Paint Shop Pro 8 is the latest
version of Jasc Software's premier image-editing software package
for Windows. Sharing many of the same capabilities of more expensive
image-editing software, Paint Shop Pro 8 provides the resources to create
and manipulate images with complete flexibility by featuring a comprehensive
set of tools needed for digital photography, web design, and creative
graphics. For photography enthusiasts, Paint Shop Pro 8 represents one
of the better values in image-editing software for Windows-based computers.
The main Paint Shop Pro 8 interface. The workspace can
be completely customized and different variations can
be saved for different projects or different users.
Paint Shop Pro 8, as with any other graphics manipulation software, benefits
greatly from a powerful computer. Jasc Software recommends a 1GHz or faster
processor and 256MB of RAM. I tested the software on a 1400MHz machine
with 256MB of memory and felt that while the performance was adequate
on smaller 10-50MB files, the performance on 100MB and larger files would
benefit greatly from more RAM. During the review I upgraded this computer
from the 256MB to 768MB of RAM. On a 110MB image file, the difference
in performance was tremendous. Applying the unsharp mask filter needed
almost 2 minutes to complete on this image before a RAM upgrade. No other
changes to this computer except the memory upgrade to 768MB whittled this
time down to 31 seconds, virtually a quarter of the time. Needless to
say, memory will play a critical role in the overall performance of applications
such as this. The performance is also directly related to the amount of
undo levels specified in the preferences. Regardless of how much RAM or
processing power is available, I still felt that the program was slightly
slower in direct comparison to Adobe's Photoshop 7, which is generally
considered the benchmark in imaging software.
Paint Shop Pro 8 histogram adjustment tool provides a multitude
of adjustments and a detailed preview. The histogram overlay
shows the before and after data for visual reference.
on this computer was a LaCie electronblue III CRT both calibrated and
profiled with the GretagMacbeth Eye-One Display package. Paint Shop Pro
8's integrated color management will honor ICC monitor profiles
so that images on the screen are properly displayed.
Images can be imported from most digital cameras and scanners very easily
so that all work can be performed from within the Paint Shop Pro 8 application
itself. I found the browser interface a simple and logical solution to
sorting through digital camera JPEG images very quickly.
Tools, Layers, And
Extensive editing and image manipulation tools are available. There are
all of the necessary tools for retouching and repairing images, and tools
such as the air brush and cloner have a wide range of configurable attributes.
Brush size and shape, along with opacity, density, hardness, thickness,
and blending mode all provide the user with the control needed to create
virtually any effect. Tools such as the histogram adjustment are what
I would consider to be both well designed and powerful.
Paint Shop Pro 8/Courtesy Kodak.
There are lens correction
tools designed for fixing barrel, fisheye, and pincushion distortion.
Deform warp tools, a warp brush, and a large variety of effects (more
commonly referred to as filters in programs like Photoshop) all combine
to create a program that offers all the image processing functionality
that the average end user should need. Numerous web design tools also
make this a very good application for use in creating graphics and preparing
imagery for the Internet.
Layers and masking are handled in a simple and logical fashion. The blending
modes that control the interaction of specific layers allow the same powerful
effects and versatility found in more expensive editors. The built-in
scripting support allows users to automate certain tasks and perform them
on batches of files, which is very useful for handling mundane tasks.
Photoshop 7.01/Courtesy Kodak.
The end user has complete
control over the look of the interface and tool palettes, and these different
configurations can be saved and recalled at any time. A large number of
preference settings offer a way to customize the behavior and appearance
of this software.
This is the area where Paint Shop Pro 8 clearly fails to live up to professional
standards. After extensive testing, it is quite clear that the only RGB
images that Paint Shop Pro 8 correctly supports are image files in the
limited sRGB color space. This is a large Achilles' heel for many
advanced users, and will become a larger problem as more and more digital
camera vendors are supporting alternative RGB color spaces such as Adobe
While it is clear that sRGB images are properly displayed and printed
as far as color accuracy, images I tested in a variety of other color
spaces such as Kodak ProPhoto, Colormatch, and Adobe RGB 1998 were all
incorrectly displayed and printed as sRGB images. It is also poor color
management behavior that Paint Shop Pro 8 strips the embedded ICC profile
in each file so that if they were embedded in the file to begin with,
you can be sure that they won't be embedded when saved out of the
application. The bottom line is that in a typical sRGB workflow, Paint
Shop Pro 8 is sufficient, as it does use an ICC monitor profile to at
least display these images correctly. Color management is one area that
Jasc Software needs to improve in Paint Shop Pro 8. Refinement in this
area would immediately catapult this program to an overall higher standard.
printing layout interface allows you to drag and drop images
from the preview pane along the left of the screen and place
them according to how you would like them to print. Rotation,
scaling, and placement are controlled by simply
right-clicking on an image and choosing the operation.
The printing workflow of Paint Shop Pro 8 is excellent and is truly one
of the highlights of this software. The print layout window shows the
user a thumbnail list of all the current open documents in the application
and an area that represents the paper size loaded in the printer. The
user merely drags and drops the image or images onto the "virtual
paper." The user can rotate, re-size, and orientate images in any
configuration desired, or build templates for common print sizes. Better
yet, the user can save these template layouts with the images intact for
recall in the future so that reprinting any particular layout at a later
date is a simple task. As previously mentioned, the color management capabilities
when printing are apparently limited to sRGB, but most digital camera
enthusiasts shooting sRGB files will be quite satisfied and should obtain
very good color matching from screen to print.
template feature is a true time-saver. Create custom templates
or use pre-built templates to simplify printing images at
Summary And Last Words
Paint Shop Pro 8 is an excellent program for the typical imaging enthusiast.
From the rich feature set, to the comprehensive documentation, to the
free unlimited technical support, it is hard to fault this program for
a retail price of only $109. There is also an electronic downloadable
version available from the jasc.com website. Even after repeated testing
of files over 100MB, the stability proved flawless. With an installed
user base of over 25 million users worldwide, it is plain to see that
the program has a wide appeal and a dedicated following.
As it stands, Paint Shop Pro 8 is too limited for use in professional
installations where digital images are frequently processed in larger
color spaces than sRGB. ICC color management is rather mature at this
stage, so its complete inclusion seems like a prudent decision at this
point of the product development. I hope that Jasc Software chooses to
integrate a more powerful color management engine into a future release
of Paint Shop Pro to take the capabilities of this already powerful and
capable program to the next level.