PhotoStudio Mac 4.0, by ArcSoft
Posted: 15-June-2001

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: ArcSoft Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Peter MacGregor Class: PRODUCTIVITY
Review Platform: iMac, 350Mhz, 64MB, OS 9.1

PhotoStudio is a good bargain, providing many of the same functions that Photoshop does and a few that are different. With PhotoStudio we were able to easily merge two different photographic images from our own files and create an attractive illustration with a Maxfield Parrish feel in a matter of hours.

However, we had one primary complaint. The menu icons are very difficult to read if you have an average size monitor (e.g. our iMac). They lack the clarity and crispness of Photoshop's menu icons. As a result, you could end up with a headache from eyestrain after hours of squinting at the menu every time you make a selection.

Other than that, PhotoStudio is pretty easy to grasp intuitively, especially if you are already familiar with Photoshop. The layout is sensible and it's pretty easy to find your way around. (We couldn't find a circular or oval lasso, just a rectangular lasso.)


Our test began with two pictures from a Fuji digital camera, one of our pet rabbit and one of a barn in Mesa, Arizona.

Barn at DuskWe wanted to change the barn picture so it would look like dusk instead of midday. This was easily accomplished by changing hue and saturation in PhotoStudio's Enhance menu.

We then went through a number of steps to make bunny compatible with the barn backdrop. We added a gradient tone that used the magenta and turquoise tones of the barn image and then heightened the Contrast on bunny, again under the Enhance menu. Then we used Composite to get the tones just right, blending in a Gradient silhouette of bunny to the Heightened Contrast bunny.

File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0

We were pleased with the easily-read Before and After display in PhotoStudio. This is a very nice feature, as it gives you instant feedback as to exactly where you're at with your image. Under Select, we added a border around bunny and then used the airbrush (Or is it a spraycan? We just can't make that icon out!) to soften the border and give a nice glow to bunny's fur. PhotoStudio has a very nice Border function.

File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0

We wanted the barn picture to fade into a solid at the bottom of the image, so we created a band of blue-gray and added height to the backdrop. Using PhotoStudio's Airbrush and the Smudge tool, we blended from the photo to the solid. Now it was time to add bunny to the barn picture. The newly created image hung together very well, but to make everything blend together a little better we used PhotoStudio's Film Grain under Effects. Boy, is this ever a nice feature! And that nice Before and After display proved useful again. To get comparable results in Photoshop, we would have had to go through all sorts of contortions. Last but not least, we added a title. The available type faces were good and that function was really easy to use.

Adding a subtle drop shadow behind the text, we were happy with the final image.

While we checked out some of the other Effects, they didn't do much for us. Too much spinning and swirling for our taste. We'd rather see more Effects that would give other tonal effects or the look of a line engraving. Those would be really cool.

We've talked to a lot of digital artists over the years who have used both Photoshop and Illustrator for illustration purposes, and it's funny how many prefer Photoshop's functions. From that perspective, PhotoStudio is really neat and could be even neater if it had more interesting tonal Effects.

This was just one creation and as a result we didn't use all the PhotoStudio features, but the ones we used were quite effective. PhotoStudio gave us good results without having to take a lot of interim steps to get the effects we wanted. We liked PhotoStudio enough to want to explore more and see what else it can do, and we'd recommend it to our fellow digital artists, both aspiring and established.

For a whole lot less money than Photoshop, ArcSoft's PhotoStudio is both more powerful and easier to use in many ways. While it doesn't have all of the tools or the full flexibility of Photoshop, it gets the job done quite nicely and more efficiently. With improved icons and more tonal effects, we'd prefer PhotoStudio over Photoshop, and for those of you who don't have access to Photoshop, ArcSoft's PhotoStudio is a great place to start.


  • Excellent Before and After display
  • Nice Border function
  • Easy-to-use Text addition
  • Intuitive, easy to grasp


  • Icons are too "busy", hard to read
  • Needs more tonal effects
  • PC version supports more graphics formats, including GIF (although the Mac
  • version includes PICT)

Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice