Pain­tShop Pro X9

Corel’s ven­er­a­ble im­age ed­i­tor of­fers more for artists and il­lus­tra­tors than you might ex­pect

ImagineFX - - Reviews -

You’ll leave many of its tools un­touched – un­til the day you re­alise that one is just what you need

Price £60/$80 (Ul­ti­mate ver­sion, £80/$100) Com­pany Corel Web

Pain­tShop Pro has been around since 1990 in one form or an­other, mean­ing it’s only a cou­ple of years younger than the doyen of graph­ics soft­ware, Pho­to­shop. The two prod­ucts are broadly sim­i­lar in that each caters for a wide range of de­signer and artist needs, in­clud­ing photo-edit­ing and il­lus­tra­tion. Pain­tShop Pro com­petes on price rather than fea­tures: it of­fers a sub­set of what you can achieve with Pho­to­shop, but for much less dosh.

What you get for your 60 quid (which buys you about six months of Pho­to­shop ac­cess, even on Adobe’s best-value sub­scrip­tion plan) is a pack­age that’s ca­pa­ble and well thought out, but prob­a­bly won’t of­fer the sea­soned cre­ative many sur­prises. The Ul­ti­mate ver­sion costs £20 more, but the ex­tra fea­tures are geared to­wards pho­tog­ra­phers, not artists.

The tools are di­vided into three ar­eas: Man­age, Ad­just and Edit. Man­age is a ba­sic cat­a­logu­ing fa­cil­ity, en­abling you to lo­cate your im­age then open it in ei­ther of the other two ar­eas to work on. It ac­tu­ally works bet­ter as an in­te­grated tool in Pain­tShop Pro than Adobe’s awk­ward sys­tem of main­tain­ing its or­gan­iser, Bridge, as a sep­a­rate pro­gram to Pho­to­shop.

Edit is where your artis­tic muse can best ex­press herself, and is the area in Pain­tShop Pro that most re­sem­bles Pho­to­shop, with tool pal­ettes and pan­els. There’s a ba­sic Brush tool and an Air­brush, but the coolest part for artists is the choice of nat­u­ral me­dia brushes, in­clud­ing oils, water­colours and pas­tels. It’s not about to chal­lenge Pain­tShop Pro’s sta­ble­mate Painter for me­dia, but it’s ver­sa­tile enough.

You can cus­tomise brushes and save them as new pre­sets, but not with any­thing ap­proach­ing the ver­sa­til­ity of

Pho­to­shop. It’s worth not­ing, though, that you can im­port Pho­to­shop-com­pat­i­ble brushes.

Lay­ers are the other pre­req­ui­site of any de­cent paint­ing soft­ware, of course, and Pain­tShop Pro has a good layer sys­tem, com­plete with blend modes for easy ef­fects. You can add a mask as its own layer, which is less flex­i­ble than Pho­to­shop’s ap­proach but prob­a­bly eas­ier to grasp for be­gin­ners.

The other work­ing area is Ad­just, which is de­signed for work­ing with pho­tos but is still of some use to artists. You load your im­age, then make uni­ver­sal changes to it, ei­ther through slid­ers or by pick­ing an In­stant Ef­fect, one of dozens of ready-made looks.

It’s tools like this that help make a good ar­gu­ment for Pain­tShop Pro as a com­pan­ion pro­gram to Painter: cre­ate your art­work in Painter, with its full com­ple­ment of nat­u­ral me­dia tools, then bring it into Pain­tShop Pro to make last-minute over­all tweaks and pre­pare it for use. Pain­tShop’s Project Tem­plates, for ex­am­ple, mean that you can quickly take your im­age into a pre-de­signed busi­ness card or greet­ing card.

There’s a lot more to Pain­tShop Pro X9 be­sides. It’s in the na­ture of widerang­ing pro­grams like this that you’ll leave many of its tools un­touched – un­til the day you re­alise that one is just what you need to ad­dress a cre­ative prob­lem. Pho­to­shop re­mains the more pow­er­ful choice and has bet­ter art brushes, but Pain­tShop Pro cer­tainly gets the job done.

Sup­port for new tech­nol­ogy in this re­lease in­cludes RealSense cam­eras with depth in­for­ma­tion, and Sur­face tablets. Pain­tShop Pro’s ver­sa­tile and fami­lar-look­ing Lay­ers sys­tem will help you man­age your paint­ing process.

Pho­to­graphic tools like the new In­ter­ac­tive Gra­di­ent Fill should prove use­ful to artists mak­ing the fin­ish­ing touches to their im­ages.

Edit is the most Pho­to­shop-like work area, with a brush se­lec­tion that in­cludes nat­u­ral me­dia, and pal­ettes and lay­ers.

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