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Photoshop Elements: The Basics

Friday, February 24th, 2012 by | Filed Under: Photo Editing

I love free stuff, but there are two programs that we’ve always purchased for our home computers; Microsoft Office, and Photoshop Elements. This is not because they’re better than their free counterparts but, over the years, a certain familiarity has developed. Also, they each represent the industry standard, so a working knowledge can be an asset.

Photoshop Elements is the bare-bones version of Photoshop. While it’s more limited than its big brother–in addition to simple photo editing–it offers many of the more complex features found in the larger program, and the similarities between the two make the transition from one to the other (relatively) easy. As a result, since many employers require some Photoshop skills—as long as those requirements don’t include a thorough knowledge of the more elaborate full version–experience with Elements may be enough to help land a position (it’s worked for me). An additional reason to consider Elements is its price, which is roughly 10%–15% the cost of Photoshop. If you’d like to take it for a test drive, download the free trial here.

This is the first in a planned series of articles on Elements. There are a couple of reasons for this idea. One is to introduce Worldstart readers to the program; the other is to expand my own knowledge. In this article, we’ll take a look at Elements basics. While this information applies to version 10, I recently jumped from version 6 to 10, and discovered very few differences in the interface.

There are 2 basic functions; the Editor and the Organizer. Most of our time will be spent in the Editor. So, without further ado; launch Elements and click the Edit button.


The Editor


Menu bar

Notice the keyboard shortcuts at the right? You’ll be using them often.



Hovering over a tool reveals its name and the shortcut.


The tools that have a small black triangle in the lower right corner contain variations of that tool (right click the triangle to reveal).


Project Bin

Here, you’ll find thumbnail versions of all projects that are open in Elements.


Panel Bin (or Palette Bin, depending on version)

I spend most of my time in Full Edit


…but Quick Edit is a great place to do basic photo adjustments. Just use the sliders to adjust lighting, color, balance, and sharpness. Or, select Smart Fix for an automatic adjustment. If the appearance isn’t what you’re after, click the Reset button at the bottom.


When the image is complete, save it (Ctrl+S). I generally save as a JPEG, but many other options are available.


If you don’t rename the file, Elements will ask if you want to replace the existing file. If you don’t want to replace it, just assign a new name.


In the JPEG Options dialog, image quality is determined by the number in Image Options, with 12 being the highest quality.


In the next article, we’ll take a look at some of the full editing tools.


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3 Responses to “Photoshop Elements: The Basics”

  1. Betty Jensen says:

    I use Elements 8. I don’t understand what I am supposed to do with the JPEG Options box. I always leave it at whatever it comes up by default. Can you please explain further.
    Thank you.

    • Steve says:

      I use Elements 10, and learned on an old (c. 2002) full version PS 7. The quality settings, in the “image options” box, range from Low to Max. If you’re saving the JPEG strictly for use on the web, a medium setting between low & max is fine. You’ll need max quality if you’ll be printing the photo. JPEG format is one that can be compressed to save file space (and thus fit more of them on whatever media you have). More compression, however, means a corresponding loss in image quality and how it looks to the eye; it is especially noticeable in a printed image. It is not so noticeable on a computer monitor screen.
      As for the “format options” box, I don’t know all of the ins and outs, but I do know that the “progressive” choice dates back to when all internet connections were (slooow) dial-up and it took awhile to load a photo file, so JPEGS had the capacity to be loaded in a series of passes (“progressively”) depending on the size of the file. I just use the “baseline optimized” setting; haven’t had a problem.

  2. Bobbo says:

    Good job! I’ve had Elements 8 sitting in a box for about 2-years. Now I can install it and get some use out of it

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