This latest version has a restructured user interface UI that more closely resembles the workflow structure in Lightroom. Corel has also added some highly useful editing features. These include Fill Light and Clarity for bringing out the darker portions of a photo , HDR Tools for combining multiple photos to achieve a higher dynamic range , Photo Blend for swapping out sections of similar photos , Selective Focus for creating narrowly focused photos , and Vignette for darkening the edges of a photo.
Improved Performance Best of all, Corel has sped up the program significantly. Manage, Adjust, and Edit. Located at the lower portion of the screen, it acts as a thumbnail display for the currently selected folder.
New Manage Workspace The Manage workspace lets you review and organize your photo files. An info palette lets you add the tags and ratings to the photos. By default, this workspace previews the selected photo at only a moderate size, although you can hide or alter the size of any of the palettes. As with Lightroom, you can switch back and forth between a Preview Mode, where a single photo is prominent, and a Thumbnail Mode, where many small thumbnails are featured on the screen.
The names of the two remaining workspaces can be confusing because both offer a selection of editing tools. The Adjust workspace has the usual correction tools for optimizing color balance, adjusting the brightness and contrast, managing tone mapping, sharpening the image, and removing digital noise.
This section also has a handy Smart Photo Fix, which can analyze your photo and suggest adjustments to the brightness, shadows, highlights, and saturation settings. These would appeal to photographers who are willing to spend extra time to bring out the best in their photos. However, there are some hidden gems.
Standouts include a Time Machine module for browsing through historical photographic styles, a nice Glowing Edges effect, and a powerful Lights tool with a full set of lighting controls.
It lets you lighten dark areas of a photo and give the overall image a little extra crispness. You can optionally preview the effect in real time in the Adjust preview window.
If you hit on a combination you especially like, you can save the fill light and clarity settings as a preset that can be quickly applied to other photos. You can access it from either the Manage or Edit workspace.
By combining photos shot with bracketed exposures, you can create a composite photo with a wider dynamic range than would be possible otherwise. PaintShop Pro X4 makes this potentially complicated process relatively simple. You can have the program auto-select the proper settings for the camera response curve, type of alignment, and crop placement. Alternatively, you can manually adjust those settings yourself. Here the large preview window lets you see clearly what the result will be.
The resulting HDR photos are very good, and the various controls allow you to apply as much or as little of the HDR effect as you like. With the new Photo Blend feature, you can copy the non-blinking face onto the blinking face. The module helps you align the two photos and select the areas that you want to preserve or remove for the composite photo. With the right photos, the end result can be impressive. You need the right photos.
Photo Blend works best when the two photos are nearly identical, except for the differences that you want to exchange. If you use a tripod and nothing else shifts within the frame, Photo Blend will be able to perform its magic. Bottom line: Sometimes referred to as a tilt-shift effect or depth-of-field effect, this popular technique is great for isolating a subject from the background or making a busy street appear like a toy set.
Corel makes the process fairly easy. The screen shows before and after images, along with moveable bars that position the center point and outer range for the in-focus area. There are slider and numeric controls that let you further pinpoint the effect.
You also get the option to preview the result on the larger Edit workspace window. New Vignette Being able to dar ken the edges of a photo is a basic function that should be available in any photo editing application. With X4, Corel has added a full-featured Vignette effect with control over where the darkened area will be placed, how gradually the effect will be applied, and the corresponding shape of the light versus dark areas.
Going well beyond the basics, this module allows you to vary the amount of blur outside the unaltered area, add a diffuse glow to the entire photo, and apply a feathered transition between the vignetted and non-vignetted areas. Like the HDR Tools, this is an impressive module with the kinds of settings and controls you would expect from a professional photo editing application.
For one thing, PaintShop Pro X4 now supports dual monitors, which could prove useful if your notebook supports a second monitor.
More than 20 tools have been upgraded to bit color. Also, X4 makes it simple to upload your photos directly to Flickr or Facebook by providing a one-click sharing button in the Organizer palette. In addition, Lightroom is compatible with a larger number of RAW file formats.
You can purchase X4 in an ultimate edition. Both filter sets install as plug-ins that you can access within the Edit workspace. Corel also throws in a custom Blurb photo book and royalty-free images. Minimum System Requirements Even with the redesign, Corel PaintShop Pro X4 still requires a fair amount of horsepower, as well as enough RAM and hard drive space to support the multitude of filters and effects.
Minimum system requirements for PaintShop Pro X4 are: X4 still lags behind Lightroom in speed, although the performance gap has significantly narrowed. Most of the actions were instantaneous. On both systems, X4 was slower — but not dramatically slower — than Lightroom 3.
Conclusion Despite the improved UI, Corel PaintShop Pro X4 can still feel like a collection of disparate elements packaged together primarily to increase the number of features. Corel provides a decent help system, but it can sometimes be a challenge to find that tool or filter you used only a couple of days ago.
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Support for 50 file formats, Auto Preserve Originals, Crop to New Image, Learning Center, makeover tool suntan, thinify, eye drop removes red from bloodshot eyes , blemish fixer, toothbrush mode , one step photo fix and smart photo fix, smart carver, red eye removal, colour changer tool, noise removal, perspective correction tool, scratch remover tool, black and white film effect, adjustment layers, depth of field effect, curves and levels adjustment, lens distortion correction filters, high pass filter, visible watermark, picture tubes, picture frames and photo edges, time machine plus more. Using the full screen preview you can quickly zoom to 1: The manage workspace also lets you rate your photos out of 5 stars , so you can quickly sort through your photos and identify the best shots. Closing is instant. Shown below is the main edit screen, where I've used the Tan filter to darken the skin. Effects browser is quite useful, however, the dialog box design doesn't match the rest of the programs stylish new interface.