Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 For Image Editing – 11 Good Reasons to Choose Paint Shop Pro Over Photoshop

I have been using Corel’s Paint Shop Pro for several years. As a professional photographer, I absolutely depend on it for my daily image editing and management. Though I am in the minority of professionals who don’t use Photoshop, I take pride in using and promoting this very powerful and cost-effective image editing suite. Here are several reasons why this is a great tool for professionals and amateur photographers. These comments are based on Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 (PSP/X2).

1. Cost. The base product is $65, with occasional sales or specials offering it for under $50. Corel also bundles it with painter essentials, media recovery, a thumb drive and more under the “Ultimate” package for under $80. Compare this to Photoshop elements at $95 and CS4 at $700. PSP/X2 is much closer in capability to CS4 than elements. And upgrades are very reasonable and frequent.

2. Workflow. The Express Lab feature lets you quickly make edits to many files quickly. The Smart Photo Fix will make suggested changes to an image to improve attributes such as brightness, contrast and more. For rapid processing of many images, this tool is very capable.

3. Shortcuts. There are several ways to activate most of the features, including assigning new shortcut keys to frequently used functions. For example, I map Alt-F1 to the Levels adjustment, and Alt-F2 to Curves. Within those dialogs, you can also assign presets so that you can reproduce certain settings with a single click. This alone saves me hours each month when editing hundreds of images.

4. Costmetics. I take a lot of people pictures, and quick cosmetic editing is one of the strongest attributes in this product. The makeup brush deals with blemishes, lines and skin tone differences. The toothbrush whitens teeth, and the suntan brush does what you expect it would. I can complete a cosmetic edit on a high school senior boy in just a minute or two. And the results are very good.

5. Image Adjustment. The good contrast tools, Curves and Levels, are quick and full of features. Straighten allows you to rotate and crop to a horizon line. White balance and other color adjustments are equally strong. Black and white conversion and “time machine” film style emulation give you some great creative options. There are many great features for image editing, cleanup and creative change.

6. Workspace. You can define, save and retrieve different workspaces for different editing activities. This lets you open and anchor dialogs and change other settings on how the program operates.

7. Plug-ins. Many if not most plug-ins designed to work with Photoshop will also work with PSP/X2. I use one called Virtual Photographer which gives me even more opportunity to artistically edit images.

8. Automation. There is a robust scripting language which allows you to automate tasks such as resize, watermark and rotate. Any function that can be done on screen can be recorded using a macro mode, and saved and edited. These scripts can then be applied in bulk to any and all images in a folder. I use this feature to copy and resize images to a new folder for upload to my lab for proofing prints. You can also bulk rename files so that they follow a name scheme and sequence. This is great for renaming the keeper images from an event such as a wedding.

9. Preservation. You can enable Preserve Original mode, where the original images is saved in a lower folder, able to be recovered if you wish to go back. This simple feature gives you the peace of mind that your images are preserved regardless of your editing.

10. Layers. I use the Layers capability very often. It is very strong, for both text and graphics/images. Special characteristics such as emboss and drop shadow are available. Layer masks and interactions provide for very powerful and quick image changes. I often produce partial color black and white images using layers and the Channel Mixer and the eraser brush. I can create nearly all partial color edits in under 5 minutes, often in under 1 minute.

11. Development. Corel releases a new version of PSP about yearly. Each new release is more stable, faster and brings more technical and non-technical features for users of all levels. My per-year cost of use is probably $50 or less, and that’s purchasing every upgrade as it comes out.

12. Opportunities. I do have some needs that aren’t met by PSP/X2. The browser could be more capable with image viewing, ranking and moving/copying. I use another tool for the portion of my workflow that I call “Image Triage”, but I would prefer they beef up their browser interface to handle this capability. I would consider this a feature request.

This is my personal experience from my use of the product, not a comprehensive feature listing. As a professional photographer, I am very satisfied with the performance and capabilities of the product, and find it to be very cost effective and productive. I encourage you to try the product as an alternative to the other image editing products out there.