Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X4 Review

Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X4 Review: Powerful and Capable Image Editor

Corel PaintShop ProX4 HDR review
With additional pro-levels tools and a more efficient workspace, Corel Paintshop Pro X4 is more straightforward to use than in the past. The image editing features have traditionally been a strong point, and they remain so, but in prior versions the interface has been somewhat confusing, for example, getting from the organizer to the editor mode. Thankfully, Corel has made some enhancements to the work spaces that have simplified the workflow and improved the navigation with less clutter.

If you are familiar with Corel, you will find that Paintshop Pro X4 still boasts a dark graphite interface. It makes images stand out, although some users may not like reading white text on the gray background. The tools all feature new icons, but unfortunately they are not resizable.

New Tabbed Interface

A change from prior versions, X4 has a new tabbed interface. Most users will be familiar with this layout from other programs. There are three workflow tabs at the top of the screen, which makes it simple and less confusing to move from one workspace to another. However, while testing it I occasionally received irritating prompts to save files etc. when I switched from one tab to another.

The main workspaces are:

Manage – This is the organizer mode for reviewing, deleting, tagging and rating photos and editing metadata. When you select an image you can view its information in the right hand panel. Strangely, Corel did not incorporate Facial Recognition, unlike other programs such as Photoshop Elements. Sharing on Facebook or via email is a simple process via a new Share icon. The organizer is reachable from all workspaces.
Corel PaintShop ProX4 workspace
Adjust – This enhanced workspace used to be called the Express Lab in earlier versions of Paintshop Pro. This is the area where you would make standard adjustments including color balance, clarity, brightness and contrast, white balance, cropping, batch corrections, red-eye removal, cloning and other cosmetic corrections. When I was working with Paintshop Pro X4 for this review I found that I could make most of my changes right in the Adjust mode, I really didn’t need to switch to the Edit mode. Thankfully, the organizer is accessible from the bottom panel, which eliminates the need to jump back and forth between Manage and Adjust while editing.

Edit – This is the creative center of X4. Here you will find the drawing, painting and layout features. One of the more interesting features you will find here is the HDR exposure module (more on this below).

New Features:

Photo Blend: A fast method of retaining the best areas of multiple shots of the same scene. You can combine different versions of the same sequence of photos to include the best details and eliminate elements you don’t want. This is particularly helpful for group photos where someone predictably has their eyes closed, or to remove undesirable elements like a garbage can. Most importantly, it’s quite simple to use and works well.

HDR module: This can be pretty cool, although it may take a few tries playing with the settings to get the effect you are looking for. This feature enables you to merge images shot with different exposures to create high dynamic range images with natural as well as surreal results.
Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X4 HDR merge
Fill Light and Clarity: Enables you to brighten the darker or shadowed portions of an image while leaving other parts of the image untouched. I especially like this for those shots in bright sunlight with a vibrant background and a shadowy face.

Selective Focus: This feature imitates the effect of pricey tilt-shift lenses and transforms a normal scene into a tiny world. There is also a radial blur mode for creating depth of field so you can soften superfluous background details.

Vignette Effect: Though you don’t want to overdo this effect, the vignette applies a custom border around your photo with control over the feathering, glow and blur.

Adjustment layers: As in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, you can add special effects and make edits on separate layers without permanently altering your original image. Besides adjustment layers, X4 offers vector, raster, art and mask layers.

RAW Lab: Users with D-SLRs will appreciate the enhanced RAW capabilities including a larger preview area, improved histogram and a new highlight recovery feature.

Other Improvements:

• 50+ adjustment filters and 112 special effects
• Dual monitor support allows users to manage images on one monitor while editing on another.
• Faster speed: X4 has quicker loading time and quicker views of effects such as noise reduction and clarity.

Corel Paintshop Pro X4 has so many features there is somewhat of a learning curve. The built-in Learning Center is quite good at assisting new (and experienced) users and offers a contextual help menu and helpful interactive tutorials.

Is It Worth Upgrading?

I think it is a worthwhile upgrade because of the new and improved interface and the new pro-quality features, particularly the Photo Blend and HDR module. Pro X4 offers professional grade tools at an inexpensive price.

Guest post by Valerie Goettsch, publisher of www.digitalphotos101.com featuring
photo editing software reviews and comparisons of online digital photo services. She enjoys taking photos and finding creative ways to use them.

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