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Corel PaintShop Pro X8 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £80
inc VAT

High quality RAW processing joins the ranks, but PaintShop Pro still lags behind the competition.


OS Support: Windows 7/8/8.1/10, Minimum CPU: 1.5GHz, Minimum GPU: DirectX 9, Minimum RAM: 2GB (4GB recommended), Hard disk space: 1GB (2GB recommended)


PaintShop Pro has a long history of coming second in our reviews. There’s plenty to admire but it couldn’t match the attention to detail and performance of Adobe Photoshop Elements. Neither application has progressed much in recent years, so it was only a matter of time before something came along to usurp them both. That something turned out to be Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, which for £103 a year provides our two favourite image-editing applications, Photoshop CC and Lightroom. It’s a much more appealing prospect than upgrading PaintShop Pro or Photoshop Elements for around £50 each year. Corel needed to hit back with something special to avoid being relegated to third place.

As usual, there’s a standard version of PaintShop Pro X8 (£60) and an Ultimate version (£80) with various additional modules. One of these modules is much more than substantial than the usual lightweight extras. Corel AfterShot 2 is a powerful photo-management and RAW-processing application. It’s not quite a match for Lightroom but it comes close. Library management is elegant and sophisticated, with the ability to filter by multiple metadata such as date, lens model, keyword and star rating. RAW processing is excellent, with surgical precision over colours and impressively quick screen redraws as settings are adjusted. The ability to create freeform masks to colour correct specific areas of the frame is a particularly welcome inclusion. Considering that handling of RAW files was one of PaintShop Pro X7’s weakest areas, this development bodes well.

Corel PaintShop Pro X8 - AfterShot

^ The bundled copy of AfterShot threatens to overshadow the main application

Sadly, AfterShot’s arrival isn’t quite the success it could be. For one thing, this is AfterShot 2 and not AfterShot Pro 2. There don’t appear to be many differences, but this version lacks the Local Contrast filter for creating punchier details and the highest-quality noise-reduction algorithm.

More disappointingly, there has been no attempt to integrate the two applications. There’s no button or right-click command to send an image from one to another. AfterShot is a non-destructive editor, saving edits as a set of instructions in a XMP file. PaintShop Pro doesn’t recognise these files, so any RAW editing done in AfterShot is ignored in PaintShop Pro unless the user exports from AfterShot as a new file.

The main PaintShop Pro application still has its two entirely independent RAW processing engines for its Adjust and Edit modes, both of which score poorly for RAW processing quality. The former looks like a non-destructive editor but in fact requires edited RAW images to be saved in another format, locking in edits and generating additional files. Even the Adjust and Edit modes seem to blissfully unaware of each other. When attempting to take a RAW file from the Adjust to the Edit tab, the software saved the edited image in a proprietary PSPIMAGE format on the desktop. It then disregarded this saved file, went back to the original RAW file and offered to process it from scratch in the Edit Mode’s woefully inferior RAW Lab editor.

Corel PaintShop Pro X8 - RAW Lab

^ The RAW processing that’s built into the main editor remains seriously underpowered

It is possible to work around these issues, using AfterShot for all RAW processing duties and saving as JPEGs before importing into PaintShop Pro for layer-based editing. Photoshop Elements is much more elegant in the way it handles RAW files, though, and it also delivers superior quality processing. Lightroom and Photoshop CC up the stakes yet again with powerful non-destructive editing and Smart Objects that create dynamic links across the two applications.

Another setback for AfterShot is its poor camera support. After supplying it with RAW files from 14 cameras, and it could only import seven. Lightroom opened all 14, as did the main PaintShop Pro editor, albeit with its inferior RAW modules.

Corel PaintShop Pro X8 - Text Wrap

^ Quickly fit text into complex shapes

PaintShop Pro has some new features of its own. Text can be made to flow around shapes, a common technique for desktop publishing (DTP) software but rarer for image editors. It’s delightfully easy to do – make a selection, select the Text tool, click inside the selection and start typing. The downside is that it’s not possible to amend the shape after entering text. With DTP software, text flows around objects, so the text is reflowed as objects are moved.

A new Magic Move feature lets the user select an area of the image and drag it to a location, whereupon the software patches up the old location by cloning from nearby areas. It’s essentially the same as Photoshop Elements’ Content-Aware Move Tool, and has the same limitations, handling random textures such as foliage well but struggling with complex objects such as buildings and people. Comparing the two applications side by side, neither produced flawless results but Photoshop Elements was consistently better.

Corel PaintShop Pro X8 - Magic Move

^ Magic Move automatically patches photos when elements are moved around Corel PaintShop Pro X8 - Magic Move

^ It’s not always successful at analysing images, though

There’s neater handling of layers and support for high-resolution monitors (so the interface doesn’t become unusably tiny). There’s a new lens correction filter for correcting distortions, chromatic aberrations and vignetting, although it’s little use being built into the RAW Lab module. It’s also available for JPEGs in the main Edit mode, but in the few times it identified the lens used and offered a suitable lens profile, it didn’t seem to have much bearing on image quality. Perhaps that’s because most modern cameras already correct for lens defects in their JPEG output.

The most significant improvement is a performance boost when making brush strokes. Making large brush strokes with processor-intensive tools such as Dodge and Burn was hopelessly unresponsive in version X7, but it’s vastly improved this time around. Photoshop Elements is still faster, though.

AfterShot is the star of the line-up, but we wonder how many people will bother to use it while PaintShop Pro continues to integrate its own, inferior, management and RAW-processing modules. AfterShot 2 is available on its own for just £12, and RAW shooters on a budget may as well go for that deal. For layer-based editing and the best RAW processing available, Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography Plan keeps the top honours, followed by Photoshop Elements. PaintShop Pro must settle with third place.

System requirements
OS SupportWindows 7/8/8.1/10
Minimum CPU1.5GHz
Minimum GPUDirectX 9
Minimum RAM2GB (4GB recommended)
Hard disk space1GB (2GB recommended)
Buying information
Price including VAT£80

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