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Photoshop Elements: The Basics

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 [1] 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 [2].

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.