At its most basic, PRP is a superbly effective yet intuitive consumer-level image-editor – but at its most complex, it’s capable of serving the needs of the most demanding pre-press professional.
However, at nearly £500 PRP 2.5 is too expensive for all but the keenest home user. This is a shame, because its image-editing features are hugely powerful, yet a snap to use. After just a few days, it’s possible to improve images using professional techniques that in Photoshop require an intimate knowledge of layers and masks. Although it has dropped in price by over £100, I’d like to see a lite version of PRP that’s stripped of high-end features, and aimed squarely at digital-hub enthusiasts.
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PhotoRetouch Pro 2.5
PhotoRetouch Pro (PRP) is Binuscan’s image-editing and colour-management solution “for the rest of us”. Version 1, launched in early 2002, was well received largely because it allied power with simplicity, enabling users to master high-end retouching tools without the steep learning curve of Adobe Photoshop. PRP 2.5 continues with this welcome approach, but adds new functionality and productivity enhancements. One area that’s been beefed-up is colour-management preferences. Taking a leaf from Adobe Photoshop 7.0, there are now Load and Save options, meaning that bespoke colour preferences can be created and saved on a customer-by-customer or job-by-job basis. Its colour preferences also now go beyond Photoshop’s, offering Import and Export options, so that custom settings can be shared easily from machine to machine. One-click soft-proofing is another addition here, with options for selecting relevant media, such as Euroscale Coated, SWOP Coated, and MatchPrint. Colour-management capability is also extended through the new Colour menu. One of the options here is Image Profile, which assigns a profile to an image. Binuscan missed a trick here, because this offers nothing more than Photoshop’s Assign Profile. Far more useful would have been a feature offering side-by-side views of a single image rendered in different profiles – the only meaningful way to make the right choice. At present, such functionality is available only as part of TypeMaker’s £405 (including VAT) Colour Confidence Studio. Other Colour menu options are Profile Conversion, for converting from assigned to destination profiles, and Profile Extraction, which extracts embedded profiles and makes them available to the application. One notable omission from PRP 1.0 was a History feature – an invaluable tool that far surpasses multiple undo, something now addressed with the addition of a History window. This window displays a selectable list of all operations performed on an image from being opened. As a keen devotee of keyboard shortcuts, I was pleased to see the introduction of keyboard commands for all function and menu items. Even better, these can be easily modified by the user. When PRP was launched, there was talk of it being a “Photoshop killer”, but it’s actually more of a companion. However, one area in which PRP wins hands-down is its ability to edit selections in 16-bit mode. Unlike 8-bit image-editing, 16-bit editing is non-destructive, because 16-bit files contain so much more information (281,474,976,711,000 colours, to be exact – count them yourself). Editing selections in 16-bit mode in Photoshop requires elaborate workarounds (see Print Secrets, Expo Issue 2002.) In PRP, however, working in 16 bits is a snap, and the good news is that version 2.5 extends this capability even further. The excellent RECO levels-editing engine is now optimized for 16-bit image editing, as are the Sharpen and Selective Smoothing functions. A pile of new Filters and Processes have been added since version 1.0. Filters include Color Emboss, Color Matrix, Mosaic, Texture, Posterize, and Vigneting. The new processes include: Backlight Enhancer, which enhances shadows in images with strong backlighting; Gray Neutralizer, which balances grey levels; and Selective Balance, a process that modifies lightness and saturation in areas of constant saturation. Some of what is new in 2.5 is unusable unless you own ColorCase (£3,799 excluding VAT), BinuScan’s ultra-high-end suite of colour-management and image-editing software and hardware. PRP is part of the ColorCase bundle, as is a high-end spectrophotometer, which is a rebadged version of Gretag-Macbeth’s EyeOne.