Jasc – Paint Shop Pro 9 review

photo manipulation and digital art made easy
Photo of Jasc – Paint Shop Pro 9

There has never been any dispute about which is the best of the photo manipulation packages available for professionals – Adobe Photoshop is the acknowledged king. But professionals and amateurs have been warming to Jasc’s Paint Shop Pro as both a vastly more affordable option and one that offers almost as many facilities.

It is also more user-friendly for newcomers, although a quick look at the reasonably fat manual might initially seem a little daunting. A few more detailed onscreen tutorials would not have gone amiss.

The main question for seasoned users of Paint Shop Pro is: are there enough new features to make it worth upgrading? For a start, in terms of photo enhancement, the developers have added a Digital Camera Noise Removal Filter that scans and removes image noise while still preserving image textures, together with a Chromatic Aberration Removal Filter to eliminate that annoying purple fringe that often appears.

Two further filters have been introduced – a Fill Flash which corrects the underexposure of shadows and a Backlighting Filter that compensates for overexposed areas. Keeping up with the times, there’s also integrated support for Raw camera images (effectively digital negatives) so you can set custom white balance, exposure and sharpening levels.

The arty aspect has also been beefed up to bring out the Impressionist painter within you. New tools are oil and acrylic brushes, as well as chalk, pastel, crayon, coloured pencils and a marker. You can realistically mix paints on canvas using a palette knife and smear tool after practising off canvas on the mixer palette. The canvas texture, lighting and paint wetness can be varied using Art Media Layers and realistic brush textures can be applied with Image Tracing options. Perfect for budding artists, in other words.

A few additions have been made in the graphics area, including a symmetric shape tool to edit polygons and stars, plus a radial blur filter and a displacement map filter to create custom 2D and 3D surface effects. Of probably more use is the text tool which lets you create vertical text, while new anti-alias rendering provides cleaner text at smaller font sizes. There’s even a pen tool to make it easier to add curves and lines to graphic effects.

If, while you’re making changes to your photos, you’d like to review what you’ve done and perhaps alter or remove one of the processes, a History Palette now visually logs the steps you’ve taken and easily allows you to make instant corrections. The best thing about this is that if you undo one step, you don’t have to undo all the subsequent ones, even though rendering time might be a bit slower as a result.

Company: Jasc

Contact: 0870 443 2239

If you're looking for a cheaper but professional alternative to Photoshop, then this is definitely the package to buy, especially if you have a strong artistic bent. On the other hand, if you already own Paint Shop Pro 8, you might decide that the innovations are not dramatic enough to justify an upgrade.