When we reviewed a recent version of Paint Shop Pro, our conclusion was that it had some great features, but they were obscured by a cluttered range of add-ons and extras that simply got in the way. Jasc seems to have taken that message on board for this new version, which is simpler and yet more powerful than its predecessors.
As noted in that earlier review, the ideal photo editor is one lets you jump right in and start playing, without having to wade through a manual just to find out how to increase the brightness level a bit. Paint Shop Pro 8 doesn’t disappoint in this respect; all the major enhancement tools are available from drop-down menus, so it’s easy to load and tweak your photos as soon as they come out of the scanner, camera or CD. If you don’t like the standard toolbars, you can rearrange them and decide which options are visible, although this is best left until you’ve got to grips with all the program has to offer.
The power of Paint Shop Pro 8 is demonstrated by its one-click photo enhancement tool, which really does make a huge difference to poorly-lit or otherwise sub-standard photos. After a while you’ll feel more comfortable going through the various enhancement tweaks individually, so that you can adjust each feature to suit the particular image you’re working on. Or you can go still further and edit the scripts (some knowledge of Python would come in handy here) that control some of the operations.
What else? Perspective correction for correcting the effects of lens distortion, loads of background textures and ‘artistic effects’, although realistically many of these will make your photos look a bit daft. The ability to remove scratches and other imperfections from old photos is a good one, though, plus you get a vast array of tutorials (video and text) teaching you how to get the best out of the software.
You can warp and distort images or areas of an image and apply numerous layers to a single image, each of which can be individually edited and manipulated. This makes for some professional results and means that you can add or remove sections of an image at will, without storing lots of different copies of the same file.
We found very few problems, despite the fact that this software was in development until just before its launch. One niggle is that the ‘undo’ system can occasionally miss an operation, mostly when you’re using it via disk rather than memory. On a couple of occasions it ‘forgot’ that we had converted an image to greyscale, meaning that we couldn’t undo that operation.
Our other complaint relates to the otherwise brilliant background removal tool. This clever feature lets you ‘paint’ around an object (usually a person) and remove the background. It’ll even work around strands of hair, making it great for cutting and pasting people into different backgrounds. However, sometimes the ‘transparent’ hatched area that’s left behind becomes ‘solid’, particularly in more detailed areas, so you’re back where you started.
Neither of these is a ‘killer’ problem, though, and we suspect that there will be minor patches to the code over the next few weeks to smooth the initial rough edges. In the meantime what’s here is one of the most powerful, easy to use photo editors on the market that supports just about every image file format you could imagine – it’ll even handle PDF files.
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