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Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 Review

Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 is an inexpensive piece of photo editing software that has plenty of options and tools but how does it perform? Find out in our review.


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Features
Performance
Verdict
 

Xara Photo & Graphic Designer is a photo editing tool designed to be used by photographers as well as graphic designers. On test here is the recently announced version 11 which has RRP of £49.99, however it's currently available for £44.99. If you're interested in finding out what's new in this latest version, take a look at our news story here: Xara Photo & Graphics Designer 11 Announced
 

Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 Features

  • Fast, non-destructive photo handling
  • Integrated Photo Tool
  • Advanced Photo Manipulation
  • Free Creative Effect
  • Photo Panoramas
  • Intelligent Scaling
  • Bitmap Tracer
  • Quick to use
  • Easy to navigate
  • Supports RAW 
  • Support For Adobe PS PSD files including layer support

 

Xara Photo & Graphics Designer 11

 

Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 Performance

When opening the program you are presented with a simple enough interface - there is a column along the right-hand side which gives you layer options, as well as access to the designs and bitmap gallery. To the left is a range of editing tools and along the top is an info bar which gives you more options for the tool selected and a row of menus. The column found to the left can be permanently pinned in place or hidden should you need more room to work with. Images can be opened via the 'File' menu or by simply dragging and dropping them in. 

One of the most useful tools for photographers is the integrated photo tool. As with all of the tools found in the software, it's non-destructive and offers both manual as well as quick, automatic photo enhancement presets. This includes options for adjusting an image's brightness, contrast, sharpen, blur, saturation and temperature. Images can be scaled, adjusted in size and cropped with ease while tools such as red eye removal and the ability to adjust shadows / highlights with the drag of a slider make basic adjustments a doddle. 
 
 
Xara Photo & Graphics Designer 11
 
Perspective correction will automatically adjust images for you while the panorama mode stitches images quickly and with ease. Other useful tools include layer blending, feathering and vector masking which is actually really simple to use and doesn't require the user's mapping skills to be too accurate either. Blemishes can be removed with the Photo Healing tool and the Magic erase tool quickly removes backgrounds from shots. The Transparency tool isn't found under the photo editing tool list but it's worth a mention as it's a really easy way to apply graduated or flat transparency effects to images. 
 
 
Xara Photo & Graphics Designer 11
 
Talking of FX, by clicking the Live Effect tool and hitting 'new' found in the information bar, you'll find lots of effects you can add to your image such as Lomo, Colour Splashing and Sepia options. 
 
Xara Photo & Graphics Designer 11
 
What's impressive about Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 is how easy the tools are to use. You either move sliders or input a number to add / reduce an effect, plus all of the effects can be removed easily should you decide you don't like them. Even the built-in automatic effects which can be applied via the FX button look pretty good, when used on the right subject. Processing speed can slow when applying certain effects, but it's not so slow that you have to go away and make a cup of tea while you wait. 
 
For those interested in creating calendars, albums, collages or other photo themed products, you'll find templates in the Designs Gallery, accessed via a tab on the right-hand column, all of which are editable.
 
Xara Photo & Graphics Designer 11
 
As with more expensive pieces of editing software, you have the option to work in layers and use masks to edit select parts of an image. Although, thanks to the feathering option, you don't have to be too accurate when applying a mask for the effect to be applied in the correct locations which is a bonus for those new to masking or photo editing software in general.
 
Even the erase background option is easy to use as you don't even have to select the whole background to remove it. Simply roughly paint over the parts of the picture you want to erase, select the Mask Painter Tool and paint over some of the parts of the foreground you want to keep, then Select the Eraser Tool again and then click on Erase background on the top info bar. Once the software has finished processing, it can take a while, your background will be removed. Occasionally, it did leave some parts of the background behind but these are easily removed with the Erase tool and it certainly saves a lot of time. 
 
 
Xara Photo & Graphics Designer 11
 
Edits made are also, generally, applied quickly meaning you're not waiting around too long to see what a particular effect looks like on your image. Plus, the software also supports various file formats including JPEG, PSD and RAW. Although, the RAW editing options aren't as advanced as those found in Photoshop, for example. 
 
If you get stuck at any time, there's a tutorial section to help you which can be found under the 'Help' menu by clicking on 'Movies'. A tip of the day can also be viewed which mainly explains what certain options do.

 

Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 Verdict

For the price, Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 is a rather excellent piece of software that offers a whole host of tools, many of which you'll find in more expensive pieces of software, such as Adobe Photoshop, but for a fraction of the cost. Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 is easy to use and has plenty of presets that many users will be happy to utilise. If preferred, you can use the large range of editing options available to process your image even further. Plus, there's also built-in options for creating calendars and albums, something which some photographers will be more than happy to work with.

The software is really easy to get a grasp of once you've played around with it for a while and is ideal for the novice photo editor who doesn't want to spend too much money yet still wants to achieve good results. Yes, the processing of images can occasionally be a little slow but not so much that it really interferes with your workflow and RAW editing isn't anything to write home about, but those working with RAW files will probably opt for using Photoshop and Lightroom anyway.

For those looking for an inexpensive way to experiment with photo editing, either manually or with automatic tools, Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 is well worth a look and we are happy to recommend it. 

 

Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 Pros

Easy to use
Lots of presets
Ideal for novices
Not expensive 

 

Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 Cons

RAW edit options not as good as other software 
Speed can occasionally be an issue during the application of effects 

 

FEATURES  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
OVERALL  

Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 is ideal for the novice photo editor who doesn't want to spend too much money yet still wants to achieve excellent results.


Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 is currently available for £44.99 (RRP £49.99). For more information, visit the Xara website.

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