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Mastering Creativity: Adobe Photoshop Elements 2024 Guide. Adobe Photoshop Elements 2024 review.

Photoshop Elements brings much of the visual magic pioneered by Adobe Photoshop to nonprofessionals and aspiring professionals alike. This consumer photo editing software continues to make splashy Photoshop effects possible for novices. Like Adobe's pro-level Creative Cloud applications, new features in Elements add web functionality and take advantage of Adobe's Sensei AI technology. Elements provides many of Photoshop’s tools and capabilities without requiring you to pay for a subscription. With its wealth of tools and ease of use, Photoshop Elements remains a PCMag Editors' Choice winner for enthusiast-level photo editing software.

How Much Does Photoshop Elements Cost?

You can purchase Photoshop Elements alone for $99.99 or as a bundle with the video-editing companion Premiere Elements for $149.99. If you're updating from a previous version, you pay $79.99. A 30-day trial version is available. Unlike Adobe's Photoshop and Lightroom, which start at $9.99 per month, no subscription is required to keep using Elements.

Close competitor Corel PaintShop Pro costs a one-time price of $79.99 and has many features found in Photoshop, too. Another similar option, ACDSee Photo Studio, costs $149.99 one-time or as an $89-per-year subscription that includes four other apps for video editing and more. CyberLink PhotoDirector, which has features found in both Lightroom and Photoshop, costs the same one-time price as Photoshop Elements at $99.99, but is also available as a subscription for $54.99 per year, with lots of effects and stock content included.

How to Get Started With Adobe Photoshop Elements

You install Adobe Photoshop Elements with a small helper app that downloads and sets up the software. The updated app now takes up 1.7GB on my PC, compared with 2.5GB previously, so it saves you some space, but you still need 6GB of available drive space, according to Adobe's documentation. You need an Intel 6th Generation or newer processor or AMD equivalent with SSE4.1 support; 8GB RAM, and a monitor of at least 1,280-by-800 resolution. You can install Photoshop Elements on Windows 10 version 21H1 or later, and on Apple macOS version 11 or later.

What’s New in Photoshop Elements?

The program is already chockablock with photo tools and effects, but the 2024 update adds not only new creative tools but new features for the companion mobile app and web browser-based beta versions of the program. Notable for its absence is any generative artificial intelligence (AI), like the new Firefly image-creation tools in Photoshop. Here are some highlights:

One-click photo selection. One click can now select a photo's background or sky using Adobe Sensei AI.

Interface update with Dark mode. Photoshop Elements has looked much the same for more than a decade. This update freshens up the interface and add that most welcome option, a Dark mode.

Match color. Use a preset or one of your own photos to create a look that you can then fine-tune with hue, saturation, and brightness controls.

Photo Reels. This tool lets you create videos from your photos of an event or outing, adding text, effects, and graphics—perfect for Instagram Stories or YouTube Reels.

Quick actions. Taking a page from its Photoshop, new one-click edits can blur or remove a background, smooth skin, dehaze, colorize, and more.

JPEG artifact removal. Compression in this common image file type can result in unrealistic distortions. This new tool removes them.

Guided Edits and Content. One of Elements' hallmarks and a reason to choose it over full-blown Photoshop is its Guided Edits, which take you step-by-step through the process of creating popular effects and edits. Now, new Guided Edits let you add impactful text to images for social posts. New backgrounds come to Replace Background, new skies for Perfect Landscape, and new patterns for the Pattern Brush Guided Edit. Additionally, you get new artistic styles with the Artistic Effect tool.

Adobe Stock. You can search and use stock images from Adobe's stock service within Elements.

New features for the web and mobile versions. Peek-through and Pattern overlays join photo collage and slideshow creation in the beta web version of Elements. The beta mobile Elements app now gets basic editing tools such as the ability to crop, rotate, transform, and change aspect ratio of an image.

Before those updates, Elements got AI-powered Moving Photos (which turns static pictures into animated GIFs) and the Perfect Landscapes Guided Edit. Users of Adobe Creative Cloud online storage can now share work between Elements and Creative Cloud apps such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop proper.

The Start Window and Organizer App

The main photo editing program is joined by two utilities: the Home screen and the Organizer, which you generally pass through before opening the actual editor. In the past, I’ve lamented the delay in getting to the editor, but I do see value in both.The Start window is not only your portal to both Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements, but it also presents some extremely useful features. On it you see tips for how to use new editing tools, links to most recent files you worked on, and Auto Creations—slideshows and collages the program automatically generates from your content.

The Organizer application, as its name implies, is where you import, group, tag, and output your photos. You don't have to use it, but it has a lot of capabilities that would otherwise clutter the main editing application. Its powerful search, auto-curation, and sharing tools can be useful additions to the standard organization tools. Competitors like Corel PaintShop Pro and ACDSee dispense with the extra application and do everything in one interface. Four main mode choices appear at the top of the Organizer's window: Media, People, Places, and Events.

Auto Creations

After I had Elements import about a couple hundred photos and video clips, the Home screen showed me more than a dozen Auto Creations it had produced from my content in the Home window. From photos shot around the same area and time, it produced pleasant collages, which benefited from a bit of editing and photo swapping. The feature created several slideshows of varying interest from my test media, with effective transitions and backgrounds.

Adjusting Photos

Photoshop Elements really comes into its own when you move from the Organizer to the full Editor app. The program has many of Photoshop proper's high-end image manipulation capabilities but without the same degree of difficulty. Many of the tools, particularly content-aware ones that let you do things like remove areas or objects without disrupting the background, are unique to Adobe software. The new Dark mode really improves the interface. A new Create button next to Open gives easy access to tools for creating slideshows, collages, reels, and more. A new Quick Actions button (only in Quick mode) in the bottom-right toolbar takes you to many of the most-needed edits, such as select background, color correction, smooth skin, and remove background.

Fixing Faces

Most portrait photographers are adept at smoothing skin, and Element's Smooth Skin enhancement is designed to simplify the process. It identifies faces, overlays a circle, and lets you smooth or blur the area; you can adjust the intensity of the smoothing. It's a quick fix, but I think you're better off applying Gaussian blur to a selection or using the Spot Healing brush.The Adjust Facial Features tool is accessible from the Enhance menu. Open it, and a window pops up with all the faces circled. A right-side panel has adjusters for Lips (with Smile and related sub-choices), Eyes, Nose, and Face. The last lets you change the forehead height, jawbone shape, and chin height. Just as with the similar tool in Photoshop, you can have a lot of fun with it. It does a great job of identifying the facial features and convincingly modifying them. It's probably best to use these tools sparingly unless you want your friends to look like strangers.

Moving Pictures

Photoshop Elements now has three "Moving" tools, found at the bottom of the Enhance menu: Moving Elements, Moving Overlay, and Moving Photos. Added to that is the new Photo Reel tool found in the Create menu. Creating animated GIFs can be tricky without tools designed specifically for them. Moving Elements creates a very specific type of animation that you can save in either GIF or MP4 format, in which the photo subject or the whole photo zooms, pans, rotates, or even flows.

You select an area that logically might be animated, such as a sky or river, optionally refine the selection. You then click the arrow button and drag on the selected object in the direction you want the motion to go. Finally, you tap the Play arrow below the image, and you're ready to share your moving creation as a GIF animation or MP4 video file.

Photo Reels

Whether it's Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, or Facebook, those short vertical social meme-like movies have come to prominence on the internet. Photoshop Elements' new Photo Reels tools gives nonprofessionals an easy way to create this kind of content. Just open at least two photos in the program, head to the Create menu and choose Photo Reel. You see a timeline across the bottom with all your images. You then select a Layout, with choices for Instagram Facebook, TikTok and more. You can change the amount of time each image displays, and add text, effects (like Vintage or Pastel), and graphics (like birthday cakes and balloons). The choice of graphics is limited; for example, no other sport balls are there besides a basketball.

AI Artistic Style Transfer Effects

A tab on the Effects panel brings something to Photoshop Elements that has been around for a few years in other photo applications: artistic style transfers that use artificial intelligence to make your photo look like it was painted by Van Gogh or some other famous artist (instead calling them things like Post-Impressionist). Elements now includes 35 of these style effects, but the program doesn't name artists as some other programs do. It's a good selection; for comparison, CyberLink PhotoDirector starts you out with eight but then continually adds new choices for subscribers or as extra purchases for non-subscribers.I appreciate that this Elements tool lets you adjust the strength of the filter and check a box if you want to keep the original image's colors, though doing so removes a lot of the charm of these filters. More checkboxes under the strength slider let you apply the effect only to the subject (automatically determined by Sensei AI) or only to the background. Photo Director has those options, too, and adds the ability to brush the effect on and off, with brush option sliders for feathering, size, and strength.

Guided Edits

Guided Edits are one way that Elements helps novices create advanced, pro-level Photoshop Effects. They're basically wizards that use tools within the app. If you knew what you were doing, you wouldn't need the Guided Edits to create these effects, but we don't all have MFAs.

A gallery of Guided Edits shows sample images of what they do, and swiping the cursor over them reveals the before and after. Different effect types are divided into sections like Basics, Color, and Fun. There are now more than 60 Guided Edits in all, so thankfully Adobe has added search capability to the feature in the 2023 update. You can tap keyword buttons for Portrait, Landscape, Recent, Popular, and Updated. When going through a Guided Edit, you see a before-and-after split screen view, but I wish you could step backward or forward in the process. Below, I take you through a few of the newer and cooler Guided Edits. The only completely new one for the 2024 version is the first one here.

Add Text

Elements provides many, many text overlay styles, including letting you wrap text around a custom path or shape. This Guided Edit makes getting just the look you want a step-by-step process. You first pick type tool, then a text style (with one-click choices for bevel, drop shadow and stroke), and optionally a gradient, which gives the text a distinctive flair. Then you just click Next, and you can either save your text-embellished image or continue editing it. If you edit in Advanced mode, you can see the separate layer created for the text and edit other layers at will.

Peek-Through Overlay

Peek-Through Overlay is an amusing little edit that makes it look like your subject is coming through some vegetation. You get choices of spring or fall foliage, and you can resize and reposition the greenery to taste. It also lets you adjust the hue and saturation of the overlay and lets you blur the background easily.

Perfect Pet

The Perfect Pet Guided Edit is a response to all those pet photos where the animal's face or part of the face is in shadow, as a natural result of the shape of animals' mugs. The Guided Edit starts you out with cropping and straightening buttons. Then you get to remove dirt and spots with a spot-removal tool. More central to this edit are the Remove Collar & Leash and Fix Pet's Eye buttons.The first is an object removal which requires you to select an area with the collar, and the eye fixer removes excessive glare from those big shiny eyes. You need the Guided Edit's Subject Select, Lighting, and Lighten brush to fix that dark side of the pet's face.

Extend Background

Extend Background is useful if you need an image for social media, such as an Instagram Story, Facebook page background, or Pinterest post because it gives you preset canvas sizes for those use cases. You choose which directions you want to extend the background in, and then either Autofill or Extend. Autofill uses content-aware technology to identify and replicate the background, while Extend merely stretches the sides of the images, letting you protect a central subject from being stretched. I had an issue where I couldn't protect both of my deer with the Extend option, and Autofill required some use of the Clone Stamp button within the Guided Edit to remove an extra deer.

Perfect Landscapes

Photoshop recently got the Sensei AI-powered one-click sky replacement tool, and it makes loads of sense for Elements to have it, too. It’s included in the Perfect Landscapes Guided Edit, which also suggests cropping, straightening, and dehazing. It added some brilliance to this shot of the Hudson Valley.

Object Removal

Object Removal is a Content-Aware capability that has appeared in many photo apps in the last few years. Now Elements gets a Guided Edit to simplify the process. You use one of the selection tools, and then you simply hit the Remove Object button. You can fine-tune your results with the Spot Healing Brush and Clone Stamp tool after the initial removal.

Advanced Tools

Many Photoshop effects involve selecting objects precisely, and either adding or removing them to or from an image. With the Auto Selection tool, you draw a rectangle or shape over the object you want to select, and the tool determines your object's edges. The earlier Quick Selection tool has you scribble on the object you want to select. I still prefer Quick over Auto, since getting the right shape size and placement is trickier than simply scribbling over the object.

New in selection for 2024 are the Select Sky and Select Background buttons, which appear when you're using the Quick Selection tool either in Quick or Advanced mode. Alternatively, you can get to these from the Select menu.

Photoshop Elements on the Web

Adobe Elements now comes with a limited but growing web interface. This lets you add media either from the installed program or from the device you're browsing on, whether that's your computer or mobile device. You can now even perform some Guided Edits on the web and mobile app, including Peek-Through and Pattern Overlay.

One downside of the web version of Elements is that it only comes with only 2GB of storage, which won't hold your entire photo collection if you're anything like me. My Creative Cloud account storage of 100GB applied to the Elements web storage, and I've used up 72% of that.

When it comes to sharing creations or single images (not albums or multiple photos), you have three options: Facebook, email, and link. Anyone with the link can view, so there's no need for the recipient to have an Adobe account.

If you're interested in ditching installed software to work with your images, see our roundup of fully functional online photo editors.

Photoshop Elements for Android

At this point, the beta Android companion app for Elements is very basic, but Adobe states that it will get new features over time. In addition to letting you browse and share cloud-stored images, it now lets you improve tone, remove backgrounds, and use one-click Quick Actions.

The iOS version requires you to install TestFlight, an Apple app for testing beta apps on iOS. I wish there were more linkage between the desktop and mobile apps. A QR code in Organizer at least takes you to the store installer, but you don't see the cloud documents in the installed Elements' Open menu choice.

Sharing and Output

Elements has the most output options of any consumer photo editor, whether you're into creating slideshows, sending picture emails, printing via Shutterfly, burning discs, or uploading to web galleries. You can directly upload to online photo sites, including Flickr and Twitter. I would like to see more social outlets here, such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Flipboard. One minor disappointment is that Elements' own keyword tags don't carry over into Flickr, though you can add tags when you do the uploading. Others include the lack of direct sharing to Facebook Messenger, Skype, or WhatsApp. If Adobe had produced a UWP app, all this sharing could be built-in via Windows' standard Share button.

Elements' photo slideshows are actually videos. You can start creating one from either the Organizer or by selecting images in the editor and choosing the Create drop-down. You get six templates, including WaterColor, Woods, Pan and Zoom, and Classic. You can change the background music and add or remove images to taste, but the slideshow is generated automatically and starts playing right away, so your layout choices are limited. The tools in Apple Photos and Microsoft Photos offer more customization at this point, with more canned music choices and control over slide duration.

Quote Graphic has templates that look sort of light greeting cards that are for use on social media. You can choose a shape that works for stories or posts on Facebook and Instagram primarily. Shapes and graphics can adorn your image as well as text. You can even choose an animation style like those in the Moving Photos discussed above.

Adobe Photoshop Elements for macOS

As with its Elements stablemate, Premiere Elements, Photoshop Elements for macOS matches its Windows 10 counterpart feature-for-feature. The software requires macOS 10.14 or later, and it now supports Apple Silicon processors natively, so you can expect good performance on that platform. Unlike Premiere Elements, Photoshop Elements is available on the Mac App Store, which simplifies installation, updating, and moving the app to another computer.

All the Elements You Need for Your Photos

For amateurs who want to get creative with their photos, Adobe Photoshop Elements is the best game in town. Professionals can do everything in Elements and more with the full Photoshop application, but that comes with a high learning curve and a recurring price tag. Elements gives you a generous subset of the pro editor's features in a simpler package. With best-in-class tools for getting creative with your digital images, Adobe Photoshop Elements is a PCMag Editors' Choice winner for enthusiast-level photo editing software. Those who are only interested in photography without the extra creativity tools should look to Editors' Choice winner Adobe Lightroom, and pros will certainly want Adobe Photoshop, our Editors' Choice winner for professionals.

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