Image Editing With Paint Shop Pro 9

Image Editing With Paint Shop Pro 9

A Software With Its Own Approach And Style

Text And Photography By Jon Sienkiewicz

For certain tasks, Paint Shop Pro 9 produces results faster and easier than other products in its category. For novices, or for those among us who haven't mastered all of the intricacies of more sophisticated software, this latest version of Corel's popular image editor provides simple and satisfying solutions for some of digital imaging's more complicated problems. In this article I'll cover three specific situations where Paint Shop Pro 9 does a great job.

Eliminating Purple Fringe Color
The first situation where Paint Shop Pro 9 excels is in the elimination of purple fringe, that nasty neon-like violet glow that clings to the highlights and along the light-to-dark borders in some images. Strictly speaking, it's not Chromatic Aberration, but that's what Paint Shop Pro 9 calls it. No matter. Using Paint Shop Pro 9 to eliminate it is as simple as can be.

Open the image you want to correct, and make the following maneuver on the main menu bar: click Adjust to Photo Fix to Chromatic Aberration. A new window opens to display your image in two side by side panels. Click the Zoom button until you reach a suitable magnification. In the right panel you can navigate to the affected area. In the left, use the cursor to outline a sample of purple pixels. Up to 10 samples can be collected per session. A color swatch above the Range legend displays the approximate color range that you've selected. Click the Proof button to preview the results.

The Radius setting controls the extent of the correction. The default value is 10, and Paint Shop Pro 9 recommends values between 4 and 20 for best results. In general, use the lowest setting that gets the job done.

You can check the Result on New Layer button to create a new layer to hold the corrections. This protects your original, unedited image. If you do not correct this box, corrections are made on the same layer as the original image.

Reducing Noise
The next task Paint Shop Pro 9 performs with excellence is the elimination of noise from digital images. Virtually all digital cameras can produce noise if the ISO setting is cranked up high enough. Some cameras have a real knack for noise making, especially at longer shutter speeds. Paint Shop Pro 9 is a whiz at making the noise disappear.

Many folks use Neat Image, a terrific free-to-try, cheap-to-buy package that does a great job of noise reduction. It has its flaws: it's slow, and must be launched separately. Paint Shop Pro 9 does a nearly equal job of eliminating the destructive effects of noise, and does it much faster. At the default setting for both programs, Paint Shop Pro 9 has a slight performance edge.

Here's how to do it:
Open an image. On the main menu bar, click Adjust to Photo Fix to Digital Camera Noise Removal. A new window opens. Again you'll see two panels, the right panel for navigation and the left providing an area to select the noise samples. At the bottom of the window you'll see your image as a full thumbnail that contains three cross hairs. Each cross hair indicates the location of an area that has been automatically sampled. You can use the zoom and/or navigation tools to take a closer look. You may also add more sample areas, but be careful to select large solid blocks of similar pixels and to avoid edges and borders.

Optionally, you can check the Camera Preset button if you wish to base the noise reduction on the defaults established for the particular camera that captured the image instead of the image itself. Since cameras can react differently under different conditions, more often you'll get better results when you evaluate the image instead of relying on the Camera Preset.

Three separate controls can be tweaked to fine-tune the results. The first, Noise Correction, is used to control the amount of correction in Small, Medium, and Large spatial bands. Next, the Correction Blend setting will adjust the amount that the corrected areas blend with the rest of the image. A setting of 100 applies correction throughout the image. The default value (70) provides good results. Finally, the Sharpening control can be set to evoke automatic image sharpening at the conclusion of the noise reduction. Default value is 0 (zero) and that's the best place to leave it--there's more control if you handle image sharpening as a separate operation.

If there is an area of the image that should be left unsharpened (skin texture, the rough surface of an orange, etc.) you may protect it by clicking the Protect Image tab and selecting the appropriate color range. Just hold down the Control key and use the mouse cursor to select a sample of the area that is to be protected. The color range is graphically displayed below.

Finally, click the Proof button to preview the noise reduction effects, and OK to apply the changes.

Knocking Out The Background

Last but not least, when you want to knock out the background of your image to add a background of your own (or for any other reason) you'll find that Paint Shop Pro 9 really sparkles. Paint Shop calls this feature Background Eraser and using it is fun and easy. It also provides a quick way to recover from mistakes that's as simple as a right-click.

The Background Eraser tool shares a spot with the regular Eraser tool on the Tools toolbar located on the left side of the main window. When clicked, a variety of control settings will appear on the top menu bar. The first seven settings control the brush size, shape, hardness, etc. After adjusting the brush to suit your taste, click the Auto Tolerance check box and the Background Eraser will automatically decide how closely the selected pixels must match the sample pixel. At lower settings, the pixel colors must match very closely in order to be erased. At higher settings, more pixels will be erased from the background.

The Sampling drop-down menu allows you to select how the tool determines which pixels to erase. If you choose BackSwatch or ForeSwatch, the tool erases all pixels that match the background or foreground color on the Materials palette. If you choose Once, the tool determines the color that is at the center of the brush when you next click, and uses that color as long as you keep the mouse button depressed. The Continuous option does the opposite, and updates the color as the mouse moves. You'll find it easier if you use the Once setting and move the mouse in small, controlled strokes.

The next drop-down menu, Limits, allows you to determine whether or not the pixels you erase must be adjacent. If you select Contiguous, the tool will erase only adjacent pixels that match the sampled pixels. The Discontiguous setting erases all matching pixels as you mouse over them, whether they are contiguous or not. A third option, Find Edges, restricts the tools action based on edge information.

A nice touch--at any point along the way you can hold down the right mouse button and undo the background erasure by retracing your steps until all mistakes are corrected.

With a little practice, you'll find Paint Shop Pro 9 easy and friendly. The Owners Manual, while robust in size (501 pages) is short on clarity and suffers from inadequate proofreading. In addition to the three key features outlined here, this software has many other virtues to recommend it. At $129 (street price is lower with manufacturer's rebate) it's a tool you'll learn to love for certain tasks.

For more information, contact Corel Corporation, 1600 Carling Ave., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1Z 8R7; (800) 772-6735, (613) 728-8200;