Corel PaintShop Pro is a mature and powerful photo-editing program that reached a high level of excellence years ago. For novices, PSP has integrated guides and tutorials to help them become skilled and more creative. But it also offers a remarkable depth of quality features and tools that experienced users want and need.
Although the new version – PaintShop Pro 2020 – is an incremental improvement, a couple of its new or improved tools and features may make for a compelling upgrade for some users.
Now touch-screen friendly, PaintShop Pro has added a new streamlined workspace option. Called the Photography Workspace, it's highly simplified and meant to be an entry point into PaintShop Pro for new users.
More than anything, this new workspace is reminiscent of the many quick-edit photo apps used for editing and sharing pictures from a phone or tablet. Its bare minimum number of tools (which are driven by large icons) include a one-click photo fix, a small collection of attractive filters, basic exposure and color correction, and a crop tool.
I don't feel that the new Photography Workspace is as strong an addition to the interface as Corel claims. I imagine that the vast majority of users will outgrow the Photography workspace very quickly, and will graduate to the more advanced Essentials or Complete workspaces. However, it does provide PSP users a simplified, tablet-compatible version of their desktop photo editor that might be particularly useful for other less-experienced members of their family. (A single software license allows you to install on both a tablet and a computer.)
PaintShop Pro's new SmartClone builds on the program's content-aware Magic Fill (as well as competitor Photoshop's content aware tools).
At first glance, the SmartClone tool behaves like a traditional cloner. You simply select an area of a photograph as your "source" (such as a portion of blue sky) and use it to paint over another area (such as a dark cloud). But that's where the similarity ends.
For instance, here I selected an area of this bride's back that wasn't marred by a tattoo. I didn't have to be very careful about the shape, size or exposure of the selection. With the SmartClone set to blend, as I painted over the tattoo with that source selection, it automatically picked up the texture, shadows and highlights of the destination. The result is a flawless back with no sign of either the tattoo or the edit.
I also like that you can save the source material (such as the feather tattoo) for future SmartCloning in other pictures.
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If cloning is an important part of your photo-editing workflow, then the SmartClone is a very good reason to upgrade to the new PaintShop Pro.
Refined Selection Tool
One of the most labor-intensive photo-editing tasks is to draw a selection (or mask) around fly-away hair or an animal's fur. Every serious photo-editing program has come up with a variety of "solutions" that work on some pictures. The quality of the result is usually dependent on the original picture. In particular, such tools work best when the background (at least around the subject) is somewhat homogeneous and contrasts with the area you're trying to select.
PaintShop Pro's new Refine Brush is Corel's latest attempt to solve this hairy problem. It isn't foolproof; no edge refiner is. What's more, it takes some skill and practice to get it to work properly. But if you can get past the sometimes frustrating learning curve, it can be a very nice time-saving addition to the program's library of excellent selection tools.
Every new version of just about any software adds enhancements to existing features, and makes some improvements on performance. PaintShop Pro 2020 is no exception.
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For instance, PaintShop Pro has finally added a much-needed feature that Photoshop users have had for years: the ability to copy one layer's style to another. The depth-of-field tool now uses a more precise 5x5 grid instead of the old 3x3. And the text tool is now faster, in particular when rendering large blocks of type.
Even more content and compatibility
For years, Corel has been king of content and compatibility among photo editors, and it isn't about to give up the crown.
PaintShop Pro 2020 adds even more creative brushes, gradients, color palettes, patterns, and picture tubes. And its veritable alphabet soup of supported file formats has been expanded to include new RAW camera formats. In addition, the program has added support for 4K video, touch screens, and new stylus and tablet technologies.
Prices & packages
PSP comes in two packages: PaintShop Pro 2020 for $79.99 ($59.99 upgrade) and PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate for $99.99 ($79.99 upgrade). Unlike Adobe Creative Cloud subscription model, all purchases are for a perpetual license, with no recurring costs.
Ultimate represents quite a bargain. In addition to the PSP program, it includes AfterShot 3 (RAW photo editor and batch processor), Painter Essentials 6 (for digital painting and drawing), PhotoMirage Express (converts an image into an animation), Parallels Toolbox (about 30 useful utilities), GRFX Studio (a collection of filters) and Corel Creative Collection (a large library of brushes, textures and a slew of royalty-free backgrounds).
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Unfortunately, PaintShop Pro remains a Windows-only program.
Corel PaintShop Pro continues to be our top pick for novice photo editors, but it also delivers high-powered creative tools for more advanced photographers. What's more, it's a great learning platform for anyone who wishes to improve their photo-editing skills. If you use a Mac, though, you'll want to go with Photoshop Elements, as PaintShop Pro works only on Windows.
Although the new features in PaintShop Pro 2020 may not be worth the upgrade price for existing users, I highly recommend it to folks looking for a new image editor as an excellent program and a great value.