Basic Photo Editing With Corel Paintshop Pro

Ok, so it's been a few days since my last post, life has been hectic but I've actually been working on a couple of things that I need to still put into practise.
One of the things I've been working on is the formula for this blog and I've decided to do these posts in somewhat of a user guide type formula. That means I have to start from the beginning, with basic photo editing.

I'm not going to get into the whole PSP interface thing, I think the Corel documentation is quite sufficient for that.

So here goes ...

For this post I've decided to start with a RAW file so that those new to PSP can get a feel for what it does. I use a Canon camera so the file I selected is a Canon RAW file but those with other brands of cameras shouldn't have a problem following along.

To start with, open Corel Paintshop Pro  and select the "Manage" tab at the top of your screen.

Right click the RAW photo file you want to work on and click on "Edit Photo".



A note for those with cameras that don't support RAW format, simply skip the RAW editing part of this post and start with the next section after you clicked on "Edit Photo".

Ok, good. PSP will now open the RAW image in Camera RAW Lab as below.



As you can see I took a quick shot of this honey bee and the result leaves a lot to be desired. So lets see if we can do something with this, less than spectacular, macro shot.

PSP's RAW lab only allows some very basic editing but if this is all you've got then make the most of it since it's way better to make changes to RAW files than converted files. And, as always, make small changes at a time. Throughout the editing process these small changes will add up to a lot and you don't want to overcook the results.

For those who's cameras come with raw converters like Canon's Digital Photo Professional or Nikon's version, I highly suggest you use them instead of this program and then come back to PSP once you've converted your photo into Tiff format.

As you can see from the sliders, I made only slight changes to brightness as this photo was fairly well exposed to begin with. Saturation always suffers in RAW format so I've pushed that up quite a bit.

I've set the white balance with the temperature and tint sliders as best I could and have set the noise reduction to the minimum that would give me a nice and smooth looking image.

Although this image had very little noise to begin with, it's always a good idea to use at least a little bit of noise reduction in the RAW image as any remaining noise will be exaggerated during the rest of the editing process.

Right, now that we're happy that we've done everything humanly possible to improve the image in the RAW editor, it's now time to export the image to Paintshop. This is done by clicking on the "Edit" button on the bottom of the screen.

Note that as with any good editing application, the processing is non destructive which means that PSP will always keep your original image intact even if you click on "Apply".  

Now the fun starts...

Whether you've started with a RAW file or something like Tiff or JPEG, you will find yourself back in PSP which will now display your image under the "Edit" tab on the top of the screen.

On the left will be your tool menu and on the right will be, among other things, your layers palette. Photoshop users should now start to feel a little more at home as PSP's interface is very similar to that of Photoshop.

Corel recommends doing most of your initial editing with the Smart Photo Fix utility and I fully agree.
So to start off with, click on  the "Adjust" heading in the menu bar at the top of the screen.
Then click on "Smart Photo Fix".
Your display should now look something like this:


 If the Photo Fix utility doesn't look quite the same as mine, click on the "Preview" link in the top left corner, also check the "Advanced" checkbox to bring up all the settings. In the top right corner you can check the "Preview on Image" checkbox so that PSP will update your main image as you change settings. I prefer this to the before and after previews as it's easier for me to see what's happening to my photo. The choice is yours.

When I start with this utility I always start by removing the suggested settings and set all the sliders to 0. You can get them back by clicking the "Suggest Settings" button but I find that the suggested settings rarely gives me the improvements I want.

As before, make only small changes at a time.

If you started the process with a RAW file, you can leave the "Overall" slider on 0 as you've already done this during the RAW conversion process . If you started with a non RAW file then you may need to tweak this slider to get the exposure you want.

Here, I've set Shadows and Highlights both to "-5" because I want my shadows a bit darker for more contrast and I tried to retrieve a little detail from the highlights by bringing the "Highlights" slider down a bit.
I also adjusted the Black and White sliders ever so slightly to make my blacks, blacker and my whites whiter.

I also set saturation to "5" as the image still wasn't saturated enough to my taste and if you didn't start this process with a RAW file you may have to tweak the saturation a bit as your camera's default settings would have either over or under-saturated your photo.

Ok, once you're happy with your adjustments, you may click on "Ok" to apply your new settings.

Well, hopefully by now your photo will look a lot better but there's still some improvements that we can make.

With the next step I'll return to white balance.

Click on "Adjust" in the menu bar on top of your screen, and then on "White Balance".
Again, if your screen doesn't look like mine, click on "Preview" in the top left corner, and on "Advanced Options".

A note to the more advanced user, the reason I do not add this as an adjustment layer is because this option allows me to use the "Smart Select" function which the adjustment layer does not have.

What I'd like to explain here is the following, if you have an image with pure white, grey and black areas, the smart select function makes white balance easy. To do this you simply click on smart select and then click on the white, grey and black areas on the "Before" preview image, in any order.
Make sure you click the areas that you want as pure white, grey or black otherwise you may end up with unexpected results because PSP will automatically adjust the white balance to remove any color cast from these areas.
PSP will also automatically detect what type of area you clicked on and adjust the white balance accordingly. Once you're happy with the white balance you may click on "Ok".

Keep in mind that this white balance utility will overwrite all previous white balance editing done when you use the "Smart Select" function. I normally use only this white balance function or I use this in conjunction with the previous ones to fine tune the white balance but then I don't use "Smart Select". Again, the choice is yours.

This particular image has no pure grey areas so I only selected white and black areas for my selection. This works well enough and you can still fine tune.

Now, on to the next step and dealing with adjustment layers.

Corel Paintshop Pro allows us to add several adjustments as layers to the image which makes it easy to switch them on and off to see what effect they have and even to delete them or move them between layers, depending on what we want to accomplish. If you've never worked with layers before, now is the time to dig into the PSP documentation and play around with layers until you understand their function.

Next I'll be tweaking the contrast and to do this you click on the "New Adjustment Layer" icon at the bottom of your layers palette, then click on "Brightness and Contrast". PSP will now add a new layer on top of your background layer and open the "Brightness and Contrast" adjustment window.




Most images can do with a little added contrast in my opinion but again you have to make small changes until you find a setting that works. In this case I set the "Contrast" slider to 10.
When you're done, click on "Ok". You will now see the "Contrast" adjustment as a layer on top of your background layer in the layers palette.

The neat thing about adjustment layers is that you don't need to use "undo" and "redo" if you're unhappy with the changes you've made. You can simply delete the adjustment layer to remove changes or you can double click on the adjustment layer and fine tune your changes some more.

At this point I'm still not happy with the saturation of the colours in the photo so with my next adjustment layer I'll fix that.

As you can see, I'm constantly using small changes and I can add the same adjustments again and again until I'm happy with how my photo looks.

So go ahead and click on "New Adjustment Layer" and click on "Hue/Saturation/Lightness ..."



Here I'm adjusting the "Saturation" slider only, and setting it to "10". I think the photo now looks as good as it's going to get so click on "Ok" to apply your "Saturation" layer.

Like I said, the image colours, brightness and everything else is now as good as it's going to get but I can still improve it a little more. There's too much stuff in the photo for my taste so I think I'll crop it a bit.

Click on the "Crop" tool on the toolbar on the left of your screen.


Select the area that you would like to have in your photo, then click the green tick mark that sits just above your selection, which will apply your crop.



Now that I'm basically done with my editing I need to do one more thing. All the editing and layers I've added have made my image a little less sharp. It's always a good idea to apply at least a little bit of sharpening just before you save the final image.

Click on "Adjust" in the top menu bar. Then go to "Sharpness" and select "High Pass Sharpen".
There are different sharpening techniques apart from High Pass Sharpen so play around a bit and see which one works best for your photo. For this particular one, High Pass Sharpen seems to give me the best results.

In this instance I changed the Radius to "10" and set the "Strength" to "28". This gave me smooth sharpening and didn't exaggerate any blown highlights or create any editing artifacts.

And we're done!
You may now go ahead and save your image to your favourite format. Below are the before and after images for convenience sake.



Well that's it, hopefully this post was not to tedious to read through and now I have a base to work from.

Happy editing.

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