Paint Shop Pro Studio 1

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With the core of Paint Shop Pro’s editing power and PSP Album’s handling, most photographic needs are catered for..

JASC’s Paint Shop Pro (PSP) began life as bargain shareware but since then has moved so far up-market that it has become about the only serious rival to Adobe Photoshop. With Paint Shop Pro Studio (PSP Studio), JASC returns to its roots with a budget application designed for the occasional user and in particular the digital camera owner (since launch JASC has been taken over by Corel).

For any package to succeed in this packed consumer market it has to emphasize ease of use and PSP Studio makes nods in this direction with its Get Started Fast dialog that appears on startup (virtually useless) and with the tutorial-based Learning Center panel that has been promoted to run down the left of the screen by default. Otherwise, apart from a slightly different – and much more attractive - colour scheme, the interface and working environment is effectively identical to Paint Shop Pro’s. It’s not difficult to grips with but it’s certainly not mickey mouse.

That’s because there is a lot of power for the new user to come to terms with. All PSP’s main tools are here including the famous Image Hose and even the vector-based Pen and Shape tools. The main Materials and Layers palettes are also included to let you choose a colour or texture to paint with and to manage your photo-compositions. And there are no shortage of Adjust commands to enhance your photos and Effect filters to give them a creative edge. In fact, with so many familiar PSP features running right through from the thumbnail-based File Browser for opening images to the Print Layout dialog for outputting them, it’s initially difficult to see what power is missing.

Look more closely and the omissions become apparent. To begin with, most of the new features from the latest Paint Shop Pro 9 haven’t been included. That means that the vector options are limited to the Preset Shape tool, there are none of the new Art Media brushes nor the excellent History palette with its selective undo. More generally, Paint Shop Pro’s high-end capabilities have also been cut-down so that advanced features such as scripting, layer masks and CMYK support have been axed, along with around half of the Adjust and Effect filters.

Thankfully, JASC has done a good job of identifying which features occasional users will benefit from and which they won’t. In fact in many ways PSP Studio actually benefits from the rationalization – for example, now that there are 28 core adjustment filters rather than 56, the average user is much more likely to make use of them rather than run screaming. In any case, for most users, JASC more than makes up for the lost high-end power by bundling the standard edition version of Paint Shop Pro Album 5 (see below). This provides much of the functionality that the average, digital camera user is looking for and, with the option to quickly load images into PSP Studio whenever PSP Album’s in-built editing power isn’t enough, the two apps work well together.

In fact JASC has done such a good job that many existing Paint Shop Pro users will be tempted to jump ship to Studio. However, for the average XP-based digital camera owner, the launch of Adobe’s Photoshop Elements 3 (see page ) provides a more professional solution all-round.

Features
4
Ease of Use
4
Value for Money
5
Overall
4

ratings out of 6

System Requirements: Pentium III 300MHz, 128/256MB of RAM, 135MB of hard disk space, Windows 98SE, 2000 (SP4), ME or XP, SVGA

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Tom Arah

October 2004


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