Corel PaintShop Pro X4

With a revised interface and several helpful new tools, Corel PaintShop Pro X4 is a significant upgrade from the previous version. The image management and editing software takes care of your organizing, editing and sharing needs. Overall, the program offers 75 new or enhanced performance features that include high-dynamic-range processing, tilt-shift lens effects, fill light and clarity filters, and vignetting. With a faster processor, the program now can make adjustments in real time, such as noise reduction and tone mapping.

Navigation is fairly simple, with all of the program’s functionality falling under three tabs across the top of the screen, allowing you to move easily in and out of different workspaces: Manage, Adjust and Edit. Windows only. List Price: $79. Contact: Corel, www.corel.com.

Manage

This is where all of the organizing, browsing and previewing takes place. A palette along the right side of the screen shows file metadata, and the Organizer palette at the bottom categorizes images into Trays, making it easier to work with multiple files. You also can upload images to Flickr and Facebook directly from the Organizer.

Adjust

For doing common editing tasks quickly, the Adjust tab contains brightness, color, saturation and other sliders, as well as tools for cropping, straightening, removing red-eye and more. The One Step Photo Fix feature applies six common photo corrections to your image, while Smart Photo Fix analyzes it and suggests settings for automatically correcting color, brightness, sharpness and saturation. You can apply the suggested settings or do them manually for more control.

Edit

This tab contains a more extensive range of photo-manipulation tools, such as creating layers or adding special effects.

High Dynamic Range.

With HDR editing, you can combine photos with multiple exposures into one image that retains the best details of each exposure. To do this in PaintShop Pro X4, simply select the desired thumbnails and click Exposure Merge. From there, you can adjust color, tone, contrast and other elements until you’re satisfied with the final result. For processing sets of bracketed images, there’s a Batch Merge tool that applies a custom, uniform look to several photos at the same time.

Photo Blend.

This tool lets you merge a few photos into one, so if you’re working with a group portrait and you want to change someone’s facial expression, you can brush out the face and replace it by brushing in a better-looking shot. If you simply want to remove an object, such as a car or telephone pole, you can brush it out.

Selective Focus.

If you don’t have a tilt-shift lens, you can simulate the look of one using this new feature. With the Planar Selection tool, you specify an area of your image that should be in focus. Handles at the borders and corners rotate the area and adjust the size. Using sliders, you can apply as much blur as desired to the rest of the image.

Adjustment Layers.

Using layers when creating a composite or making more complex adjustments ensures that the original file stays intact. Multiple layers can be used to experiment with color or combine different effects without altering the image’s original information.

Fill Light/Clarity Filter.

These tools make it easy to control shadows and highlights and also sharpness of details. For Fill Light, just dial in a positive number for lightening dark areas and a negative value for darkening light areas. For Clarity, a positive number increases detail and a negative one has the opposite effect.

Vignette.

To emphasize the primary subject of an image, you can select it and then blur or darken the areas around it. The shape of the edges, and amount of blur, glow and feathering all can be fine-tuned. The Dark/Light slider sets the color of the edge, and the Diffuse Glow slider adds a brightening effect and softens details.

Makeover Tool.

For touching up portraits, this feature includes several modes for enhancing your subject’s appearance. Suntan mode adds color to pale skin. Thinify makes people look thinner. Eye Drop mode removes redness from eyes. Blemish Fixer takes away blemishes, and Toothbrush whitens teeth.

Black-and-White Film.

The Channel Mixer command lets you select from countless color combinations for simulating the look of black-and-white film. The Black and White Film dialog box also offers a Clarify control for creating high-contrast images that mimic the use of black-and-white film with a color filter on the lens.

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