Web Developer's Review: Paintshop Photo Pro X3

By Nathan Segal

If you want to work with image manipulation software, there are many choices. On the high-end you have Photoshop (which is quite expensive) and on the low-end, you can use GIMP, which is a free program. Then there all the programs in between. One of these is Paintshop Photo Pro X3, a relatively inexpensive image editor from the Corel Corporation, which we look at in this review. There are many options available in this program, so for the sake of brevity, we will look at a few.

When you start the program, the first thing you see is the Organizer window, which shows you what photographs you have, either in the Collections tab or the computer tab. The Collections tab is the default and you can view images here. You can view and zoom, rotate images them and read notes about the images (if applicable). Most of the controls and menu choices have been grayed out, those these options change, depending on what part of the program you’re accessing at the time.

To elaborate, if you want to edit images, you have two immediate options. One is to click on the Express Lab button or the Full Editor button. Both of these are located on the upper right of the Organizer window.

Looking at the tools in the Express Lab, some have quite a bit of flexibility while others are really basic. As an example, the Clone tool offers quite a bit of control over size, transparency, hardness and softness, while the Local Tone Mapping and Color Balance tools only offer a single slider for control.

The Full Editor is where you have access to a wide variety of image manipulation tools, such as image masking tools, cropping, red-eye removal and much more. One option is the Object Extractor, which is one of the new features.

With an open image, go to Image: Object Extractor. When masking images, it’s a bit clumsy with a mouse. I’d recommend a drawing tablet for more precise control. Billed as a tool for fine image control, I decided to test this out with one of the default images of a Koala bear. I chose to mask one of the ears. In image masking, hair is one of the most difficult things to mask and it’s even worse with an image in natural surroundings. For best results, you would want to do that in a studio where you can control the light. In this case, I decided to mask one ear, to see what the program is capable of. In doing so, I found the masking tools to be rather clumsy to work with. I found I had to be extremely careful when using the brush, eraser and pan tools. Worse, there was no undo tool if you made a mistake. You have to use the eraser tool, which is a waste of time, in my opinion.

Here’s the result of the masking. As you can see, there are many artifacts around the edges of the mask, which you’ll need to clean up with the Eraser tool. You could do more fine detail work than this, though you would really have to zoom in and mask small portions of the image at a time. A big problem with this image is that some parts of the object are blending with the background, which makes masking really tough. It’s better to work with images that have more contrast between the image and the background.

One great feature is the support for Camera RAW. Paintshop Photo Pro gives you a fast way of converting your files to other formats. In the Organizer, select the thumbnails you want to convert, right-click and in the pop-up menu, choose Convert RAW. In the Batch Process dialog box, choose the file format you want, the options (such as compression, encoding, etc.) choose the folder where you want to store the files and click on Process. That’s it.

The Camera Raw Lab allows you to load several images at once and make global corrections to the saturation, temperature, noise and more. Once you like the changes, click on OK.


Paintshop Photo Pro offers many options to the user and has some great features (such as the Camera RAW batch converter). Still, it seems to be more of a consumer or hobbyist style of program, not one for the advanced user. Still, if your image editing needs are pretty straightforward, this program could meet your needs. If not, and you want more flexibility, I recommend Corel PHOTO-PAINT or Adobe Photoshop.

Minimum System Requirements

Windows 7, Vista, or XP with the latest service packs installed (32 or 64-bit editions)
1 GB RAM (2 GB RAM recommended
1.5 Ghz processor (2 GHz+ recommended)
3 GB hard disk space
24-bit color display, 1024x768 resolution or better
DVD drive
Price: The full version is $99.00

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