Photoshop Elements 11: A Review of the New Features

with 36 Comments

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.Photoshop Elements 11 Box Cover

(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.)

PSE 11 Desktop

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.

PSE 11: Load Styles

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.

PSE 11: Layer Styles Warning Box

If you want to get some cool new styles to add to your stash, be sure to check out our free Digital Scrapper Plus membership area. Premier members get access to these as well, plus a couple more.

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.

In fact, we have several great actions ready for you to snap up in our free Digital Scrapper Plus members area and in the Digital Scrapper Premier member area.

Check Out Our Actions

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.

Comic Filter Flower

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.

Graphic Novel Filter

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.

Quick Fix

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.

Quick Fix in PSE 11

The Organizer

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!

Photoshop Elements 11 Costco Box and CD from Digital Scrapper

36 Responses

  1. Christy Williamson
    | Reply

    You can buy the program through Costco’s website and just pay a small fee for doing so without a membership number. That is how I’ve bought it in the past. Hope this helps!

    Christy W.

    P.S. The sale ends next week.

  2. Julie Beale
    | Reply

    Hi, Linda!
    Can you explain more about how and where you save them as separate files? Then how do you install them into the new Elements program? I’m currently facing a mess; my desktop totally stopped working. I figured now is the time to make the leap to Apple, so I just purchased an iMac. But as the earlier reader said, I could only load the PSE program and seem to have lost all of the extra brushes and fonts I had loaded in previous years 🙁
    Thanks for any help you can provide 🙂

    • Linda Sattgast
      | Reply

      Hi Julie–if you’re talking about the layer styles and actions, you just need to put them somewhere on your computer where you can remember where they are when it’s time to install them. In the Effects panel, when you choose to add a style or action, as we demonstrate in the videos, a navigation window will open allowing you to navigate to the folder where you put the files, and you can double click on the file you want to open.

  3. scrappingramNancy Olson
    | Reply

    We gave up our membership to Costco because we moved to an area with no stores. I would like to purchase the PSE 11 at Costco so I can get Linda’s CD, but without a membership that won’t be possible. Will her CD be available elsewhere?

    • Linda Sattgast
      | Reply

      I won’t have the Costco CD available anywhere else, but we are working on training for PSE11 that will soon be available on our site. Jan Walker filmed the Costco CD, and she will also film the PSE11 training.

      • scrappingramNancy Olson
        | Reply

        That’s awesome. thanks you.

  4. Pups_r_Paps
    | Reply

    I, too, am eagerly awaiting the Costco edition with Linda’s tutorials. Unfortunately, there isn’t a Costco where I live so I keep checking on line. Nothing yet. Bummer!!

    • Christy Williamson
      | Reply

      You can buy the program through Costco’s website and just pay a small fee for doing so without a membership number. That is how I’ve bought it in the past. Hope this helps!

      Christy W.

      P.S. The sale ends next week.

  5. Dimorr
    | Reply

    I have just downloaded PSE11 and I am in love without even doing a LO! To be able to so easily load styles and actions is just wonderful. The new format is a little different but not that hard to navigate around. I’m sure with tutorials it will help in this as well.

  6. Heather
    | Reply

    Any idea if there is a shortcut to switch between the Photo Bin and Tool Options? That is the one thing that is driving me crazy in PSE 11.

    • Linda Sattgast
      | Reply

      Unfortunately, I am not aware of any shortcut to toggle between the Photo Bin and the Tool Options. It helps a little if you know the tool shortcuts, but getting back to the Photo Bin requires clicking on the icon.

      I tend to use floating documents, so I don’t use the photo bin as often because I can see at least part of the file I want on the desktop. I only have to click on it to make it the active file. But with scrapbook files, it’s nice to drag from the Photo Bin so the name is retained on its layer in the Layers panel.

      I can always suggest a shortcut for the next version!

      • Linda Sattgast
        | Reply

        I just heard that you can toggle the Tool Options Bar using the F4 key and the Photo Bin with the F5 key (on PC).

  7. Noreen Demas
    | Reply

    I will buy 11 JUST for the light background!

  8. Avis
    | Reply

    Do you have any idea when Costco will be sending out 11?

    • Linda Sattgast
      | Reply

      It may be different times for different locations, but it should be pretty soon. Sometimes they still have the old version and wait until they sell out, so you could always ask someone at Costco about it.

  9. Linda
    | Reply

    My biggest fear re new upgrades is always the reloading of all the actions, etc — and I never did figure out how to use the text path for PSE 10. Is the text path still a feature as well as some of the other effects (out of bounds, etc)?

    What recommendations are there re keeping track of actions, etc for reloading? Too bad there is not a way that they can’t automatically be transferred — 🙂

    • Linda Sattgast
      | Reply

      What I do is keep all my actions, brushes, styles, etc. in separate folders elsewhere on my computer, then it’s pretty easy to simply reinstall them.

      Everything prior is still there, text path, out of bounds, and some new guided edits.

  10. beckka
    | Reply

    So LInda, I had the opportunity to try Photoshop out with PS5 for the last couple of years. I know I will not be able to afford to upgrade for some time. Would I be better off going back to elements 11? What things would I miss in PS5. That is my biggest question. I know it is very difficult to answer. I don’t make a lot of my own elements and such, but I focus more on editing pictures so that is where my passion lies.

    What do you think?

    • Linda Sattgast
      | Reply

      Photoshop is always my program of choice, even if I’m behind a version or two. You simply have more capabilities with Photoshop.

  11. Carolyn
    | Reply

    The most important question for me is, is the new interface readable for older eyes? We discussed this on DST and you said PSE 11 would hopefully address this issue. It will help that it is lighter but what about the size of the icons, point size of the type, etc?

    • Linda Sattgast
      | Reply

      They’ve really increased the size of the icons—almost too much! LOL!

      And you can change the size of the type even now. Open Preferences (Ctrl K, Mac: Cmd K) and click on Type on the left. Open the menu for type size and choose Huge! That will help a lot. 🙂

  12. Marty
    | Reply

    I’d like to piggy-back on Dorrie’s question. I’m in the middle of the tutorials for beginning scrappers. The tutorial is for PSE 10 and under. Should I complete the tutorial before purchasing PSE 11? I don’t have anything engrained in my mind yet as far shortcuts. I’m using PSE 10, but would love the new version. I assume it will be awhile before tutorials are ready for PSE 11. Thanks!

    • Linda Sattgast
      | Reply

      Anything you learn for PSE10 will be helpful in version 11. All the same capabilities are there. It’s mostly just a bit of rearrangement to make things easier to access, but the same tools do the same things. There is only the one change of shortcut for Magic Wand being A instead of W, which was reassigned to the Recompose tool. In our training we rarely use the shortcuts in our instructions—maybe in Premier once in awhile. We feel that’s something a user can do if they want, so that wouldn’t be a stumbling block for you.

      We are working on PSE11 training right now and hope to have it ready within the month.

  13. Dorrie
    | Reply

    With the onset of the new changes in PSE 11, will Digital Scrapper be addressing both new and old ways to accomplish various tutorials? I’m referring to videos and written (.pdf) tutorials.

    • Linda Sattgast
      | Reply

      For the October and November Premier we will film the tutorials in both PSE10 and PSE11. In December we’ll stick with PSE11. It’s a lot of work to film in both versions, and the how to is not really that different.

      We’ll provide a pdf “Cheat Sheet” with future tutorials that tell you the differences between the programs, but if you know your program, you really will only have to look at it once.

  14. Nancy
    | Reply

    Are you partnering with Costco this year

    • Shirl
      | Reply

      I am definitely not Linda. LOL 🙂 But in their September 22 newsletter, there is a link to two DigitalScrappers UTube video. At the end of the video, Linda states that she is again partnering with Costco this year. There is a view of the video disk and the photos are entirely different. It stands to reason that she would only mention the companion CD for the software. I know one year, Costco on its own bundle to her PSE-8 video with version 9.

      My son just inform me that he let his Costco’s membership expire. But I am sending him to purchase it for me anyway. Regardless of the extra payments because of Linda’s Digital scrapping tutorials, etc.

    • Linda Sattgast
      | Reply

      Yes, we are! I see that I neglected to mention that in the blog post, so I will insert that information. My YouTube video mentions it.

      On the Costco CD all the kits and templates are new, and we’ve added a font by Darcy Baldwin. Jan Walker recorded the tutorials this year and did a great job with it!

  15. Vicki Spencer
    | Reply

    I have PSE 8 and will probably buy the new version. I was already thinking about it before 11 for the layer mask, even though we had a layer mask workaround.
    Here is my question: I love the Digital Scrappers’ Drop Shadows, Custom shadows and stoke outlines. Will those stay in when I upgrade or will I have to put them in again.
    Thanks! Vicki

    • Linda Sattgast
      | Reply

      You will need to put them in the new program, but you won’t need all the xml files—just the actual style and action files.

      If you saved them elsewhere, you can simply navigate to the folder directly from PSE11 to load them. I love this new capability in PSE11!

  16. Kristen
    | Reply

    Have they changed the Organizer so that all items can be seen in the folder view rather than just one folder at a time? I think they changed that with PSE 9. Since I have >10,000 items in my Organizer, I like seeing all the items in the folder view as I organize them my folder along with using tags.

    • Linda Sattgast
      | Reply

      The Organizer has gone through some pretty dramatic changes, but I think they are mostly for the better.

      The folder view is automatically open now on the left, though you can hide it by clicking on the Hide icon at the bottom. You can choose to view the folders in an actual folder tree or in alphabetically listed folders by clicking on an icon.

      You can see all the photos in one folder, just like the Bridge in Photoshop, or you can click on All Media to show all of the thumbnails. Photos do have to be imported for you to see them, but you can right click on a folder and import the photos.

      I think you’ll like the Organizer once you find your way around in the new, more simplified and user-friendly interface.

  17. esther
    | Reply

    Funny you should mention that the recompose tool is seldom used.
    I think that is because it is hidden behind the crop tool and few people know it is even there.
    I have just been playing with it a bit this week, and just know that I will be using it a lot more now that I know where it is and what it can do!
    But from reading this review, I’m glad I skipped v10 and will be getting v11 !

    • Linda Sattgast
      | Reply

      It’s certainly a good tool for a very specific use. I just find that I don’t often need it.

  18. Trish
    | Reply

    Thanks for this. As a person who is trying to help others install actions and styles, those two features are probably worth the upgrade. Can’t wait to download the trial.

    • Linda Sattgast
      | Reply

      Yes—I LOVE that it is so easy to load and delete styles and actions!

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