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Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate Review

The latest edition of Corel PaintShop Pro has arrived and with it comes new tools and various enhancements to rival those of more advanced photo editing programmes.

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Ease Of Use & Performance
System Requirements


Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate Review : PaintShop Pro 2018

PaintShop Pro 2018 is the latest version of Corel's photo editing software that's billed to rival the most advanced photo editing and design suites currently on the market so we had to put it to the test, to find out just how true this bold statement really is. 


Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Features

On test, we have the Ultimate version of Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 but there is a basic version available for £69.99. The Ultimate version is £20 more expensive (£89.99) but as well as photo editing, it offers photo-painting, intelligent image correction and RAW photo editing with the inclusion of Painter Essential 5, Perfectly Clear 3 SE and AfterShot 3. There are also dozens of brushes, textures, and over 100 royalty-free backgrounds available for use, free of charge. 

Corel actually asked their users what they wanted to see in the new version of PaintShop Pro and with requests such as making it simpler to use, easier to learn and quicker in action, it seems Corel did listen with the software showing improvements in all of these areas. 

New & enhanced features of PaintShop Pro 2018

  • Simplified UI that's easier to navigate and learn
  • Two new workspaces
  • Improved tools 
  • More creative content
  • Improved speed

The launch time of the software has been reduced by almost 50% (we can confirm that you definitely don't have time to go and make a cup of tea while it loads) and popular tools such as Crop, Text, Selection, Clone, Gradient, Eraser and the Dropper have been enhanced. Corel says they've also accelerated the speed of favourite editing features, something that will be welcomed by fans of previous versions of the software. 

As you'd expect from photo editing software, there are loads of tools on offer and to help streamline the user experience, even more, these tools are now split into two workspaces, Essentials and Complete, something we'll be looking at in more detail in the next section. 


Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ease Of Use & Performance 


If you've previously used PaintShop Pro you may notice that this version looks a little different when you first open up the software and that's because two new workspaces, Essentials and Complete, are now available. The idea is that one of the workspaces will match your level of expertise better than the other, streamlining your workflow as a result.

'Essentials' is the workspace you want to be clicking on if you're new to photo editing or just like things to be quick and simple. Here, you'll find all of the core tools you need to edit images without tools you may never have seen before or know how to use, cluttering up your workspace. Those with a little more photo editing experience will more likely be clicking 'Complete' as this workspace offers more ways to manage, edit and design your photos. Also, the layout of 'Complete' is very much in-keeping with the style of previous releases in that it has separate applications that give you access to tools specific for a particular task. 


Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate Review :


The Welcome Page is still a useful hub where you can access tutorials, support and pattern/texture packs you can use to enhance your images. A couple are free to purchase but there are also paid-for plugins available from popular brands such as Topaz and ON1. There's also a gallery which showcases the work of PaintShop Pro users so you can gain inspiration or simply admire the work of others. While we are on the subject of downloads, those who are new to PaintShop Pro will find the free keyboard shortcut cheat sheet really useful as by learning shortcuts, you'll speed your workflow up. It's also worth mentioning that the tutorials and presets are updated dynamically which means the content on offer will change regularly. The general interface still looks good, too, with little tweaks here and there to make it even easier to use.

Back to Essentials vs Complete workspaces, here's a comparison of both areas so you can see how they differ (click the image to see a larger version). 

Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate Review : Corel PaintShop Pro 2018


Essentials is a lot cleaner workspace with bigger icons and just the basic tools you need to edit photos. It's the photo editing space you need to use if you just want to make quick edits or are just starting to explore the world of photo editing. While, as you can see, Complete has a lot more windows and palettes filling the space. You can add windows/tools to the Essentials workspace if you wish but simplistic minimalism is definitely the name of the game when you first open it up. 

To start editing an image, you simply select the workspace you want then click 'New', select a 'Template' to work with or hit 'Open' to launch a previously worked-on project. If you click 'New' you can adjust the size of the document you'll be creating manually or simply click one of the many built-in presets available that include various common photo and paper sizes. If you want to make a card, collage or even a brochure, the built-in templates are a great time-saving tool as the basic designs are already in place, you just have to add your photos. However, they do have to be paid for but at a couple of quid, they're not something that will bankrupt you over night. 

As the Essentials workspace is new, this is where we'll be focusing our attention to start with before taking a look at what's new in the more familiar Complete workspace.


Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate Review :

PaintShop Pro users asked for a simplified user interface and you can't get much more simple than the Essentials workspace. There's a Quick Customise tool that lets you quickly, and easily, add/remove tools so you can just see the tools you use regularly. For example, if you don't use the Clone tool or perhaps the Background Eraser isn't something you're familiar with yet, just untick them in the Quick Customise window and they'll be removed from the tools palette. If you remove too many tools, you can hit the 'reset toolbar' to start again. One annoying point with the Quick Customise window is that you can't scroll with your mouse wheel through the options. Instead, you have to click and hold the slider to move through the tools or you can select a letter to go to a specific section. There's also a Quick Search box you can type a tool name into if you know what you're looking for. 

The UI is also much more customisable so you can adjust the size of icons, nodes and scroll bars (handy if your eyesight isn't great) as well as change the colour of the background surrounding your image (although light grey is recommended when editing photos).  The Guided Tour is a nice feature, too, that means someone with very little photo editing experience can learn how to use the software with ease.

Over in the Complete workspace, there are loads of tools on offer, some of which are automated while others give you much more control over the image editing process, and there are also options to create batch edits, custom presets and scripting to speed up your workflow. A variety of file formats are also supported, including RAW. 

In the Complete workspace, you'll find two areas to work with: Manage and Edit. As we said in our previous review, those familiar with Lightroom will find the Manage section useful as this is where you organise and tag your images. Edit is, well, where you edit photos. If you've used PaintShop Pro previously, you may notice there's no adjustment tab and that's because the tools that were available in this section are now built into the Edit window. This means that one-click edits can still be made with 'Smart Photo Fix' and that options for cropping images, straightening photos, removing red-eye, cloning and make-over tools are still available, they're just found in one place. It makes sense really as they are, after all, editing tools so why complicate the software with another window that's not essential. 


Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate Review :


A couple of tools Corel has mentioned that are now quicker to use are the depth of field options and text wrapping and when using both tools, we had no trouble with lag and there were no long wait times when applying effects, even to large-sized photos. While talking about text wrapping, it's worth noting that Corel has added a few options to the Text tool such as the ability to apply superscript, subscript and text justification. They may seem like small changes but as Corel says the text tool is something many PaintShop Pro owners use regularly, they'll be welcomed updates. You can now also paste text into a shape and watch the text dynamically adjust to fit the space, a feature that will be handy when creating Valentine's or even Christmas cards. 

The Crop tool, something most of us use quite regularly when editing photos, has had an update so various composition guides can be used when adjusting the image so that it's easier to create a more balanced image that's pleasing to the eye. The Clone tool has also had a small tweak so you can now see what part of the image you've sampled from inside the Clone Overlay tool. This is actually a really useful update as it means you can keep your eye on the area you're cloning over rather than having to keep glancing at what point the software is sampling from. 


Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate Review : Crop tool


Other tools receiving enhancements include the Dropper, Eraser and Gradient Fill tool. The Dropper tool can now change into the Flood Fill tool as soon as you've made your selection so you can quickly copy the colour to another area of your photo, or indeed another image and when you open the Gradient tool, you'll find 30 new gradient options to choose from. As for the Eraser tool, Corel said users wanted them to refine it so its controls were even more precise so a variety of opacity levels have been added, allowing you to fine-tune how much of an effect you remove. 

We've looked at the enhancements so now let's turn our attention to what's new in Corel PaintShop Pro 2018. We start with a new Quick Preview which does what it says on the tin and is handy when you want to quickly take a closer look at images in your organiser palette found at the bottom of the screen. Those who regularly use the colour palette will see that a range of palette presets have been added to make it easier to select colours that complement each other and 30 new brushes are also available.


Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate Review : Brushes


Artistic tools which are more useful for photographers are the 75 new gradients, patterns and textures which give you access to brick textures, floral patterns and other images you can overlay with your photos. Many of them are also free to use, too, which is a bonus. 

All of PaintShop Pro 2018's tools also use new document-aware slider values, so that the maximum size of the tool you're using reflects the size of the image you are working on.

When we reviewed PaintShop Pro X9, we praised the improvements in responsiveness and we have to give Corel a pat on the back once again as speed and efficiency have definitely been worked on again. PaintShop Pro 2018 loads in no-time at all and we didn't experience any lag when moving from different windows or from workspace-to-workspace. We didn't encounter any load issues when applying edits and tools run smoothly without any jittering, too. 

Simplicity has always been the name of the game with PaintShop Pro and the introduction of the Essentials workspace has really driven this message home. The UI in this area has been simplified without taking away the essential tools you need to edit a photo and as a result, it's really easy to navigate/use. The introduction of the Essentials workspace was an excellent idea as the lack of windows, palettes and more advanced tools means the workspace isn't intimidating or overwhelming which means someone who's new to photo editing will be more likely to use it. Also, the fact that tools can be added means the software can grow with you as you expand your knowledge. 


Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate Review :


You can also quickly switch between workspaces without saving and closing which is great and photo effects can be applied in real time which speeds up workflow and just makes the software more enjoyable to use as you don't have to open up dialogue boxes and then close them again to see how a particular effect looks. We know this is something you just come to expect in modern software but the speed it responds at isn't something that's always guaranteed and Corel has done a good job at making PaintShop Pro 2018 incredibly responsive. 


Value For Money

Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 (standard version) is available for £69.99 while the Ultimate version is priced at £89.99 and as this is a one-off fee, not subscription based like Adobe's offerings, it's actually really good value for money. Adobe's photography package, which is cloud based and includes Photoshop and Lightroom, costs £10.10 a month (£120.64 a year) or you can pay £20.22 a month just for a single application. This has to be paid every time the membership runs out, too, unlike PaintShop Pro 2018 which is a one-off payment. 

Other alternatives include Adobe Photoshop Elements which can still be accessed without a Creative Cloud membership for around £90 however, it doesn't offer the advanced options PaintShop Pro 2018 does. There's also Xara Photo & Graphic Designer or OnOne Perfect Photo Suite, both of which scored well in our reviews. There are also free options available but you won't find anywhere near as many features, options and controls built in. 

It's also worth noting that there's an extra 10% off Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate until 10 September 2017 so it's even better value for money. 


Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Verdict

There are two major plus points to owning PaintShop Pro 2018: 1, it's subscription free and 2, it's easy to use for all levels of ability. 

Corel has worked hard to make PaintShop Pro fast and effective and we have to praise them for continuingly trying to find ways to speed up workflow for its users. We also have to commend their efforts in making PaintShop Pro a piece of software a pro or someone who's just dipping their toe into the big photo editing pond can use. The introduction of the Essentials workspace is an excellent idea and it's been executed well. Plus, there's still space for those with a little more photo knowledge to stretch their imaginations and even this area, which worked perfectly well in previous versions, has been streamlined to make the photo editing process even quicker and smoother. Corel always works hard to ensure all levels of photo editing ability are catered for and again, we commend them for that. 

Not every photographer will find all of the updates/new features useful but the fact that the software is faster, still easy to use and subscription free should grab the attention of many. In fact, those looking for an Adobe alternative should take a long hard look at Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 as we're more than happy to 'Highly Recommended' it.

Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Pros

  • Excellent value for money 
  • Great for beginners as well as pros
  • Helpful guides & tutorials
  • Free bonus material 
  • Quick to install & use 

Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Cons

  • Some of the new tools aren't for everyone
  • Can't use mouse wheel on menus with scrollers 

Overall Verdict


Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 System Requirements 

  • Windows 10, Windows 8/8.1, Windows 7 with latest service packs  installed (32-bit or 64-bit editions)

  • Intel or AMD 1.5 GHz or faster processor with SSE2 support (multicore processor recommended)

  • 2GB of RAM (4 GB recommended)

  • 1GB of free hard disk space (2 GB recommended)

  • 1280 x 768 resolution, 16-bit color display  (1366 x 768 resolution, 24-bit or higher color display recommended)

  • DirectX 9 or higher compatible video adapter with latest driver

  • Internet connection required for accessing online features and  video tutorials

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 or higher

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Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 SEARCH

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