by Linda Sattgast
Right on schedule for its customary yearly cycle, Adobe has announced the release of Photoshop Elements 11. For Photoshop Elements users, the big question is always whether the new version contains enough new features to merit spending their hard earned cash on an upgrade.
(P.S. Don’t forget to also check out my YouTube video on the new features of PSE11.)
This year Adobe does not disappoint in some respects, but makes some unexpected changes that might give experienced users pause.
I’m speaking of the radical change in the User Interface that will take some definite getting used to if you are accustomed to any prior versions.
New users, of course, will not have known anything different, and this is the audience Adobe hopes to help the most with the changes to the interface. Everything looks simpler and some things have been rearranged for presumably easier access.
Here are some examples:
- The interface is now a lighter color, after years of being dark.
- The tools have been rearranged in an effort to group like tools together.
- The Options Bar has been renamed “Tool Options” and is now found at the bottom of the desktop in the same location as the Photo Bin, which means you can only see one or the other, but not both at the same time.
- The Eyedropper tool has been renamed the “Color Picker” tool.
- The Magic Wand has been given a new keyboard shortcut—the letter “A.” (Now that will take some getting used to for us old dogs!)
- The keyboard shortcut “W” has been given to the Recompose tool, a tool that few ever use.
- The tool flyout menus have disappeared, so for tools nested with other tools, you must click on the appropriate tool in Tool Options at the bottom of the screen or remember the keyboard shortcut.
- The Layers panel has switched again, with the shortcut icons now at the top instead of the bottom. Also, clicking on the eye of a layer puts a thin, hard to see, line through the eye to indicate the layer is invisible rather than making the eye disappear as before.
- After committing type, the program automatically switches to the Move tool. (This can be disabled in Preferences.)
If you can get past these changes, however, there are several amazing new features that would tempt just about any scrapbooker to upgrade. I’m talking about the ability to easily load styles and the new Actions panel.
Reasons to Upgrade: Layer Styles
Layer styles have been a source of frustration for scrapbookers ever since version 5. Adobe has finally addressed this problem by making it drop dead simple to add and delete layer styles—without having to create tricky XML files and figure out where they go inside the program.
All you have to do is click on the Effects panel context flyout menu and choose Load Styles. You then navigate to the place where you’ve stored the new style and double click on it to load it.
To delete a set of styles, you might intuitively want to select Reset Styles from the flyout menu, but that only opens the Bevels panel. To delete a style, select it from the Style menu, open the flyout menu, and choose the Delete option.
Don’t be put off by the ominous warning that you will lose the style forever if you delete it. Just click yes, and you can always load the style again later. By the way, you aren’t allowed to delete any styles that ship with Photoshop Elements, so you’re safe there.
And don’t forget to check out Jen’s new video: Photoshop Elements 11 – Styles Review
Another Reason to Upgrade: Actions Panel
This new Actions panel is very welcome! We’ve had dedicated Actions capability since version 7, but it was partially crippled in versions 9 and 10, and it was always a pain to access anyway.
Now we have a “real” Actions panel that works as expected, minus the capability to actually create the actions, but, hey, there are oodles of actions out in Google Land, both free and for sale.
Learn more about the actions panel in Jen White’s video: Photoshop Elements 11 – Actions Review
Other New Features
While styles and actions are the two biggies, Adobe has also introduced two new filters that are way cool—Comic and Graphic Novel, both under the Sketch category of filters. These are intuitively easy to use and produce meaningful and usable results.
Comic does what its name implies—makes your photo appear like comic book art. However, if you have imagination, this can be applied in some other interesting ways. For example, you could use it to turn a selection from a photo into a scrapbook element or simply use it as part of a design for scrapbook paper.
Graphic Novel does a pretty amazing job of turning a photo into the appearance of a pen and ink drawing, great for making overlays and stamps from photo selections.
Under Guided (now located at the top center of the user interface) you’ll find four new Guided Edits:
- High Key produces a high contrast light effect on a photo.
- Low Key produces a high contrast dark effect on a photo.
- Tilt-Shift lets you blur out part of the photo while leaving the rest sharp.
- Vignette Effect adds a dark or light vignette to your photo.
The one area I’m not as fond of in Photoshop Elements 11 is the “Quick” photo edit option. In my opinion, the old style wasn’t broken, so why change it?
However, some may find the new method of preview thumbnails (similar in idea to Color Variations) to be more intuitive, so I’ll let you be the judge on that.
Adobe put a lot of effort into improving the Organizer this time around. There was probably more controversy around the Organizer among Beta team testers than any other single feature, and while I won’t go into the changes in detail, the big push was to improve Face Recognition to make it easier to tag photos and to make using the Organizer more intuitive.
Photoshop Elements 11 is a good program with a few quirks here and there. It requires current users to relearn new ways of accessing tools and working in the program, but it should be simpler for brand new users.
The two biggest reasons for scrapbookers to upgrade, in my opinion, are styles and actions, but Adobe has also thrown in two great new filters and 4 Guided edits that should prove to be helpful and fun for scrapbookers.
And if you purchase Photoshop Elements 11 at Costco, it will once again have our Digital Scrapper CD inside as a bonus, with all new kits, templates, and training—even a scrapbooking font!