JASC Paint Shop Pro 8 » Digital Compass
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JASC Paint Shop Pro 8


Verdict: Extensive photo editing power but too technical for the average user and no competition for Photoshop for the professional. Despite its humble shareware origins, Paint Shop Pro's photo editing feature set has grown over time to challenge Photoshop head-on. This is immediately evident with the various options for preparing your photo with special tools for straightening and perspective correction and commands for removing barrel and pincushion distortion. When it comes to colour correction the most common options are available from a dropdown list on the dedicated Photo toolbar including a One Step Photo Fix. If you need more control, there's plenty to choose from with almost 50 filters on offer from the Adjust menu. The problem is that the sheer range can be confusing - there are no less than 11 options just for managing Brightness/Contrast - as can each individual filter - especially as the dialogs are cramped and unhelpful. It's a similar story when it comes to local retouching. There's no doubting the power on offer with separate dodge, burn, smudge, push, soften, sharpen, lighten/darken, saturation, hue and change-to-target brushes, There's also a scratch remover and cloning tool for removing unwanted artifacts. And in each case there's plenty of control available over factors such as hardness, density, thickness and so on. There's a danger though that the control becomes too technical and intimidating. This is most obvious with Paint Shop Pro's over-the-top Red Eye Removal command which actually draws a new eye - human or animal - complete with control over pupil lightness, iris size and glint!When you want to produce montages using elements from multiple original photos, Paint Shop Pro offers good selection handling and an effective clone of Photoshop's excellent layer-based compositing system. This not only includes control over blend mode and opacity but support for layer groups, layer masks, vector shapes and text and even non-destructive adjustment layers (though not layer effects or layer comps). And for non-realistic work, Paint Shop Pro offers an impressive range of filters for applying creative effects. When it comes to outputting your photos or compositions (there's no support for projects such as greeting cards) Paint Shop Pro offers a dedicated print module that makes it simple to handle multiple prints per page in regular or customizable layouts - and puts Photoshop's equivalent capabilities to shame. But that's about it apart from a link to Shutterfly for online web sharing. For direct emailing, burning to CD and advanced VCD output, along with superior image management generally, you'll need to shell out again for Paint Shop Pro Album (£26 exc VAT). Ultimately Paint Shop Pro 8 provides plenty of intensive hands-on photo-editing power, but disappoints when it comes to the other functionality that brings the most out of your digital camera. And with its technical approach and old-fashioned interface, it's all rather joyless compared to the more rounded and cheaper consumer applications. Features 4 Ease of Use 3 Value for Money 5 Overall 4 . ratings out of 6

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