Corel PaintShop Pro 2019 Review: Still a Great Alternative to Photoshop

Corel PaintShop Pro (PSP) has long been a less expensive alternative to Photoshop. Unlike the high-end Photoshop, the PSP software provides the power, tools and friendly user base to serve a wide market, from professional and amateur photographers and artists to business users. The new version, PaintShop Pro 2019, continues to be a great value for this user-friendly, yet powerful program. But its new creative tools, incremental improvements, expanded content and performance fixes may not represent a compelling upgrade over the previous version.

Simplified Interface

PaintShop Pro's interface is easy to understand, with intelligent learning tools right within the workspace where you need them. This includes a library of excellent video and written tutorials (available through the newly designed Welcome screen) and a context-sensitive Learning Center palette that provides guidance for the  selected tool.

PSP 2019 has a more streamlined interface than previous versions.

The PSP 2019 has a more streamlined interface than previous versions. The default workspace has less clutter, but you can customize it to display whatever tools and palettes you wish. You can even change the size of the font, scroll bars and icons.

Two new creative tools

PaintShop Pro is a mature program that already had just about all the tools and functions you can think of for creating and editing photographs, digital images and business graphics. However, Corel added two cool new creative tools for this edition: support for editing 360-degree photos, and a set of filters that use deep neural networks to emulate “master painter” styles.

Keeping up with the new generation of cameras that can capture 360-degree photos, there are three ways to edit such images — through a dedicated edit window, the main workspace or by converting the image.

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The separate 360-degree edit window offers two functions: Straighten, and Remove Tripod Head. Even if you don't want to even out the horizon on your image, you will probably want to check out the Straighten view. It's the only place in PSP where you can interactively pan and zoom through the full 360 degrees of your capture. In the noninteractive Remove Tripod Head view of the window, you can use selection tools and content-aware fill to easily delete portions of your tripod that may be visible in the photo. It would be nice if you could use those tools to remove other objects  in the image.

You also can bring your 360-degree image into the main workspace and use Adjust and Effects tools (such as those that affect brightness, sharpness, tone and color).

These first two types of edits won't affect the image metadata, which means that when you save the file, you will be able to use a third-party viewer, such as Facebook's, to interactively pan and tilt through the  360-degree capture.

Finally, you  can convert your 360-degree photo to a flat, non-pannable image, which destroys that particular metadata. But it allows you to edit the picture as a panorama, or use the fun Planet Effects feature that turns the picture into a circular tiny planet or rabbit-hole image.

The Pic-to-Painting plug-in uses artificial intelligence to produce one-click effects emulating several different painting styles, with attractive nonuniform brush strokes. Note that this filter works on 64-bit Windows 10 systems only.

Performance and tool enhancements

The PSP program has a number of  under-the-hood improvements. In fact, Corel said that it's applied more than 50 fixes, including better 4K screen support. For instance, boot-up time is noticeably quicker. (Fifty percent faster, according to Corel’s claims.)

Anecdotally, I found that several tools were faster in the PSP 2019. For example, the one-step Photo Fix is nearly instantaneous, and the Clone tool is more responsive when working on large images. You now have control over how often the program will autosave your work in progress, with a default that interrupts your workflow less often than before.

Other incremental improvements include an extension of the Crop tool floating ribbon to provide quick access to the One Step Photo Fix, six popular filters (such as low tone map, retro sepia, and skin smoothing) and a depth-of-field tool. Unfortunately, the depth-of-field tool restricts the center of focus to one of nine grid positions. It would be far better if the user could drag-and-drop the circle of focus anywhere within a composition.

Content galore

Part of PSP's value proposition is its large library of content. It's added to the many scores of brushes, color palettes, gradients, patterns and picture tubes.

The PSP supports just about every graphics and photo file format, including more than 100 RAW file formats. And it continues to maintain compatibility with popular tablets and styluses. including the newest Wacoms, WinTab, Windows Ink and others.

Corel has added to the many scores of brushes, color palettes, gradients, patterns and picture tubes in PSP 2019.

Unfortunately, the PSP is available for Windows only, with no Apple version planned.

Prices and packages

The PSP comes in two packages: PaintShop Pro 2019 for $79.99 ($59.99 upgrade), and PaintShop Pro 2019 Ultimate for $99.99 ($79.99 upgrade). These prices are very competitive with Photoshop Elements ($99.99). And unlike the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription model for Photoshop (which requires you to renew it annually), all purchases are for a perpetual license, with no recurring costs.

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The Ultimate package represents quite a bargain. In addition to the PSP program, it includes PhotoMirage Express (converts an image into an animation), Painter Essentials 6 (for digital painting and drawing), Perfectly Clear 3.5 SE (auto photo fixes), Corel AfterShot (RAW photo editor and batch processor) and Corel Creative Collection (even more content, including 100 royalty-free backgrounds).

Bottom Line

The PaintShop Pro is something of a combination of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Like Photoshop, the PSP software is powerful and creative enough for sophisticated photographers and demanding business graphics users. And like PS Elements, the program is easy and accessible enough for novices. The PSP is also a great learning platform for those who want to graduate from the latter to the former, and it has a far larger library of clip art and other content.

While the incremental upgrade may not be compelling for existing users (unless you have a camera capable of 360-degree capture), we highly recommend considering the PSP 2019 for new users.

Credit: Tom's Guide

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