest version doesn't offer any dramatic new features, the product continues to make editing and managing images easier. Its most impressive attribute continues to be a $99 price tag for a product rivals (and in some ways surpasses) software costing hundreds of dollars more.

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This article was originally published on September 12, 2006
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