PaintShop Pro is powerful and versatile

PaintShop Pro Ultimate can be a great alternative to Photoshop. (Corel)

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PaintShop Pro Ultimate can be a great alternative to Photoshop. (Corel)

There is no shortage of photo-editing software. If you’re a power user (like news photographers) you’re already familiar with Photoshop, which does everything to a photo but take it. Journalists are forbidden to alter the content of photos — deleting the face of one person and substituting it with Alfred E. Neuman of Mad magazine fame is a good way to lose their job. Adobe charges $10 a month to use Photoshop. Subscriptions have good points and bad ones. You don’t actually own the software, but you do get updates as they’re released. That $10 a month quickly adds up. You could pay more than $50 a month for all of Adobe’s creative content, and professionals will find that’s a small price to pay for choices and power.

What if you don’t need Photoshop’s professional-level power and you’d rather own your software? You’re on a tight budget, too, with about $100 to spend. You can spring for Adobe’s Photoshop Elements, a perfectly good little brother to Photoshop. I’ve used it on and off for years, and it usually fits my needs.

But my go-to photo-editing software is Corel’s PaintShop Pro Ultimate. It has all the features of Photoshop Elements and more. It has an intuitive and polished interface that will help you add text to a photo, create a double exposure, remove scratches from photos, turn a photo into a painting, edit 360-degree shots, and it has dozens of tutorials starting with an introduction to photography and including more technical tricks. These aren’t YouTube-quality clips — they’re slick and professional — and they help new users and advanced novices unlock the treasures of editing images.

Since being blessed with grandchildren, every week I take dozens of photos of them with my Nikon digital camera. Then I launch PaintShop Pro and do amazing things with exposure and the kinds of editing tricks that are forbidden for news photographers. My grandchildren look great, and even more so when I edit their photos in PaintShop Pro. A family portrait that was slightly overexposed was fixed with a click on the menu bar. I also was able to add depth of field to a photo that had a distracting background.

The nagging question is always “Should I upgrade to the latest version?” Depends. The latest versions cost between $80 and $100; the latter is the best deal, since it includes a couple hundred dollars worth of auxiliary programs such as AfterShot Pro. And that $100 for PaintShop Pro Ultimate gets you a permanent license; there are no subscription charges.

The new version is faster, and has more tools and other enhancements. I’ve put Photoshop Elements back on the shelf and, following PaintShop’s excellent tutorials, I’m getting to the point where my edited photos look as if a professional took them.

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Harold Glicken is a retired newspaper editor. He can be reached at and a collection of his columns can be found at