Jasc Softwares Paint Shop Pro 8

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.

Compatibility And Performance
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.

The 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.

My display 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 Options
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.

Color Management
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 RGB 1998.

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.

The 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.

The template feature is a true time-saver. Create custom templates or use pre-built templates to simplify printing images at common sizes.

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.