Paint Shop Pro, Version 8 (PSP8), is the latest revision of this graphics
application and provides probably the best low cost graphics application
software that is available on the market today. This program has been a
low cost leader from day one. Each revision has moved the application closer
to the high cost graphic professional applications.
The first thing that I noticed was the new look at the startup page.
There are new icons, palettes, and menu displays. The palettes have been
reorganized and made easier to use. One palette, the Color palette, has been
renamed Materials palette for control of colors, patterns, gradients, and
textures. The Materials controls are claimed to be easier to use. I had a
bit of a problem learning them. It is probably to fact that I am not really
an experienced graphics user. The new Tools palette is fully dockable and is
grouped in related categories. The Layer palette now provides the ability to
group layers together so that settings can be applied to all the layers in a
group and have mask adjustment layers affect only layers within the group
rather than all the layers underneath.
Two "Get Started" pull-down menus, Learning Center and Product Tour, are
available to get you started quickly. They can be recalled at any time from
the pull-down menu. The Learning Center consists of help instructions
that guide you about the PNP application. The Product Guide takes the new user
through 50 topics to show how the application can handle photo and graphic projects.
Version 8 Tools
PSP8 has added new tools to help create more professional photo and graphic
results in the work to be done. These new tools include a new Background
Eraser Brush to assist in making colored background areas transparent. A
Straighten Tool to align crooked or misaligned photos is available and works
by drawing a straight line either horizontally or vertically specifying the
direction to align the image. New handles have been added for easier use to
the Deform Tool to scale, shear, distort, rotate, or apply perspective to images.
The Painting Engine has been enhanced for more precision and smoother blending of
photo retouching. Each of the retouch brushes are now a separate brush and not
part of the Retouch Tool in previous versions. The Crop Tool now has preset sizes
such as 4x6 or 8x10 in addition to aspect ratio control to achieve good picture
crops. A new Edge Seeker Mode assists the Freehand Selection Tool to automatically
seek an edge between mouse click points along an object. This mode also provides
wider choice to modify selections such as removing holes, or adding inside feather.
This version has included expanded Pen Tablet capability that can vary the color,
density, opacity, rotation, size, and thickness of brush strokes based on pressure,
tilt, altitude, and more. The Layer Palette has the ability to place layers in
groups so that settings apply to the group. Adjustments and mask layers affect
only the layers within the group. Mask Layers are separate layers rather than
attributes of other layers and can mask all image data below them at the same
level in this version.
Filters and Special Effects
A Black and White Points feature can set the overall tonal range of photographs and
bring out image detail without losing information. Lens Distortion Correction is able
to correct images that have pincushion, barrel, or fisheye distortions. The Balls and
Bubbles feature provides realistic transparent bubbles with full control over the
reflection. The Halftone feature develops dot representation of a photograph. The
Soft Focus feature creates glamorous shots from photographs. The Magnifying Lens
feature allows one to focus on an area of an image and enlarge it, as well as having
full control over lighting, reflections, optical distortions, and magnification strength.
The Lens Distortion feature simulates camera lens distortion effects such as fisheye,
barrel, and pincushion. The Offset feature provide the ability to define where an
image wraps when creating seamless patterns. A Seamless Tiling feature provides
high-quality seamless patterns and tiled images.
This version of PSP increases its ability to share images and photographs with
others by adding formats to its already long list of formats. JPEG 2000, Wireless
Bitmap (WBMP), and PDF formats are included. It also provides the ability to provide
preset printing templates that meet the common page layouts and commercial paper,
such as 3x5 and 4x6 print stocks. It also has templates for business cards. Custom
templates can be saved and shared with others.
PSP8 has included the digital camera EXIF format for photo information that can be
obtained from the camera, such as date, time, resolution, f-stop, and ISO speed.
This feature can be really handy when you are attempting to reproduce the images.
The image information is preserved in the Paint Shop Pro (.pspimage), JPEG, and
TIFF file formats.
PSP8 supports the Windows Image Architecture (WIA) that is part of the Windows ME
and XP operating systems. This allows one to import images directly from digital
cameras and scanners using the WIA interface. It worked without a hitch when I
downloaded digital photos from my Sony MVC-CD500. It worked as good as the Sony
camera-supplied down-load application. I was testing on a XP Pro operating system.
I tried it as a USB down-load from the camera and from the 3 inch CD in the DVD/CD
player in the Toshiba. The WIA interface with PSP worked well in both cases.
Jasc includes a temporary version of their latest Photo Album application. It also
works within the WIA architecture without problems. I got lost attempting to follow
the image file storage location. Paint Shop Photo Album 4 is another good product
Preset and Automated PSP Desktop
Once one really gets to know the program, the preset and custom preset features for
filters and effects can be used to create new and personalized looks in the images.
One feature that lends its setting to the preset capability is the Brush presets.
With the Brush presets, one can establish effects such as crayon, charcoal, pencil,
and oil paint that provides realistic painting effects to images. All of these preset
and custom presets can be shared with other PSP users.
The features and capabilities of the application can be automated by the use of Scripts.
There are preset scripts that hold the commonly used features. You can also develop
custom scripts to make your own repeated images possible. The scripts are made and
modified using a text editor such as notepad or WordPad.
This version has Batch Processing included to save time and maximize processing
power. This feature provides the ability to rename and apply a script to a series
of images in a folder for example. The whole workspace or desktop can be customized
to fit your personal needs. The Drag and Drop capability provides the ability to move
any feature required to any location in the workspace as it is needed. Menu and tool
bars can be placed in floating and docked locations for ease of access during the
project. Keyboard shortcuts can be created. A personalized workspace or series of
work spaces can be created and saved for your or multiple users.
The native PSP formats have be made easier to recognize. Images are .pspimage files;
gradients are .pspgradients files; and, masks are .pspmask files. Version 8 also
reads the native file formats of previous versions.
PSP8 will work in Windows 98 / NT4 SP6a / 2000 / ME / XP. I had no trouble loading
it in my Toshiba A15 (my lightning strike replacement) using XP Pro. XP Pro was a
little argumentative when attempted to make my first download of digital pictures,
but I tamed it to use the PSP8. After all, XP is the Microsoft graphics operating
system. It works with Pentium or AMD processors, preferably high speed. My test
computer, the replacement Toshiba Satellite A15 uses a Celeron 2.2 Ghz CPU with
512 MB RAM. The program requires 128 MB RAM. The program uses 200 MB of disk space.
The minimum video display adapter is at 800 x 600 resolution. It uses MS Internet
Explorer 5.0 or higher.
The installation went without a hitch. I simply installed the program CD-ROM in the
Toshiba DVD player and loaded it.
The retail cost of Paint Shop Pro range from $40.00 with discounts to $70.00 plus. I
suggest that you take advantage of the User Group offer for the upgrade, or if you
are a user of other versions, take advantage of the upgrade prices that Jasc offers.
The Paint Shop Photo Album 4 program is bundled with the latest PSP8 upgrade offer.
I took advantage of it.
This version looks easy enough for me to get serious about using a graphics program.
The cost is right. Their training guides are well done. JASC continues to provide a
good manual that shows the uses and features of the program. The manual has 400 plus
pages to guide the user.
This program coupled with my digital camera offers me the ability to really get into
this art stuff.