Using Paint Shop Pro Photo XI to create Black and White Photos

How to use new Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI Photo Effects to create Black and White digital photographs.

Some of the coolest features of Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI are the new Photo Effects. I have been playing around with the Black and White Film effect lately. Effectively converting a color digital image to black and white takes more than just a greyscale converter. You can do it, but the results usually won’t be the best.

As a demonstration, here is an example image of my son climbing an indoor rock wall.

Original Image

Using the Black and White Film Effect in Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI I tried different Filter Colors to see which would create a black and white image that had good contrast.

Paint Shop Pro Photo XI Black and White Film Photo Effect - filter options dialog box

In this case, I did not adjust the strength. I ended up choosing the green filter because I thought it gave the image good contrast without making it too dark, or too light.

Here is the image after converting with Paint Shop Pro Photo XI Black and White Film Effect and the green Filter Color choice.

Paint Shop Pro Photo XI Black and White Film Photo Effect - Green Filter

Now lets compare that to a greyscale conversion done in Paint Shop Pro Photo XI.

Paint Shop Pro Photo XI Greyscale

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI does a good job with the greyscale conversion. If you look closely you’ll see that the greyscale image is muddied and has lost some of the detail in his hair.

Paint Shop Pro Photo XI: Film and Filter Effects

Corel added new Film and Filter Photo Effects to Paint Shop Pro XI. Now, you can mix and match Film Types with Creative Filters to change the appearance of you photos. I tried some Film and Filter Effects on an image I have of some boats in the fog.

Corel added new Film and Filter Photo Effects to Paint Shop Pro Photo XI. Now, you can mix and match Film Types with Creative Filters to change the appearance of you photos.

I tried some Film and Filter Effects on an image I have of some boats in the fog. The photo was taken the day before Christmas in December, 2003. The image has always looked too blue to me, but this is what I got when I took the photo.

Boats in Fog, original, by Eric Holsinger

I added an Orange Filter Effect with Paint Shop Pro Photo XI and got some more warmth into the image.

Boats in Fog, Paint Shop Pro Orange Filter Effect, by Eric Holsinger

Then I tried using the Vivid Film Effect with the Orange Filter Effect.

Boats in Fog, Paint Shop Pro Vivid Film Effect and Orange Filter Effect, by Eric Holsinger

Now, that image really pops!

I also tried the Enhanced Reds Film Effect with the Orange Filter Effect.

Boats in Fog, Paint Shop Pro Enhanced Reds Film Effect and Orange Filter Effect, by Eric Holsinger

You can see that all the light blues disappeared from that image.

Then, I went back to the blues by using the Muted Reds Film Effect with the Night Effect Filter.

Boats in Fog, Paint Shop Pro Muted Reds Film Effect with Night Effect Filter, by Eric Holsinger

The Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI Filter Effects and Film Effects are great tools that simulate the behaviors of some of the slide films I’ve used in the past.

Paint Shop Pro X: RAW power

Corel Paint Shop Pro X, with RAW support, may be the best workflow improvement I’ve experienced since I bought my digital camera.

I finally upgraded to the latest version of Corel Paint Shop Pro X. It may be the best workflow improvement I’ve experienced since I bought my digital camera.

Corel Paint Shop Pro

I have to admit that I was very reluctant to even try Paint Shop Pro X after being disappointed with the trial version of Corel Paint Shop Pro 9. Paint Shop Pro X has many changes to the user interface and some of the tools I used most in JASC Paint Shop Pro 8 are completely different in PSP X. But, PSP X starts much faster than PSP 9 and the RAW support alone may be worth it.

Workflow (more work than flow)

So, I have a Canon 10D. It’s getting a bit dated, now, and only shoots at a mere 6.3 Megapixels. But, it has an option to shoot in Canon RAW format. Since I didn’t have RAW support in PSP 8, I would use Canon ZoomBrowser EX and File Viewer Utility to do some processing on the RAW image and then convert it to JPG.

Canon ZoomBrowser EX is the main tool for managing and manipulating images from my Canon 10D. From this tool you can copy images from your camera, or memory card, and store them on your drive.

Canon ZoomBrowser EX

You can use the ZoomBrowser to “zoom” into directories and convert images for preview. The “zoom” is an animation of the directory getting larger until it fills the viewing area. It’s cute but I could do without it if the tool was faster.

From ZoomBrowser, you can open the Canon File Viewer Utililty which will allow you to manipulate the exposure and do some processing of the image.

Canon File Viewer Utiltiy

In File Viewer Utility, you can adjust the contrast, color, sharpness, exposure, etc.

Then I open the converted JPG in JASC Paint Shop Pro 8 for further manipulation.

Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8

In Paint Shop Pro 8, I would usually do some saturation or contrast adjustments and then resize and run Unsharp Mask. Sometimes I would just run One Step Photo Fix.

The pair of ZoomBrowser EX and File Viewer Utility is pretty slow; so it’s a pain to do a lot of images. Most of the time I would just convert the RAW files to JPG with a bulk adjustment. But, what is the point of wasting time doing a sloppy RAW conversion if the camera can do a good job of it on the spot at capture time? It was easier to just work with a JPG file in PSP 8 than to work with a RAW file in ZoomBrowser EX and File Viewer Utility.

Shooting in RAW gives you some artistic options in the digital darkroom that are harder to achieve with JPG. Once the image goes to JPG, the color range is clipped. For snapshots, this isn’t a big deal. But when you are trying to get a really good photograph, and you use your tripod, you use your shutter release, you set the exposure adjustment and you take a long exposure at ISO 100, it makes sense to work the image using all your digital tools before converting it.

An evolution occurred in my workflow when the free download of Pixmantec Raw Essentials became available.

Pixmantec Raw Essentials 2006

Pixmantec Raw Essentials allows me to browse files and manipulate them more quickly. Raw Essentials does a low resolution rendering and replaces it will a higher resolution. Technically, the image probably doesn’t display any faster, but it’s more tolerable. The best feature is probably the JPG conversion. Pixmantec Raw Essentials takes advantage of background processing to convert the images while you are doing something else. So, you don’t have to wait for the image to finish. You can just keep working.

Less work, more flow

Paint Shop Pro now has RAW support for Canon CRW files. Now I can browse and manipulate RAW files in one tool. An image browser opens by default showing thumbnails of all the RAW images. When I open an image, I am given the dialog for Smart Photo Fix. This is good because a RAW file, by definition, has only had very minimal processing in the camera and needs to be processed to get the most out of the image.

Corel Paint Shop Pro X

A little rough around the edges

There are some problems with Paint Shop Pro X that I hope are fixed soon. One big problem is the Image Browser seems to get confused somehow and starts throwing up “illegal argument” error messages that never seem to end.

Paint Shop Pro X - Invalid Argument in Browser

I’ve had to kill PSP X from Task Manager several times. I can reproduce it by resizing the Browser panel. That just throws it into a death spiral for some reason.

Another problem with the Browser is speed. It seems to render the whole image instead of just doing a rough render, followed by a better quality replacement. That would really make the Browser nicer. A large directory can take a long time just to render the image you want so you can select it for editing.

Paint Shop Pro: One Step Photo Fix…

Paint Shop Pro, formerly from JASC and more recently from Corel, has a nifty One Step Photo Fix command for automatically adjusting color balance, contrast, clarity, saturation, smooth edges, and sharpening an image. It command works pretty well as it is but I found that by tweaking the script behind it, I could more often get images that I liked better than the default output.

Paint Shop Pro 8 from JASC (more recent version is Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI) has a nifty One Step Photo Fix command for automatically adjusting color balance, contrast, clarity, saturation, smooth edges, and sharpening an image. The Paint Shop Pro One Step Photo Fix command works pretty well as it is but I found that by tweaking the script behind it, I could more often get images that I liked better than the default output. I will give some examples and show how I modified my script for Paint Shop Pro 8.

First, here is a photo of my beautiful and tolerant wife enjoying the presence of my Canon 10D in our campsite after backpacking a couple miles into Maine’s Cutler Coast. This photo is 20% of the original size, before any other editing.

Cutler Coast Campsite, Maine - original

The photo itself is not perfect by any measure; the focus is soft. But, this photo is pretty good for my photo album as-is. I might even be tempted to just have it printed with no adjustments.

When I run the Paint Shop Pro One Step Photo Fix command on the image above, this is the output:

Cutler Coast Campsite, Maine - After the Paint Shop Pro One Step Photo Fix command

After running the Paint Shop Pro One Step Photo Fix command, the colors are more accurate, and the image is clearer and sharper. But, I think the contrast is too high. More specifically, I think it makes things look too washed out; especially in the skin tone.

Unhappy with the One Step Photo Fix command, I went looking for the script that is run when you click the One Step Photo Fix button. I found it in C:\Program Files\Jasc Software Inc\Paint Shop Pro 8\Scripts-Restricted\OneStepPhotoFix.PspScript. (Note: C:\Program Files\Jasc Software Inc\Paint Shop Pro 8 is where I installed Paint Shop Pro 8. Your installation may be elsewhere.) The script is a Python script that Paint Shop Pro reads and executes when you click the button. It’s just a text file and you can read it with Notepad or Wordpad. Be careful to not modify the original file, though. We are going to copy it first to another directory.

You may not even know it, but when you install Paint Shop Pro, it creates directories in your My Documents directory. We want to place a copy of the OneStepPhotoFix.PspScript into the My Documents\My PSP8 Files\Scripts-Restricted directory.

Here is a picture showing where the Paint Shop Pro 8 Scripts-Restricted directory is:

PSP 8 user directory

If you did that, you now have two copies of the script, the default installation version and one you can edit for your own needs. The new copy will appear in the script drop down on the menu bar, as shown on the left in the image below (you may have to select it from the drop down list after restarting Paint Shop Pro 8):

Paint Shop Pro scipt menu bar

I opened OneStepPhotoFix.PspScript with Notepad and I changed the copy to skip the contrast enhancement step by adding #’s before the lines. This is called “commenting-out” in computer programmer jargon. Here is what the modified contrast section looks like:

# Enhance the contrast

#   App.Do( Environment, 'AutoContrastEnhancement', {
#           'Appearance': App.Constants.Appearance.Natural,
#           'Bias': App.Constants.ContrastBias.Neutral,
#           'Strength': App.Constants.ContrastStrength.Normal,
#           'GeneralSettings': {
#               'ExecutionMode': App.Constants.ExecutionMode.Silent,
#               'AutoActionMode': App.Constants.AutoActionMode.Match
#               }
#           })

That’s the only change I made. Now, when I run the script from the scripts menu, I get this output:

Cutler Coast Campsite, Maine - custom

That looks more appealing to me.

My new script gives me all of the automatic adjusting of color balance, clarity, saturation, smooth edges, and sharpening the image; without the overpowering contrast adjustment.