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Corel PaintShop Pro review

PaintShop Pro 2021 is perfect for anyone who regularly edits photos, and it has good graphic design options too.

The PaintShop Pro Complete 2020 interface
(Image: © Corel)

Our Verdict

PaintShop Pro 2021 is easy to use and has a decent range of tools. You can learn how to edit images easily using this software, and continue using it as your skills advance.

For

  • Broad range of tools
  • Easy to learn and grow with

Against

  • Only works with Windows
  • Not as advanced as Adobe

Once a staple of Windows PCs, PaintShop Pro has been around for a long time. Its latest versions, however, are very well provisioned with powerful image editing tools, especially if working with portraits. It's one of the best photo editing software packages out there, and can also be used for graphic design too.

PaintShop Pro 2021 has comparable tools to many other editors, but while many have gone down the subscription route, requiring you to pay a monthly fee for use, PaintShop Pro is still a single purchase for a lifetime license.

Corel PaintShop Pro 2021 review: Features

PaintShop Pro's interface uses tabs to divide the editing tools by function, which makes the program easy to use and navigate. It has two main tabs for its tools: Manage and Edit. The Manage tab is where the photo organizer is found, and you can use it to browse, tag, and organize photos. The Edit tab houses editing tools that help you refine photos. Since both tabs house different functions and tools, it is easy to locate what you want without getting lost in the program, and is ideal for beginners or casual users.

You have four different workspaces in PaintShop Pro 2021, and they all roughly correspond to the type of editing you'll be doing: Photography, Essentials, Sea-to-Sky, and Complete.

The Complete workspace has all the tools available, including layers, while the Essentials space cuts it down to basic photo enhancement and editing tools - think of these as the difference between full Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. The Photography workspace is ideal for beginners, who want to use AI tools to quickly enhance their images, and do automatic tidy-ups of areas that are less than perfect. It comes with an interesting split-screen display that shows the before and after version of your edit, so you can see what effect each change has.

Sea-to-Sky is designed for aerial and underwater photography, and features the same split-screen as the Photography space. They're simple to use, although you don't always get consistent results when using the AI-driven tools.

PaintShop Pro smart adjustments

(Image credit: Corel)

The picture editor can add effects to your image and any text on it, to make it stand out. In addition, PaintShop Pro has around 100 creative filters you can apply to completely change the textures and colors in your photos. This software can layer photos to create vivid HDR images, and stitch pictures together to make detailed panoramas. You can further alter images using the highlight and shadow adjustment tools, and there are AI-driven options for removing noise and artefacts, as well as upsampling images. A recently added feature gives you 360-degree photo editing too, which helps you combine multiple images together to create a virtual tour.

PaintShop Pro has tools for editing close-up portraits. Using red-eye removal and makeover tools, you can eliminate blemishes, smooth wrinkles, whiten teeth and enhance skin tones on subjects. You also can use the cloning tool and layers to help you correct your photos. These layers also allow you to test effects and filters on your photos without permanently changing the original image.

Since it serves as both a photo editor and design software, this program includes vector graphic tools, which means you can use it to edit both vector and raster images. Auto-edit options are included as well, which make automatic corrections to your photos, and the software's lens distortion corrector fixes bowing caused by wide-angle lenses. PaintShop Pro supports batch processing, so you can apply the same edit to multiple files at the same time, greatly reducing your editing time.

PaintShop Pro mirror effects

(Image credit: Corel)

Corel PaintShop Pro 2021 review: Compatibility and Export Options

Pro 2021 includes an organizing system to help you store and manage photos. Under the Manage tab, you can organize images by tags, people, places and ratings and easily find them later using this information.

One nice feature of PaintShop Pro 2021 is that it has face-detection technology that automatically groups photos based on the subjects in each image. You can also look at your photos' EXIF data from the organization screen, which helps you to remember how specific settings on your camera allowed you to capture a particular look in your photos. While it's not the best photo organizing software available, it's certainly one of the best products in this category.

Supporting over 40 file formats, you can import most images into the program. It is compatible with common image file types such as RAW, JPG, TIFF, PNG, GIF, PSD and PDF.

The software has tools that help you optimize your photos for use on the web. If you are uploading and editing pictures for online content, you can use the slicer tool to cut your image into smaller pieces, which decreases the time it takes to load your images.

PaintShop Pro old photo effects

(Image credit: Corel)

Corel PaintShop Pro 2021 review: Price and Support Options

Corel sells the regular version of PaintShop Pro 2021 for $79.99, and you can get a download code from Amazon at the same price. It's priced well for the number of editing and organizing tools you receive, and is cheaper than many of its competitors. If you want to test the program before making a purchase, try the 30-day free trial. There's an ultimate version too, for $100, which comes with a number of plug-ins for specialized tools and editing purposes.

You can connect directly with Corel's customer service team by email, phone or live chat. In our experience, Corel's customer service representatives are prompt in their responses and consistently friendly. In addition to direct communication with Corel, you can use the video tutorials, FAQs and user forum on its website as resources. It can't quite match the tutorial range you find in the Adobe programs, but it's still an impressive array.

It's a power-hungry editor, which means you definitely need one of the best home computers to run it. While most computers have it, you'll need 4GB RAM as an absolute minimum, and will need a spare 3GB SSD space to install. This is the most resource-hungry software we've tested, but is also the newest.

Should you buy Corel PaintShop Pro?

If you're primarily working with images of yourself, and other people, this is one of the best editors you'll find. It's very geared towards enhancing portraits and self-portraits, with a broad range of pre-set filters and options to tidying up faces and cleaning up backgrounds. The Sea and Sky workspace does add an interesting new dimension to edits, so it's also handy for drone photography. It doesn't quite have as deep a set of features as the Adobe suite, but it is cheaper, and has a more visual interface.  Overall, we'd recommend PaintShop Pro 2021 for anyone with a casual interest in editing, or a desire to start with casual portraits and work up from there.

Rebecca Spear

Rebecca is a writer who has covered everything from photo books to graphic design and small kitchen appliances for Top Ten Reviews. Now a gaming writer for Future Labs, she's also contributed to big publications like TechRadar, Windows Central, Android Central, Reuters Legal Solutions Blog, iMore, and more.