Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018


In this article, I will review the latest version of PaintShop Pro 2018. I have a unique perspective, having used it over 17 years ago for the first time. Let’s see how it fairs now.

Please note: this is a Windows-only program.

Start of PaintShop Pro (PSP)

Approximately 17 years ago I was working in retail selling computer hardware and software. A lot of people came in asking for Photoshop and were understandably shocked when they were informed the price was $1500. So being able to offer them an alternative for around $200 meant I made a lot of sales of what was then PaintShop Pro Version 7.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

Since then, Corel bought the program and invested in further development. PSP (as it was known in the day) could do quite a bit of what Photoshop did, it had layers and masking, support for graphics tablets, and for the majority of people who just wanted to be creative, was a very cost-effective option. It was laid out in a similar way to Photoshop, functioned very similarly and to a certain extent was just as difficult to learn for a newbie.

Things have changed a lot since then. Now, I have spent the last three years learning to use Photoshop to creatively edit my images beyond straight photography. With a new set of skills under my belt, it’s time to see what PaintShop Pro 2018 can offer once again.

Price and Options of PaintShop Pro 2018

PaintShop Pro 2018 is available in both Standard ($64.99 USD) and Ultimate ($79.99 USD) options, where Ultimate includes some other potentially useful Corel programs. For our purposes here, this review will only cover the Standard version.

Purchase Full version for a new installation, or upgrade if you are a current user.

Please note that PaintShop Pro 2018 is only compatible with Windows operating systems, however, it must also be noted that this is a perpetual license, not a subscription. You only need to pay once and it’s yours forever, which may appeal to some customers.

Ease of Use

On starting up PaintShop Pro you are greeted with a Welcome screen and the choice of Essentials or Complete.  Each screen is a different color to minimize confusion. At the bottom of each screen is a choice of links encompassing tutorials, free stuff and access to technical support.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

There is also access directly within the program to purchase extra textures, software (including an upgrade to the Ultimate version) and lots of different plugins and special effect options.

Creating a new file offers choices from a custom design and several different image or document presets.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

The Essentials Workspace

The Essentials workspace layout is very simple and clean with the usual central space dedicated to the image, a menu bar at the top, tool bar options to the left and right, and an image browsing interface (similar to Adobe Bridge) at the bottom.

The left tool bar can be moved, docked, floated or stretched out to a single column of buttons. Adding or removing functions is easily done by clicking on the plus (+) at the bottom and selecting from the choices available. It is a pretty extensive list and would likely cover the requirements for most average users.

The right tool bar by default handles the colour palette options and can also be docked by right-clicking and selecting that option.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

The Complete Workspace

The Complete workspace layout is a bit more involved with an additional Learning Center docked on the right-hand side. Good news is that if you switch between Essentials and Complete, the program remembers your preferences for laying out the menus so it stays consistent. Layers also dock much tidier in Complete workspace than they do in Essentials – so if you want to use Layers, I suggest using the Complete workspace. There is a fair amount of customization of the visual layout, sizing, and color options as well under User Interface.

Keyboard shortcuts appear to be pretty similar to those used in Photoshop. I tested Ctl+Z (undo), B, and X with expected results.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018


The system used for testing was an HP Z230 Workstation with an i7-4770 3.4Ghz processor, 12GB memory, and an SSD drive. The performance was quick and responsive. However noticeable lag was experienced when bringing in a large PSD file with around 50 layers. It took about a minute for the program to process and open the file.

Linking to a Network Drive to view RAW files also showed some hesitation while the program did some background processing.

Image Management and Editing

Enhance Photo options are available within both the Essential and Complete workspaces. My preference is for the Smart Photo fix, as you get a large preview window to view the effect of adjustments, plus you have more options and control over the settings. One Step Photo Fix is a “click the button and what you get is what you get”. Smart Photo Fix gives you basic options but with a bit more control.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

Smart Photo Fix option offers some basic editing options as well as a Before and After preview which is really useful.

There are also some Lens Correction options under the Adjust Menu to help counter various distortion problems.

The usual Adjustment layers are available; Brightness/Contrast, Curves, Hue/Saturation, and Levels being the most likely candidates, plus a few unique to PaintShop Pro. One feature I did particularly like was that it offers a preview of the effect from within the editing palette.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

A preview window is offered on all the Adjustment Layers that I tested.

Working with RAW images

RAW images can be edited via a Camera Raw option. It appears to work similar to Lightroom, where you point the navigation at the desired folder and it pulls up the images in a grid view. I have everything saved on an NAS (Network Attached Storage), and the Computer navigation option couldn’t view it, but I was able to add a link to the NAS under the Collections>Browse more Folders option. It took a while for the program to make the network linkage, and bring up the images.

Once you find the RAW file you want to edit, select it and click the EDIT Tab and it will open up a fairly basic panel with similar options to Adobe Camera Raw. It would be on a par with Lightroom version 3 or 4, so quite limited compared to current Adobe options. However, if you do not need the more advanced features, it is quite functional.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

Raw file editing is fairly basic compared to today’s standards (Adobe ACR) but it covers the bases for most home users without being too complicated.

Creative Options

Masks are still a bit clunky. When you want to add one, you are asked to choose from three options – if you want it to behave the same way you expect in Photoshop, choose Source Opacity. The default is Source Luminance.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

No wonder I found masks so difficult to learn back when first using PaintShop Pro.

The Scratch Remover worked alright but when I tested it on a textured background, there was an obvious blur visible where it had applied. Object Remover was a bit clunky to use, in that you had to select the object you wanted to remove with one tool, and the background you wanted to replace it with via a separate tool. Once applied it did a pretty good job. Some feathering of the edges, and it would blend in nicely.

Here you can see a line of blur where I have used the Scratch Remover (red circle). I have also used the Content-Aware option but that is less obvious (purple circle).

Text can be applied, and there are lots of options for texture, paint, brushes (though there is a very limited default range of brushes, you do have the option to purchase more or create your own).

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

Brushes and text and using layers.


PaintShop Pro 2018 is a program that is clearly aimed at the consumer market. With two levels of control, it caters to the most basic requirements, and still allows enough scope for people who want to stretch their editing capabilities.

For those needing professional or advanced level editing Lightroom and Photoshop, both offer much more advanced functionality, but PaintShop Pro will cater to the vast majority of user requirements. The price is attractive, as is the lack of any ongoing subscription costs. A lot of work has gone into improving and modernizing the interface and there is a lot of flexibility offered as to how you can interact with the program.

It offers a good range of tools and options at a reasonable price and should not be overlooked. It would compare favorably against Adobe Elements.


There are a few historical quirks (like management of layers) that should be improved to make it easier to use. But PaintShop Pro is ideal for a home user who wants a range of features that are not too complicated.

Review Date
Reviewed Item
PaintShop Pro 2018
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Stacey Hill invested in her first DSLR back in 2007. While having many adventures out and about in the South Island of New Zealand, Stacey took to blogging about her experiences learning photography. Recently she discovered the fun and creative possibilities to be had with Photoshop. She can be found having an opinion all over the place here.

  • Adri Stone

    I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE my Corel PSP. I started with version 4 and have never looked back. I very stringently do NOT like Photoshop. I don’t like how it is set up, how large and cumbersome it is and the price. Totally not at all worth it to me. Not keen on Lightroom either. Pain in the fanny and I don’t like that you have to subscribe.

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  • Stacey

    Yes the subscription is a turn off for a lot of people, and PSP has pretty much the features most people will want. Its an attractive option. Pleased to see it has a fan 🙂

  • Mrs. Bad Girl

    I love PSP and I like PS too but the price and subscription was a turn off and major factor I got PSP again

  • Stacey

    Yes more and more people have issues with the subscription model, myself included

  • William

    Any chance that we will be seeing more tutorials for PSP users?

  • Stacey

    Its possible, is there something specific you would like covered? There are so many options!

  • Rodger Bunker

    Hi Stacy, I’m a long time photo editor, 50 years, I used an Amiga computer until they went out of business and I had to switch to IBM. One of the brushes that was available that I really liked was called the “blender brush”. The purpose of this brush was to blend two different colors or shades together. I have been unable to find this type of brush in the Paintshop Pro series or maybe I am just looking in all the wrong places. I can get the effect I want by using smudge and soften nut it’s very time consuming. Any help would be appreciated. Rodger

    P.S. I am now using Paintshop Pro 2018.

  • Stacey

    Hi Rodger – in Photoshop what you refer to sounds like the Mixer Brush. I searched for that for PSP and found this link, hopefully that helps

  • Rodger Bunker

    Stacey. Thank for the reply. I went to the site you suggested, I did learn something new but it is not what I’m looking for. I have answered the survey from PSP and suggested they include the Blender Brush but to no avail. It was my favorite brush. I’ll keep looking and hoping. Thank you, Rodger

  • Stacey

    There are probably forums and discussion groups that other users participate it, having similar questions. Maybe find one of those and ask, someone is bound to know the answer or maybe suggest an alternative option you weren’t aware of? Its possible its just not there any more, but it sounds kinda useful, so lets hope not

  • Cadwallider

    Roger whether ot not this is an option for you, there is an Amiga emulator that runs on a PC. I have not yet tried it myself but it might be worth a look if it would enable you to get the effect you want. The website is:

  • Andrew The Celt

    They have blender brushes in Corel Painter Essentials 5 so if you bought the Ultimate bundle you should be able to import them.

    Or, if you go to the brush properties in PSP you can change the blend mode from the drop down menu and just create your own.

    The full PSP Pro 2018 manual is found here in PDF format. Brush options start on Pg. 617.

  • Sue Rigard

    Hi.. I love psp 2018 but having trouble with the palette responding… Do you know why this is happening? Hope you can help me out 🙂

  • Stacey

    Im not an expert at all unfortunately – but this might help?

  • tomherren

    I had PSP XI and tried X2 which never worked for me due to issues with colour management. I then bought CS5 which I recently replaced with Affinity Photo which costs even less than PSP but works great for me.

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