Corel Custom Photo

Image-editing software is all the rage. Apple has even got in on the act, bundling its latest iMacs with the capable Adobe PhotoDeluxe. The message is clear – punters are buying digital cameras and scanners in droves, and love playing around with snaps of loved ones – it brings out both the child and artist in us all. Leaping onto this pixel-mixing bandwagon is Corel, weighing in with Custom Photo. It’s comprised of two apps: Photo House 5 and Project Designer. Photo House is for photo-editing and painting, and is particularly good for retouching old photos and removing red eye. Project Designer is a graphics-based app. It offers text and layout features for the creation of cards, newsletters and stationary. It comes with 1,000 sample layouts that cover most eventualities. Both bits of software draw on Custom Photo’s stock of 10,000 images. Sounds great, doesn’t it? The only thing is, 4,000 of these are tacky clip-art images that only the worst free newspapers would dream of using. Of the rest, there’s the usual line-up of wild animals in their natural habitats. For a collection of animals in an unnatural habitat, take a look at the screenshot (left). One serious drawback with Custom Photo is its poor image cut-out ablilities. Slicing up pals and placing them in weird backgrounds is image-editing basics. Yet there’s no tool capable of accurate cut-outs – just a lasso that can only be used freehand and at low magnification. This results in cut-outs that are unacceptably crude, even for light-hearted use. Custom Photo is also unintuitive to use. On-screen hints for use of its tools assume intimacy with the manual. Similarly, the manual assumes familiarity with the interface – the result being a frustrating non-connection between the two.

OUR VERDICT

If you have a scanner, this product will offer little that your bundled software doesn’t already give you. That leaves owners of a digital camera and a Mac lacking any image-editing software. Custom Photo has some decent things to offer – not least an impressive range of templates for cards, calendars and invitations, and for the price it’s not a bad buy. But, in trying to cover so much ground, it has spread itself too thin.

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