One of the best programs available to hobbyists for organizing photos and fairly significant retouching, Adobe Photoshop Elements has always been great at what it’s capable of. And now it’s capable of more.
The new version, Elements 9 ($100, direct), adds a few useful new editing tools, makes sharing a bit easier, and simplifies retouching for beginners. This upgrade is big news for Apple users, bringing the Mac version in sync with Elements for PC.
Editing and Retouching:
Elements comes in two parts: The Organizer and the Editor. The Organizer is the hub where you import, tag, share, and make projects with your pictures. Editing happens, of course, in the Editor, though there are some quick edits available for JPEGs in the Organizer, as well.
The more exciting upgrades this go-round are in the Editor. We were happily surprised that two of Photoshop’s best tools are now available in Elements: the Content-Aware Healing Brush (which recently made its debut in Photoshop CS5) and Masks.
The old Healing Brush was great for removing spots on areas of consistent tone or texture, but would flub near edges. Now, turn Content Aware on while in the tool, and you can remove spots that are near or even covering edges or in multiple textures.
Masks in Elements is a bigger deal yet. Up until now, Masks have only been enabled when using Adjustment Layers. But with this version, you can do really sophisticated retouching and compositing previously possible only in the much more expensive Photoshop.
Elements 9 also contains some new stuff for casual users and those new to image editing. There’s the new Guided Edit mode, which hides the toolbar and provides a list of possible tasks, walking you through each of them. When you’re finished, you can go back to Full Edit mode to see the layers that were created.
There are also some new cute and fun effects, like those that create a “Lomo” (plastic camera) or pop-art look. But with so many of these available in compact cameras or cellphone apps, we’re curious about whether Elements users are actually clamoring for them.