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With the release of Photoshop Elements, Adobe’s consumer-level image-editing program, hobbyists as well as professional photographers and artists were provided many of the same powerful tools and features found in Adobe Photoshop (long the industry standard), but packaged in an easier-to-use and more accessible, intuitive workspace. Photoshop Elements’ friendly user interface, combined with its bargain-basement price, has made an instant hit with the new wave of amateur digital photographers and home users lured by the recent proliferation of sophisticated, low-cost digital cameras and scanners.

Never content to rest on its laurels, Adobe recently introduced Photoshop Elements 2.0. While retaining the power and ease of use of its predecessor, the new version provides new tools and workspace enhancements that not only help stretch the bounds of your creativity, but that help to make your quick photo corrections and creative retouching even simpler and more fun than before.

In the next few pages, we’ll briefly discuss some of Photoshop Elements’ features (both old and new) and then provide instructions to help you get the software properly installed and set up on your computer. Finally, we’ll share a few thoughts to help you get the most from this book, so that you can be on your way to mastering Photoshop Elements’ simple, fun, and sophisticated image-editing tools.

Introducing Photoshop Elements

Photoshop Elements makes it easy to retouch your digital photos; apply special effects, filters, and styles; prepare images for the Web; and create wide-screen panoramas from a series of individual photos. And Photoshop Elements provides some completely unique features not present in Adobe Photoshop. Of particular note are two user-friendly palettes that not only introduce you to every major tool and feature, but help lead you step-by-step through a variety of common projects and tasks.

The Hints palette contains illustrated explanations of every image editing tool and palette. It’s context sensitive, meaning that it knows which tool you’re using. So each time you select a new tool (or simply hover over a palette with the pointer), the Hints palette changes accordingly and provides helpful information and tips for using that particular tool or palette. In addition, the Hint palette’s More button contains links that send you directly to Photoshop Elements’ built-in help system. There, you’ll find even more detailed help and instruction for any tool, palette, or feature you’re interested in learning more about.

The How To palette features collections of recipes designed to take you step by step through tasks as diverse as creating special text effects and animating graphics for your Web page. At the same time, these recipes are designed as a reference, so that over time you’ll learn how to perform these tasks on your own. The How To palette recipes provide a great way to quickly learn sophisticated image editing techniques while completing your own projects.

What’s new in version 2.0?

If you’ve worked with Photoshop Elements in the past, version 2.0 should feel much the same. While you may notice some subtle aesthetic changes as you scan the interface, most of the tools and palettes remain in their original locations, and the palette well and options bar still figure prominently on the desktop. A few notable items have been added or have undergone a significant change for the better.

The Welcome screen

A new Welcome screen has replaced the Quick Start screen from version 1.0. The former screen’s text-cluttered and rather unintuitive interface has been replaced by a logical, friendly arrangement of buttons. From the Welcome screen, you can create a new file, browse for an existing file on your hard disk, or automatically download an image from a digital camera or scanner. Additional buttons direct you to either the How To palette and its selection of common photo-retouching tasks or to Photoshop Elements’ built-in tutorials.

The improved File Browser

The File Browser, a tool for previewing, organizing, and getting information about your photos, realizes its full potential with a dramatic redesign in 2.0. The new File Browser is a full-featured searching, sorting, and viewing wonder. In addition to simply previewing files, you can now rotate, rename, and even delete your photos directly from the File Browser. By applying a number of file name, size, and creation date options, you can sort the order in which the previews appear. In addition, the File Browser now features a panel that can display comprehensive technical information about any photo, including its creation date, color settings, file format, and even the make and model of camera used to capture the original photo.

Video frame capture

Photoshop Elements 2.0 now offers the ability to capture individual frames of video, letting you edit and save them just like any other still digital image. The new Frame From Video dialog box features a control bar with the same functions as your video camera or VCR. You can play, fast-forward, or rewind to any frame in a video clip, then save that frame with just the click of a button. You can capture a single video frame to save as a stand-alone image, or capture a series of frames from which you can create simple Web animations.

PDF Slideshow

With PDF Slideshow, you can save a series of photos as a self-running, self-contained presentation, complete with sophisticated transitions and timing options. Your slideshow is created in Adobe Acrobat’s PDF format, so anyone with Acrobat Reader—distributed as a free download from Adobe—can easily view your presentation. And because PDF files are naturally quite small, you can share a slideshow with your family and friends by simply including it as an e-mail attachment.

The Quick Fix dialog box

The Quick Fix dialog box contains an assortment of the most common photo correction tools in one handy place, so you don’t have to search through different menus to make your individual image adjustments one by one. You’ll find tools for correcting brightness, color correction, focus, and rotation, all accompanied by a list of options specific to each task. The Brightness tool, for example, lets you add a lighting effect to help bring out details in the shadow areas of a foreground subject. And in the Rotation category, you can rotate an image in 90-degree increments, or flip it horizontally or vertically.

The Selection brush

The Selection brush gives you a completely new method of selecting specific areas of your photos. As its name implies, you make a selection by “painting” through an area of an image using any of Photoshop Elements’ vast array of brush shapes. Any area touched by the brush is instantly selected. Because you select with an actual brush shape, your selection acquires all the attributes of that brush, be it a soft, wet-edged watercolor brush or a stylized scattering of maple leaves. Used together with the other selection tools, the Selection brush allows you to adjust and fine-tune selections with a degree of precision not possible before.

Glossary of terms

The new glossary, accessible from the Help menu, provides easy-to-understand definitions of nearly 200 terms. Although this glossary is specifically written for use with Photoshop Elements, it also serves as a good general digital photography and image editing resource. Alongside the software-specific topics like brush type and canvas size, you’ll also find excellent working definitions of concepts diverse as bit depth, PostScript, and RGB color.

System Requirements

Before you install Photoshop Elements, you will want to make sure that your system can run the software effectively. Following are the minimum system recommendations.

For Macintosh Systems

  • PowerPC processor

  • Mac OS 9.1, 9.2.x, or Mac OS X v.10.1.3-10.1.5.

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0, 5.0, or 5.5.

  • 64 MB of RAM with virtual memory on

  • 150 MB of available hard disk space

  • Color monitor with 256-color (8-bit) or greater video card

  • 800 × 600 or greater monitor resolution

  • CD-ROM drive

For Windows Systems

  • Intel Pentium–class processor

  • Windows 98/98 SE/Me, 2000/XP

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0, 5.0, or 5.5.

  • 64 MB of RAM

  • 150 MB of available hard disk space

  • Color monitor with 256-color (8-bit) or greater video card

  • 800 × 600 or greater monitor resolution

  • CD-ROM drive

Memory and Photoshop Elements

For simple color correction and quick retouching, you can probably get by with the bare minimum amount of RAM (computer memory) required to run Photoshop Elements. But to really get the most out of Photoshop Elements, we suggest that you consider installing at least 128 MB of memory into your computer. Some features, like Photomerge (which you’ll use to create panoramas) are very memory dependent. And as you become more comfortable with Photoshop Elements, adding increasingly more layers, filters, typography, and other effects to your work, your files are likely to become larger and require more memory to support them. You’ll find that the relatively small, up-front cost of investing in some extra memory is more than worth the aggravation saved by avoiding those troublesome and annoying “low on memory” warning boxes.

Installing and Starting Photoshop Elements

To get started, you need to install Photoshop Elements from the Photoshop Elements CD onto your computer’s hard disk. The installer includes screens that guide you step-by-step through the entire installation. Once the installation is complete, be sure to look at the other information and resources included on the installation CD. (Let’s face it—once the CD is back in its box and shelved, you’re probably not going to remember what’s on it.)

It’s possible that Photoshop Elements came preinstalled on your computer or bundled with a digital camera or scanner. If that’s the case, you might want to peek inside the Photoshop Elements application folder on your hard drive, just to see exactly what has been installed.

To install Photoshop Elements:

Insert the Photoshop Elements CD in the CD-ROM drive.

The Photoshop Elements CD icon appears on the desktop.

Double-click the CD icon.

A window containing the Photoshop Elements installer appears (Figure i.1).

Figure i.1. The Photoshop Elements 2.0 installer icon as it appears in the Macintosh (upper left) and Windows XP (lower right) desktop window.

Double-click the installer icon.

The Photoshop Elements installer splash screen appears.

Some Windows systems are configured to automatically start installer applications. If this is the case, you won’t need to double-click the installer icon.

In the installer window, click the Continue button and follow the onscreen instructions.

The Easy Install option is the best means of ensuring that all required files are installed in their proper locations. But if you have limited hard drive space or just prefer not to include certain files (like the Tutorials, for example), you can choose the Custom Install option from the pop-up menu (Figure i.2), then select what files you want to install.

Figure i.2. As you progress through the installation, you have the option of performing either an Easy or Custom install.


  • The CD also includes a Goodies folder, which contains an impressive collection of free stock photography images for you to practice on or to use in your own projects. If hard disk space isn’t a concern, you many want to consider copying all or some of the stock image files to your hard disk. The complete collection will occupy about 80 MB of space.

  • Also included in the Goodies folder is the Stock Art Catalog (Figure i.3), a thumbnail gallery of every stock image included in the Goodies folder. You can view or print the catalog from Adobe’s Acrobat Reader, also included on the Photoshop Elements CD. Acrobat Reader is automatically loaded along with Photoshop Elements’ other program files when you choose the Easy Install option.

    Figure i.3. Stock photographic images and an accompanying PDF catalog are available in the Goodies folder on the Photoshop Elements installation CD.

To start Photoshop Elements:

Locate the Photoshop Elements application icon on your hard disk (Figure i.4).

Figure i.4. The Photoshop Elements 2.0 application icon.

As part of the installation process, most Windows systems automatically place a shortcut icon directly on your desktop. To locate the icon on a Macintosh, you may have to navigate to the folder in which you chose to place the application files during installation (Figure i.5).

Figure i.5. On the Macintosh, you may have to navigate through several levels of folders to find the application icon.

Double-click the Photoshop Elements icon.

Photoshop Elements launches and opens the Welcome screen (Figure i.6).

Figure i.6. The Photoshop Elements Welcome screen.

To begin working, choose from the list of options on the button panel on the left side of the screen.


  • In Mac OS 9, you can create an alias for Photoshop Elements. An alias, similar to a shortcut in Windows, is a duplicate of the original application icon. When you double-click the alias, the original file opens. Simply select the Photoshop Elements icon and choose Make Alias from the File menu. From there, you can drag the alias to your desktop or to the folder of your choice, wherever is most convenient for you.

  • In Mac OS X, you can create an alias simply by dragging the application icon to the dock (Figure i.7).

    Figure i.7. In Mac OS X, drag Photoshop Elements’ application icon into the dock to create an alias for quick access.

To exit Photoshop Elements:

Do one of the following:

  • From the File menu (Windows), choose Exit (Ctrl+Q).

  • From the File menu (Mac OS 9), choose Quit (Command+Q).

  • From the Photoshop Elements menu (Mac OS X), choose Quit (Command+Q).

Personalizing Photoshop Elements

Because no two users work quite the same way, Photoshop Elements gives you the freedom to customize its tools and palettes to suit your own personal work habits, expertise, and aesthetic. You can create favorite sets of brush types, swatch libraries, and patterned fills, and you can set preferences for save options, transparency, ruler units, and grid color. Slightly more advanced options help you set the way the program manages memory and displays and prints color. Additionally, since it supports Adobe’s plug-in file format, Photoshop Elements can be a constantly evolving work-in-progress as you add new plug-ins for everything from custom filter effects to digital camera image browsers that allow you to view your camera’s stored photos onscreen.

Setting Preferences

Preferences are settings that let you control and modify the way that Photoshop Elements looks, works, and behaves. The Preferences dialog box is divided into eight windows, each one focusing on a specific aspect of the application: general display properties, file saving options, cursor display and behavior, transparency settings, rulers and units of measurement, grid appearance and behavior, and scratch disks and cache for managing memory (Figure i.8). You can change preferences at any time by choosing Preferences from the Edit menu or by navigating through the dialog box using the pop-up menu (Figure i.9).

Figure i.8. You can customize Photoshop Elements’ tools, palettes, and settings within its series of specialized Preferences dialog boxes.

Figure i.9. Move from one Preference dialog box to the next by choosing different options from the pop-up menu.

About Presets

Presets are collections of brush styles, swatch colors, gradient fills, and patterns organized into sets, or libraries (Figure i.10). At any time during your work session, you can load different preset libraries using either the Preset Manager, or the palette menus on the options bar or Swatches palette.

Figure i.10. The Preset Manager allows you to load custom brushes, color swatches, gradients, and patterns.

About Plug-ins

Photoshop Elements makes great use of Adobe’s extendable plug-ins format. Plug-in modules are little software programs that add functionality to the main application. For instance, the different filters and effects that you access from Photoshop Elements’ Filter menu are all plug-in modules. Plug-ins are stored in folders inside a Plug-ins folder, where additional folders and plug-ins can be added at any time.

Plug-ins are worth special mention, because you aren’t limited to just those included with Photoshop Elements. In cooperation with Adobe, developers of both software and hardware have created compatible plug-ins that install and run seamlessly with Photoshop Elements. If you’ve recently purchased a digital camera or scanner, its browser or scanning software may very well include plug-ins to help the devices communicate with Photoshop Elements.

Downloading Plug-Ins

To download additional plug-ins from Adobe, first make sure your computer is connected to the Internet. In Photoshop Elements, choose File > Online Services to view an updated collection of plug-ins available for you to download.

How to Use This Book

This Visual QuickStart Guide, like others in the series, is a task-based reference. Each chapter focuses on a specific area of the application and presents it in a series of concise, illustrated steps. We encourage you to follow along using your own images or those provided with Photoshop Elements. We believe the best way to learn is by doing, and this Visual QuickStart Guide is the perfect vehicle for that style of learning.

This book is meant to be a reference work, and though it’s not expected that you’ll read through it in sequence from front to back, we’ve made an attempt to order the chapters in a logical fashion. The first couple of chapters take you on a tour of the work area and provide a foundation for the basics of image editing and creation. From there you explore color, selections, layers, effects, painting, and typography and then learn a variety of techniques for saving and printing images, including special formatting options for distributing images over the Web. The book concludes with a selection of advanced techniques and projects, organized as short tutorials that we hope will provide further creative inspiration as you work with your own images. This book is suitable for the beginner just starting in digital photography and image creation, as well hobbyists, photo enthusiasts, intermediate-level photographers, illustrators, and designers.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Many of the commands that you access from Photoshop Elements’ menu bar have a keyboard equivalent (or shortcut) that appears beside each command name in the menu. Keyboard shortcuts are great time savers and save you from having to constantly refocus your energy and attention as you jump from image window to menu bar and back again. When this book introduces a command, the keyboard shortcut is also listed. The Windows shortcut is always listed first, followed by the Macintosh shortcut. For example, the keyboard shortcut for the Copy command is displayed as (Ctrl+C/Command+C). You’ll find a complete list of Photoshop Elements’ keyboard shortcuts in the appendix of this book.

Cross-Platform Issues

Adobe has traditionally done a wonderful job of cross-platform interface design, and Photoshop Elements is no exception. You’ll find little difference between the look and functionality of the Windows and Macintosh versions of this software. Throughout this book, illustrations containing Photoshop Elements’ interface are weighted evenly among the Windows, Mac OS 9, and Mac OS X platforms. On the rare occasion when significant differences do exist, each platform is illustrated, with accompanying platform-specific procedures.

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