PaintShop Pro X5 Ultimate

Is Corel’s latest budget digital imaging app a must-have or must-avoid for artists? We take a closer look at the latest version of the software...

Our Verdict

A good budget solution if you're looking for a photo editor and painting app in one tool.


  • Good brushes
  • Low price


  • Not the speediest
  • Less powerful than Photoshop and Painter

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PaintShop Pro has always been seen as a low-budget relation to the likes of Photoshop and Painter.

Yet the software has an interesting history, dating back to 1990, around the same time as Photoshop. In 2004 its originators Jasc sold the application to software giants Corel. And here we are, with Corel’s fifth release of the package, marketed as a photo-editing application – “the Ultimate Photo Editor” it says. But what does it offer digital artists?

Powerful tools

Well, for a start it has an excellent Paint Brush tool. For the price, this is tool extremely powerful. Granted, it’s not Painter or Photoshop powerful, but you can choose from a variety of presets, edit shape, size, opacity, thickness, rotation and blend mode. Of course it’s standard stuff, but you can import Photoshop brushes if you like.

There are some nice natural media tools here: Oil Brush, Chalk, Pastel, Crayon, Coloured Pencil, Marker, Watercolour Brush, Palette Knife, Smear and Art Eraser. If you’re familiar with Painter then you’ll get on extremely well with these tools, and each changes the options bar contextually, giving you settings to control the brush.

For instance, you can quickly alter the shape and thickness of a Chalk, or the amount of paint loaded onto an Oil Brush. There’s also a Painter-like Mixer palette.

The app’s main functionality is in the Edit tab, where you’ll find excellent brushes as well as support for Wacom pressure sensitivity

The app’s main functionality is in the Edit tab, where you’ll find excellent brushes as well as support for Wacom pressure sensitivity

Anyone who has used Photoshop will be familiar with PSP’s Layer Styles, enabling you to quickly add drop shadows, glows and so on to your layers. Speaking of layers, the Layers palette is very similiar to Photoshop.

Intuitive browser

On opening the application, you’re not presented with quite what you’d expect. A file management tool is displayed by default, and you switch between functions (Manage, Adjust, Edit) by using the tabs along the top. The file browser itself is intuitive, with a large preview appearing in the main window and thumbnails running along the bottom. Pretty standard fare, but it feels professional.

The Adjust tab offers quick adjustments to your images – it’s really a tool for photographers, but can be used to add some global effects to your work. An Instant Effects palette gives you access to a number of sub categories, with Film Styles and Retro effects being the most interesting.

But the main functionality of the app – for artists anyway – is found in the Edit tab. And this is where you’ll find the excellent brushes mentioned earlier, complete with support for Wacom pressure sensitivity and so on (which is really no surprise).

For a budget app, PaintShop Pro has a lot to offer. Its artistic media tools may be a teeny bit laggy on anything but the latest workstation, but it’s a solid solution for those looking for an all-in-one photo editor and painting app on the cheap.

Key info

  • Price: $69.99
  • Company: Corel
  • Features: Natural media tools; Photo editing toolset; Customisable
  • brushes; Support for pressure sensitivity; Slick dark interface; Paint ‘Mixer’ palette; Canvas textures; Retro filters; Quick image adjustment tools; Image browser/file manager.
  • System Requirements: PC Only: Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP (32-bit or 64-bit), Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon 64 or later (multi-core recommended), 1.5GB RAM, 1GB hard disk space, DirectX 9 or higher, internet connection, optical drive.

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The Verdict

out of 10

PaintShop Pro X5 Ultimate

A good budget solution if you're looking for a photo editor and painting app in one tool.

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