PaintShop Pro X5 embraces faces, places, new use cases


posted Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 7:50 PM EST

Could your digital darkroom use a makeover? Canadian software company Corel Corp. just released the latest version of its long-running PaintShop Pro series, with a raft of new and updated features aimed at making the most out of your photos.

Corel has retained the naming schema introduced with the previous version for PaintShop Pro X5, after quite a few years of subtle tweaks to the word order and spacing, returning a sense of familiarity to what is now the software's 15th major release.

So what's new in the latest version? Quite a few things. For consumer photographers, the key addition will likely be the new facial recognition technology, which is used in several key ways. As you'd probably expect, PaintShop Pro X5 can now filter images by face, grouping images that appear to contain the same individuals together for faster tagging. Corel has taken the idea a step further, though. It can also automatically tag photos with the identities of the individuals they contain on upload to social networking sites like Facebook and Flickr. This can be integrated with your contacts on either site, so that they're automatically notified as you upload photos in which they're tagged.

PaintShop Pro X5 now includes face recognition capability, and can use this information to tag and notify the subjects in your photos when pics are uploaded to social networking sites.

Another great addition in an age of camera phones that typically tag every image with the capture location is support for geotagging. Corel PSP X5 can not only display your images on a map marking the locations from which they were shot, but also adds functionality for stripped location tags from your images. That, as we've said before, can be very important to remember. If your photos lack location tags, either because your camera doesn't include GPS support or simply didn't achieve a GPS lock before you shot the image, PSP X5 lets you add or edit the location in three ways. You can either drag and drop photos onto the map, enter GPS data manually, or take the location from a Facebook check-in.

You can now geotag photos using Paint Shop Pro, and the program will recognize images tagged in-camera. Tags can be easily stripped for privacy before sharing shots online.

Corel has also revisited some of its effects functionality in PaintShop Pro X5, and a change made to its high dynamic range tool in particular is rather interesting. You can now create real HDR images from a single raw exposure, taking advantage of the fact that raw files often contain more highlight and shadow detail than makes it into a JPEG of the same scene. Of course, the amount of exposure latitude available will vary depending on the raw file--some cameras offer quite a significant difference, and others have little to no difference between raw and JPEG exposures--but it's a neat tool that simplifies something many of us were already trying with our raw exposures anyway.   You can also now preview alignment of multiple-shot HDR images, switch between color and black-and-white HDR modes, and apply HDR presets in batch processing mode.Corel also says the HDR Auto Brush has been improved.

Also new is the ability to create HDR images automatically from a single raw file.

Selecting from and applying photo effects also gets easier, thanks to a new Instant Effects palette. Organized into seven categories such as Artistic, Retro, and Traditional, the Instant Effects Palette includes generic thumbnail previews so that you can see what to expect before application, albeit not with a preview of your own image. You can also save your own effects in the User Defined category.

PaintShop Pro X5's Instant Effects palette, docked at screen right.

Also new is the Retro Lab, which will doubtless prove popular with Instagram fans. A variety of lomo and retro effect presets are available, previewed on your image and tweakable to match your artistic vision. By tuning color, hue, saturation, blur, vignetting, glow, and feathering, you can create your own styles, which again can be saved for reuse.

It's been possible to create graduated filter effects in Paint Shop Pro for quite some time now, if you knew what you were doing, but now a specific tool has been added to make this easier. The Graduated Filter tool offers four styles, with control over color, opacity, blending, and rotation angle.

The new Retro Lab tool allows tweaking of a wide range of variables, and once you're satisfied, the resulting adjustments can be saved as a new preset for later reuse.

Importantly for a program aimed at consumers, Corel has revisited PaintShop Pro's sharing options. We've already mentioned the built-in upload to Facebook and Flickr with contact notification capability. There's also a new Share My Trip tool that you can use to create shareable slideshows including captions, zoomable Google Street View maps, and of course, your photos. You can also simultaneously upload images to Facebook, Flickr, and Google Plus accounts from within PSP itself, including resizing, organizing, captioning, and tagging capabilities.

Also updated are the Corel Guide and Learning Center, to help users come to grips with all the new and existing features.

PaintShop Pro X5 is available both separately, and in a bundle with VideoStudio Pro X5.

It's not all aimed at beginners, though. There are a few treats for more experienced Paint Shop Pro users, including enhanced layer styles through which to apply and tweak effects like drop shadows or outer glow on a whole layer, an updated crop tool with preset aspect ratios and a rule-of-thirds grid, support for automatically running multiple scripts in sequence, and more.

Available immediately, Corel PaintShop Pro X5 is available in standard and Ultimate editions, or in a bundle with VideoStudio Pro X5. The base version of PaintShop Pro X5 is priced at about US$80, while the Ultimate edition bundled REALLUSION FaceFilter Studio 2.0 and NIK Color Efex Pro 3.0 plugins and more for an extra US$20. For US$130, you can get the Photo & Video Suite X5. The non-Suite versions are available to existing users at a discount of US$20.