Serif PhotoPlus

Serif PhotoPlus – Mention photo editing software down the pub and most of those 'in the know' will tell you how good they are with Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro. These are both fine programs, but there's another less well-known candidate they could benefit from trying, version nine of Serif's PhotoPlus has just been released. Serif's photo-manipulation software has come of age in this release, with most of the core features of its main rivals and a few which are more extensive or better implemented.

Take the warp tools, for example. PhotoPlus provides two of these: Mesh Warp and Elastic Warp. Mesh Warp places a mesh, or grid, over a picture element and you can drag any of the nodes where the grid lines cross to distort the picture. In addition, though, each node has handles, as in a vector graphics program, so you can change the shape of the curves between the nodes, giving you much more precise control of the warp effect. Elastic Warp, which should be used sparingly, takes any area of your image and stretches it in a cartoon-like fashion.

If you're the type of person who likes to play around with effect filters, you'll have a field day here. Each of the many filters available, including nearly a dozen artistic ones, appears in a dialogue including either your current image or a sample image and showing what the effect will look like when applied. The artistic filters convert your photographs into the styles of specific artists like Van Gogh and Munch, or schools like Impressionist or Expressionist.

The other main area of improvement in PhotoPlus's feature set, compared with the previous version, is its compatibility with other applications. For a start, the program can now import and export Photoshop PSD files and includes support of Photoshop layers, converting them to and from its own effortlessly.

You can also create Acrobat PDF files directly from within PhotoPlus, though this feature is not as useful in a photo editor as it is in a multimedia application such as the program's DTP sibling, PagePlus. Finally, Serif has improved the print layout options within PhotoPlus, so you can select a combination of images on a page which makes best use of expensive resources such as photo-quality paper. There are 17 layout templates for A4 paper alone, but you can also define your own and save them for repeated use.

Here is a list of the included features in Serif PhotoPlus:

  • Automatic Image Extraction – Need to isolate a face, feature, or object for collage work? Sit back and let the unique Extract command do the lifting! Sophisticated edge detection combined with variable settings and touch-up tools assure great results every time.
  • Powerful Image Browser – The built-in Image Browser rapidly displays image thumbnails a folder at a time so you can preview clip art or saved work and inspect file details in a convenient, Explorer-style interface.
  • Brush-on Warping Effects – Just paint with the Elastic Warp tool to pull, stretch, and distort image details—or use Thick/Thin Warp to shrink and enlarge. Adjust brush size or properties to vary the effect… use the Unwarp brush to touch up your results.
  • Stunning Picture Brushes – Use Picture Brushes to lay down colorful arrays of single or multiple mini-images: realistic machine cogs, colorful tubes, falling leaves, flowers, jelly beans, jewels, raindrops, marbles, planets, and more…
  • Animation and Web Power – Animated GIFs are smaller and faster to download than ever—even better for great Web pages. Planning to add sound to your animations? Now you can export to the .AVI format for movies and multimedia!
  • Professional Digital Retouching – Employ the Blur and Sharpen tools to enhance or reduce local detail… paint on a soft-edge effect… blend multiple layers more cleanly.
  • High-End Creative Tools – It's the little touches that make the difference… like the improved Layer Manager with thumbnail previews… built-in Autoselect for rapid navigation in multi-layered images… the handy Measure tool for checking pixel dimensions… the Undo History tab so you never lose track of where you've been… new toolbar groupings and more.
  • Instant Photo Frames – Transform your digital photos into artistic portraits in seconds!

The system requirements of Serif PhotoPlus are:

Minimum

  • IBM compatible Pentium PC with CD-ROM drive and mouse (or other Microsoft compatible pointing device)
  • Microsoft Windows® 95, 98, 98 SE, Me, 2000, or Windows NT® 4.0. Compatible with Windows XP in single user mode
  • 32MB (Windows 95/98), see manufacturer's requirements for other operating systems
  • 55MB (recommended install) free hard disk space
  • SVGA display (800×600 resolution, 16-bit color or higher)
  • Additional disk resources and memory are required when editing large or complex documents

Optimum

  • Windows-compatible printer
  • TWAIN-compatible scanner and/or digital camera
  • Stylus or other input device, including pressure sensitive pen
  • Internet account and connection required for accessing online resources
Review by Jared Moya

Serif PhotoPlus has an average rating 4.0 out of 5 based on 3 user ratings.