It's about time Adobe delivered a graphics package that doesn't cost a fortune, and doesn't take a lifetime to master. It's about time Adobe delivered software for the "rest of us" who aren't professional graphic designers but still want to create superb images -- or clean up the images we've captured with digital cameras or scanners.
They have. The software is Adobe Photoshop Elements -- and, as one reviewer put it, it delivers 5/6 of the power of Photoshop for 1/6 the price.
By and large, the features that are missing from Photoshop Elements are needed only by graphics professionals: color separations, for example. What's here is what everyone else needs: retouching (including quick tools for eliminating red-eye); adding type; optimizing images for the Web; and a whole lot more. One of Photoshop Elements' most powerful features -- borrowed from Photoshop 6 -- is layer styles. Suddenly, you can instantly apply remarkably complex effects to any image. You just choose a layer style from the Layer Styles palette, click to apply it, and voilà!
There's only one problem with layer styles. There aren't enough of them. Once you start fooling with Adobe's bevels, drop shadows, inner glows, inner shadows, outer glows, glass buttons, visibility adjustments, and "complex" layer styles, you'll run out of them way too fast. Sure, you can create your own, but wouldn't it be great if there were a single source for hundreds of professional-quality layer styles?
There is: Adobe Photoshop Elements One-Click Wow! by Jack Davis and Linnea Dayton.
Graphics professionals know Davis and Dayton as the creators of the full-color Wow! series of Photoshop books, which demonstrate how to create truly breathtaking effects with Photoshop. Now, with Photoshop Elements layer styles, you don't have to know nearly as much to accomplish many of the same effects: all the hard work is embedded in the layer style itself. And this package's CD-ROM contains more than 300 of them.
(Tip: They work with Photoshop, too -- so even if you're a graphics professional, read on -- Davis and Dayton have saved you an incredible amount of time and effort.)
You name it, you'll find it here. Vignettes, frames, and borders -- for example, a frame that creates the "retro" look of tortoise-shell Bakelite, and another that adds soft, dark edges which you could swear came from a photo taken early in the last century.
Tints and color effects -- for instance, to create effective sepiatones and duotones, or to lighten images so you can use them as background for text.
Textures, patterns, and grains -- for example, to simulate film grain, or add brushstrokes, canvas, plaster, or stucco. Darkroom effects, including negatives and solarization.
And a huge number of graphics and type effects that, only a few years ago, would've required immense effort. Spectacular tools for creating "carved" images, simulated reflections, comic book text, backlit and chiseled effects. Twenty different chromes, each with its own personality. Metals: shiny, rusted, or on fire. Glass. Ice. Crystal. Gems. Plastics, including two layered styles that work together to create remarkable license-plate effects. Woods. Weaves. Neon. Gradients. Brickwork. Rocks -- including one of molten Kryptonite. (While Davis and Dayton appear to have graphical "super powers," we're curious where they actually found a reference to work from).
The book that comes with this outrageous CD-ROM is actually more of a booklet: a 64-page, full-color catalog of the layer styles Davis and Dayton have provided, along with a quick-start guide to using them. If you want to go even further than these one-click layer styles take you, the authors show how to combine, scale, or copy a layer style, and how to tweak the settings built into them to create still more effects.
Photoshop Elements' "Recipe" feature allows you to automate virtually any step-by-step task. The CD-ROM contains recipes for applying, scaling, and copying layer styles, and for performing more complex tasks, too -- such as using clipping frames with layer styles.
Adobe Photoshop Elements One-Click Wow! is the secret to looking like a graphics pro if you aren't one -- and getting the job done faster and better if you are one. (Bill Camarda)
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer with nearly 20 years' experience in helping technology companies deploy and market advanced software, computing, and networking products and services. He served for nearly ten years as vice president of a New Jerseybased marketing company, where he supervised a wide range of graphics and web design projects. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.