On a feature-for-dollar basis, few graphics programs hold a candle to Photoshop Elements. It’s also way simpler than Photoshop, thank goodness. But its remarkable power means that it still won’t be easy to discover everything this software can do for you, or to make the most of it. For that, you want a copy of Photoshop Elements 2 for Windows & Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide.
In typical Visual QuickStart series fashion, this cleanly designed, well-edited guide collects step-by-step instructions for all the tasks you’ll care about -- with plenty of screen shots and useful tips to go with them.
Christopher Dahl and Craig Hoeschen’s up-front tour of the Photoshop Elements interface gives you a first glimpse of just how much you can accomplish with this program. Elements was designed to be far more accessible than Photoshop; they make it more accessible still.
You’ll learn how to make the most of Elements’ handy File Browser; work with the tools, options, and shortcut menus Adobe’s given you; and select step-by-step “recipes” from the How To palette. These wondrous recipes are all you need to do things like add drop shadows or remove red-eye from photographs; in some cases, the recipes contain a Play button that actually does the work for you. What would Julia Child say?
Next, you’ll walk through importing the photos or images you want to work on (from any source, from web graphic to still digital camcorder image). You’ll set image dimensions and file size; arrange your files so they’re easiest to work with; and master Photoshop Elements’ extensive array of image conversion options.
Next, the authors cover selecting and adjusting colors in Photoshop Elements. Working with color has traditionally been one of the most complex and difficult areas of professional graphic design. Photoshop Elements goes some way towards civilizing it, but frankly, there are still a lot of concepts and jargon to understand if you want to get the best possible results. RGB. Bitmap. Grayscale. Indexed color. HSB. Histograms. Photoshop Elements for Windows & Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide does a superb job of translating “Color-lish” into English.
Along the way, you’ll learn how to use Photoshop Elements’ Auto Level and Auto Contrast features (but warn you not to overuse them). You’ll discover how to select and adjust colors -- even search and replace them as if you were using a word processor for colors. Dahl and Hoeschen bring these features “down to earth” with practical guidance on colorizing B&W photos, eliminating unwanted color casts, even adjusting backlighting (to fix what you forgot to do when you first shot the photo).
There’s a full chapter on Photoshop Elements’ many options for selecting and editing portions of your image; and another on working with layers, opacity, and blending. Professionals have long sworn by Photoshop layers; Photoshop Elements offers much the same power in a program that retails for roughly one-sixth the price. If you’re an amateur, you might not gravitate to layers on your own, but trust us -- they’re worth learning, and with this book’s help, it won’t take long.
Dahl and Hoeschen cover everything you need to know about photo retouching and restoration in Photoshop Elements: how to crop, rotate, clone, smudge, sharpen, dodge and burn, and more. They explain the full range of Photoshop Elements filters, from watercolor to video, showing how to preview effects, use textures, even adjust opacity.
There’s a full chapter on working with type, including Photoshop Elements’ techniques for creating vertical type, using anti-aliasing, warping your text using the many options in the Warping Text Style Gallery; creating text effects with type masks; even applying layer styles to type.
Next, they turn to preparing web images: working with the Save for Web dialog box; optimizing images, and making transparent backgrounds. You’ll learn how to create image catalogs, contact sheets, even photographic printer’s packages.
Painting, drawing, it’s all here -- including a great “special projects” chapter that walks you through everything from panoramas and PDF slideshows to animated GIFs. If this book’s missing anything you need to know, we haven’t found it yet. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.