The release of Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 marks the 13th addition to the photo manipulation software. The program also includes more new features than any other since the release of X1.
The application resembles a simplified version of Adobe Photoshop CS5. Consumers can use a feature set for image manipulation that works with layers and masks. The program also edits a range of images and includes 350 RAW formats.
The most similar program to PaintShop Photo Pro X3 is Adobe Photoshop Elements 8—although they too, have differences in features.
The real draw of X3 is the simplicity—a trait shared by many of Corel’s applications. Like CorelDRAW X5, PaintShop Photo Pro X3 contains a Learning Center toolbar that teaches users how to use the program’s tools. It’s a good way to reduce that frustration when trying to figure out how the buttons function.
Corel also includes several tutorial videos for the program on its website that are short and to the point.
Two editing menus exist in Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3—the Express Lab for quick edits, and the Full Editor for more in-depth editing.
Although the Express Lab came with the previous version X2, creators added several enhancements with the latest release. The editing menu now allows users to make quick changes to their images. It includes red eye correction, light and color adjustments, and automated noise removal that reduces the grainy look in images.
The Express Lab also carries interesting tools. The “Thinify” makes the subject appear slimmer, the “Blemish Fixer” removes unwanted blemishes, and the “Suntan Brush” adds color to pale skin. Finally, the “Toothbrush” whitens yellow teeth.
Other options allow users to edit several different images at once.
The Full Editor includes the rest of the tools and has quite a few additions in the new version.
My personal favorite is the Object Extractor. Since PaintShop Photo Pro X3 supports image masks and layers, users can use the extractor to remove people or objects from their pictures and place them in other images or materials.
The tool works to isolate and cut objects from the background. It’s like the Magic Wand found in several applications or freehand masking tools. In terms of accuracy, however, the Object Extractor is one of the most accurate tools I’ve come across in PaintShop’s price range. This tool can automatically recognize hard edges such as shirts and faces from soft edges like hair.
After a quick trace over the border of an image the extractor removes the undesired background from it, and can even retain small details such as stray hairs. Although not perfect, the only application I’ve found that leaves no residual color from the background along the image’s edges is Adobe Photoshop CS5. But CS5 actually carries specialized features to remove those imperfections.
Similar to Adobe Photoshop, RAW image editing in PaintShop Photo Pro X3 happens in its own menu. When a RAW image is opened in the Full Editor, the Camera RAW Lab launches and brings with it a handful of tools for light and color correction.
After changes in the lab are made and accepted, users can then proceed to apply additional adjustments to the image in the Full Editor.
PaintShop Photo Pro X3 has useful photo effects. Built-in tools allow users to combine different exposures of images to create HDR photos. They can also achieve the look of a painting with the help of Corel Painter Photo Essential 4, or sketch their own images.
Smart Carver is another asset to PaintShop Photo Pro X3. The tool can remove subjects and objects from their images. The user can paint over the part they wish to remove with a specialized brush and the section is removed through image compression.
I found the Smart Carver created some distortion in the image when the background looked too busy, but it worked well with simpler scenery. For example, I used the Smart Carver to remove a small tree branch from an image and it left a fold-like distortion. However, when used on photos with clear skies or beaches, it works well.
There are also several tools for altering color. The Color Changer tool changes the color of specific objects—such as the color of a flower. This feature works very well. It not only replaces the color, but also detects variations in shadow and texture to calculate a realistic color effect. Once used, it is difficult to spot the change.
The new Vibrancy Tool increases color in the least saturated parts of the photo and brings out life. There is also a Depth of Field tool that blurs select parts of an image to create focal points and a sense of depth.
Thanks to the use of multiple adjustment layers, a user can make edits to separated layers from the actual image without destructive interference.
Since the introduction of digital cameras and high capacity memory cards, the average photographer takes way more photos than they did with film. As a result, keeping track of images is becoming more important.
Corel included a few helpful image sorting tools in PaintShop Photo Pro X3. A user can create tags and captions to label different elements within their pictures while a five-star rating system lets them organize images by quality or interest.
There are also Smart Collections that will organize and retrieve images based on specific criteria, such as the date they were taken on, their ratings, and so on. In addition to built-in Smart Collections, users can also create their own.
Exporting images also plays an important role in any photo editing application, and PaintShop Photo Pro X3 delivers this. Once a user chooses to export their images or project, they are taken to a specialized menu and given a list of options for both creative projects and exports to the Web.
Among the creative projects, options exist to create photo books, collages, cards, and so on. For example, if a user goes to create a photo book, all they need to do is select the images they want to include and the program automatically adds them into a photo book layout. From there the book can be customized with different background colors and layouts.
After completion, users have a choice to either print the project themselves or send it off for professional printing through direct links provided in PaintShop Photo Pro X3.
PaintShop Photo Pro X3 offers easy-to-use options for exporting content to social media websites like Facebook, Youtube, and Flickr. With Facebook, for example, a user can log into their account and upload images to their album without leaving PaintShop Photo Pro X3.
In a Nutshell
Corel did a great job with PaintShop Photo Pro X3. I didn’t run into any technical problems while running it and it is easy to learn. The application contains useful features that give users a wide range of creative options. For its price, PaintShop Photo Pro X3 sits as one of the best deals on the market.
Some users felt unhappy with the previous releases of the software like the X2, since it lacked new features. But Corel packed more in X3. In addition to the new tools available, Corel did quite a bit of work to fine-tune the application itself.
Professional photographers may still want to consider other options. Keep in mind that Corel geared PaintShop Photo Pro X3 toward photo enthusiasts and casual users. Among professional applications, the closest programs in terms of great feature sets are Bibble 5 Pro and Adobe Photoshop CS5—this is in terms of applications that include image manipulation features in addition to photo editing.
But for current users of earlier versions of PaintShop Photo Pro, the X3 update may be worthwhile. The price is low and X3 includes many new features and enhancements.
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