Ulead PhotoImpact XL 8.5
Ulead's PhotoImpact is in its 10th year on the market, and the company has continued to find a way to improve on it and add features and effects that makes this venerable image editing application a popular choice among digital photographers, graphic designers and other artists who need quick results. PhotoImpact, now in version XL 8.5, has always been targeted at those who want a quick way to tweak and process images to place in their projects, but don't want to spend the time learning a more complex application with a gazillion tools and features. While you could write a book detailing how to use every tool in the package, we'll take a quick look at some of the new tools, such as the new ExpressFix and Remove Color Cast tools, as well as some of the new filters and effects.
PhotoImpact Explorer 8.0
PhotoImpact XL also ships with Photo Explorer 8.0, the latest version of its image management tool. The company has been offering PhotoImpact with an image management tool since at least version 4, back in the day when it was called iPhotoplus, and this latest version includes tools to manage not just still photographs and images, but moving media as well. Since this is a separate application from the main image editor, we'll take a look at Photo Explorer 8 at a later date. So keep in mind that we will take a look at some of the new features to PhotoImpact XL. This image editor has offered a wide variety of professional features for many years, including excellent JPEG and GIF optimization capabilities, the capability to import vector graphics created in Adobe Illustrator, as well as a host of features for digital camera users.

What's New in Ulead PhotoImpact XL

One of the main new tools in PhotoImpact XL is ExpressFix. This tool enables you to quickly visually apply filters to an image to correct certain aspects of the image's exposure. The ExpressFix window opens up in a window with before, after, and dual view mode. It launches with the overall Exposure window, which gives you three different scenarios or looks to your image.

You select one of the images based on how the image looks in one of the view window. While you can toggle between the before and after looks of your image, the dual view is perhaps the better of the three, because you can see the original image as well as the potential modified image. In addition to choosing between the defaults given, you can select a custom adjustment, which enables you to add more contrast, less contrast, more brightness and less brightness.

These changes are achieved by clicking on the image next to the command, which then applies the command to the original image. Subject exposure also includes three presets and a custom adjustment feature. You can add more backlight, less backlight, more flash, and less flash.
Color cast

Color Cast enables you to tweak the color levels of an image. You can add more cyan, more green, more magenta, more yellow, more red, and more blue. This is via the custom adjustment. You can also select one of the three presets as well. Color Saturation enables you to saturate your image with more color or less color. In addition to the three presets, you can choose to add more or less saturation with the custom adjustment tool. Keep in mind that when you are tweaking your image, and are not satisfied with the results, you can reset the image to its original state before you went into a particular adjustment tool, or you can reset your image in its entirety, before you went into ExpressFix. Focus enables you to change the varying levels of focus in your image. Again, presets are available, as are custom adjustment capabilities. Here you can choose a softer focus or a sharper focus simply by clicking on the image corresponding to the action you want PhotoImpact XL to take.
Beautify Skin

Beautify Skin gives you the capability to tweak your subject's skin tone. You can give your subject's skin tone a change in tone via the Heavy tan, pale, darken, lighten, and sunburn complexions. Each of these can also be further tweaked via the Thumbnail variation slider, which adjusts the sensitivity of the effect based on a numerical value.

Remove Color Cast

This tool is supposed to flesh out the true colors in the photo by removing the color in the image that is most prevalent in the image. The practice is to launch the color cast tool, select the color in the image that appears to be the most dominant, and remove it or lessen its impact by moving the selected color to the center of the color wheel until you are satisfied with how the image looks. The original color is then replaced with the corrected color. You can also adjust the hue and saturation of the image here as well.
The application helps you out by maintaining a dual view (before/after) of the image, so you can see the potential changes that can take place should you go ahead with the image processing. if you are not satisfied with the results, you can always reset the original color parameters of the image and start over. This tool gives you the capability to tweak an image's color. It is not an autofix type tool, because you have control over the final image's color.

Multivision Filter
This filter reproduces a multi-image filter on a camera lens that reproduces the subject in a photograph. The way it works is when you launch the Multivision filter, a screen with the image opens up with a radius wheel that enables you to encircle the portion of the image that you want the effect to have an affect on. In the sample below I chose the pumpkin.
Multivision filter

The multivision filter tool enables you to choose the number of facets that you want to be duplicated, in this case I chose five. The filter comes with presets and can also be adjusted manually. You can choose between circular, linear, and symmetric, and the filter will change the look of the image accordingly. You can also adjust the effect's transparency, softness, and rotation to get a different look and feel. This is really a filter that you can experiment with.

The Moon Effect enables you to simulate all phases of the moon in your images. Essentially, you can add a moon phase into an image where no moon occurred before. The size of the moon in the image can be adjusted ranging from a very tiny dot to an obtrusive behemoth of an orb. The feature here is the tweakable aspects of your moon. You can adjust the radius, the halo, the softness, brightness, flatness, ambient light as well as the strength and range of the moon's glow. You can also select from a white moon to a yellow moon, to custom colors, even a blue moon if you wish. the moon's rotation can also be tweaked, as can the angle (when you are working with quarter moons, half moons, and such).
Sunlight filter

Sunlight enables you to add some sun to your images. In this example I took an image that was shot with a digital camera in low light even though it was a sunny day. I was trying to shoot the rock path that leads up to the house, but it became obscured in dark light. With the Sunlight effect, you can add some elements of sunlight in an effort to help correct the exposure after the fact. For me, it worked, though with some mixed results, because the source image was already compromised. The adjustable parameters of the Sunlight effect include the capability to tweak the effect's intensity, contrast, soft focus, and saturation. The included filters with the Sunlight Effect are blue sky, gradual luminance, and contrast, or a random combination of them, as well as red, green, and blue filters. Once you have the line down, you can work with the cool and warm slider, which applies a cool or warm light to the entire image, based on the Sunlight settings.

Diffraction filter

The Diffraction filter takes existing lights in an image and diffuses them, giving the light a rainbow like look to it. While the look is not like that of a traditional rainbow, you will see a bit of color depending on how you massage the diffraction filter's parameters, of which there are many. As with all the filter effects, there is a before and after view, as well as a dual view window, that enables you to see just how these filters and effects will affect the image. The Diffraction filters parameters include Filter Settings, of which the parameters include filter type (Starburst, Linear and Circular), Luminosity threshold, Convergence, Streaks, and softness; and Streak Settings, of which the parameters are intensity, Length, Size, Spacing, Hue Shift, and Glow Size.
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