Paint Shop Pro has for a long time been seen as a budget alternative to Photoshop, offering many of the same tools and filters but costing about a quarter of the price. The package combines a range of powerful image manipulation tools with natural media brushes and a surprising range of vector drawing features.
What’s great about this latest version is the concentration on one-stop fixes, not just for common problems but for common effects too. You can reconstruct the effect of various vintage photography processes and lens filters, and you can also add filters to enhance skin tones, foliage or overall contrast. A few of these may be a little gimmicky for some users, but others will be genuine time savers.
The new Curves and Levels tools are definitely a little overdue, but they work well, enabling you to improve the contrast in difficult images with a high degree of user control.
Also new are Depth of Field effects (enabling you to blur just a selected portion of your image), a skin-smoothing tool for creating that catwalk model look and a recolouring tool designed to manipulate only certain colours within your image. These can be a little sluggish when working with print-quality images, but the results are decent enough.
Paint Shop Pro now comes with a useful built-in photo-management tool, enabling you to browse, search, tag and rate your entire image collection. It’s convenient and helpful, but can take a little while to update if your images are large. Artists will also welcome the addition of support for Painter’s RIFF format.
For new users there’s a useful CD of video workshops that work through almost every feature of the package.