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Adobe Photoshop CS6 may have gathered all the attention, but its baby brother Photoshop Elements has been quietly growing up.
Get the best tech deals, reviews, product advice, competitions, unmissable tech news and more! TechRadar is part of Future plc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. You can unsubscribe at any time and we'll never share your details without your permission. It uses darker tones to make your images stand out more, and this gives it more visual consistency with Lightroom and, for that matter, Photoshop Elements. You can choose one of four different brightness values in the Preferences if you're not happy with the default. Automatic fixes in Organiser are take-it-or-leave-it single button effectsGone is the dark, grey-on-grey look of previous versions; in comes a bright, fresh livery with much more readable text, clear tool icons, and a far fresher and more appealing look overall. And staying on a purely functional level, a new Background Save and Auto-recovery option should provide a level of protection against crashes, while the introduction of Adobe's Mercury Graphics Engine is designed to speed up processor-intensive tools like Liquify, Puppet Warp and Transform. The new features include much more sophisticated cropping options, content-aware Move and Patch tools, a very interesting Blur Gallery, 'adaptive' wideangle lens adjustments, skintone-aware selections, improved auto adjustments and, surprisingly, some useful video editing tools.Photoshop CS6 can now make selections based on skintones, and the new, 'intelligent' auto adjustments are drawn from thousands of hand-edited images When you crop your photos you can now use a range of overlays, such as the Golden Ratio, Rule ofF Thirds or a simple grid to help you decide on the composition. You can save crop presets which include image size and resolution and, most signficantly, crops are now non-destructive.
You can come back later, in other words, and re-do them if you change your mind.The Crop tool now shows a series of different compositional overlays such as the Rule of Thirds and Golden Ratio Adobe's also extended its clever content-aware technology to include the Move and Patch tools.
It's almost always worth opening selected images in the Editor to get to grips with them properly.An entirely separate application, files are transferred from the Organiser to the Editor to work on them, and this is a fairly straightforward process. In theory, you can now move objects around and have Photoshop fill the gaps that are left behind..


Even tasks that are offered directly by the Organiser, such as creating calendars and photo books, are in fact processed by the Editor.Refine Edge creates perfect cutouts, with far greater ease than ever beforeEditorThis is where the main body of Photoshop Elements 11 resides. It's divided into three different working sections, each of which caters to a different level of user: Quick, Guided and Expert. Although the three modes are capable of acting independently of each other, you can move smoothly between them - and this pays huge benefits, particularly when moving from Guided to Expert mode.Modify cutouts with the Selection brush. Increasingly, there's a crossover between stills photography and video, particularly for professional photographers.
Parameters are at the bottom of the screenIn all three modes, the Options bar that shows tool settings has moved from the top to the bottom of the screen, and it shows all the parameters in a clear, understandable way. Photoshop CS6 can trim and combine video clips, insert transitions and even add titles, and all within the familiar Photoshop environment. Together with the tool panel and the side panel, this does of course take up a lot of screen space, but they can all be slid out of the way, and there's even a floating panel mode for those who prefer it.Operations such as aligning layers are now easier, thanks to bolder, clearer panelsQuick modeIn this stripped-down view, there are only a handful of tools - selection, redeye, tooth brightening, text and healing. The Smart Fix, Exposure, Colour and other buttons that were one-click effects in the Organiser now pop open to reveal a 3 x 3 grid of variations, each showing the target image.
ACR 7 (yes, it's annoying that the version numbers are out of step) has a new processing engine and improved tone-mapping, leading to a redesign of the tonal controls and better results when recovering shadows and highlights in RAW files. There are other simple controls as well - so the Colour adjustment, for instance, can target Saturation, Hue or Vibrance, as well as having an Auto button.In Quick mode, adjustments are simple, but with a wide degree of user controlWhile the panels have been pared down, the menus still offer the full Photoshop Elements 11 experience, with access to all the filters, adjustments and techniques.
ACR also brings a greater range of controls to the Adjustment Brush, adding localised white balance, noise reduction and moire corrections.Adobe Camera Raw 7 has a new tone-mapping engine, better shadow and highlight recovery and extra Adjustment Brush options The improvements here are exactly the same as those in Lightroom 4, which is no surprise as that too is built around Adobe Camera Raw 7. It's good in the sense that there's consistency between the two products, though it also creates an overlap that could make it harder to figure out which of the two programs you need. The Lens Blur filter has a striking range of controls for photographically authentic blursIt's almost foolproof, demonstrating that nearly anyone can create spectacular effects with ease; and there's enough potential for customisation here to enable many types of image to be processed in the way that suits them.


This is what you need to bear in mind if your interests are primarily photographic, Lightroom 4's editing tools are now so sophisticated that you may not often need Photoshop at all.
Guided mode is a terrific learning experience, because it shows the power of Photoshop Elements 11 without frightening the horses.When creating an effect in Guided mode, simple controls take you through each stepExpert modeThe biggest surprise comes when you create an effect in Guided mode, and then switch to Expert.
And if you do, you might find Elements 10 perfectly adequate for the layers, montages and other effects that Lightroom can't do, rather than paying ten times more for Photoshop CS6. You'll find that the image you've been working on is now presented as a series of layers, masks, adjustments and filters, exactly as if you'd created all the effects directly in Expert mode in the first place. As well as a powerful Lens Blur effect, there are new Comic, Graphic Novel and Pen and Ink filters, all of which create variously hand-drawn looks.
But they do so with a tremendous sense of realism, and frankly are far better than anything Photoshop itself can produce. A real pleasure to work with, these are hugely entertaining filters.You'll certainly benefit from Photoshop Elements 11's new Refine Edge dialogue, which has now been fully updated to provide sophisticated cutout tools - not just smoothing edges, but isolating tricky areas such as hair from difficult backgrounds. The Comic filter creates striking drawn effects that you can fully customiseVerdict It's also far easier to add presets in this release than it was in Photoshop Elements 10 and others, and it's the first Elements version to support Actions, the automation system that enables you to execute complex series of effects with a keystroke.
Except that you can't create them - you can only use Actions that have been built in Photoshop (and not all effects work). Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 is a mature, thoughtful program that has eschewed flashy new features in favour of a genuinely more approachable interface. That said, the Refine Edge tool in itself is enough to warrant the upgrade; the extra filters are the icing on the cake.



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