Adobe Photoshop Elements 6

Adobe Photoshop Elements 6

The Guided Edit mode gives you a column of options for easy editing.

 

Photoshop Elements has long played the role of little brother, with a streamlined interface and toolset designed for amateur photographers, hobbyists, and anyone who doesn’t need all of Photoshop’s advanced functionality—or $649 price tag. At $90, Elements 6 is a tremendous bargain, and head and shoulders above previous versions.

 

This is the first Universal binary version of Elements, and the performance boost on Intel Macs closely mirrors that of Photoshop CS3—it boots quickly and generally feels smooth and responsive. We also ran it on a G4 Titanium PowerBook and a Dual Power Mac G5 with respectable speeds. While Adobe claims that Elements can run with 512MB of RAM (1GB is recommended), we found that the program sometimes crashed on our PowerBook, which has 1GB of RAM, but never on our MacBook Pro or Power Mac G5, with 3GB and 2GB of RAM, respectively. We suggest downloading the trial version to see how it performs on your machine.

 

Elements’ three primary modes—Edit, Create, and Share—are designated by tabs in the upper-right. Edit is the main event, with redesigned icons in the main tool palette and a contextual Options bar at the top of the screen. The excellent Guided Edit mode offers up a single screen of editing options to make things even easier.

 

Much of what you would ever want in Photoshop is here, from the Healing and Spot Healing brushes to the Rubber Stamp and Cloning tools, with only a few compromises for the most serious image-editing tasks. Elements even has some fun features not found in Photoshop, such as the Cookie Cutter tool, which uses a library of shapes to create pseudo-layer masking effects, such as a cropping a picture of your sweetheart inside of a heart or a star. The Red Eye Removal tool automatically found the red eyes of the baby in our test image, without us having to make a selection, and amazingly, did a far better job than the red-eye tool in Photoshop CS3.

 

The Layers palette in Elements 6 delivers most of the same functionality as in Photoshop CS3, including all of the blending modes, layer style effects, and gradient and tinting layers. The big omission is true layer masking for more challenging compositing tasks. The Quick Selection tool is here, but Elements lacks even a single alpha channel or QuickMask slot.

 

The new Color Curves control is like a light version of Curves (Photoshop’s single most useful color correction tool)—it’s useful, but not implemented as a nondestructive adjustment layer, like Levels. Elements also packs enhancement tools for automatically addressing color cast and skin tone corrections, and handy new black-and-white conversion tools. Image sharpening is much improved with the new Unsharp Mask tool and a scaled-down version of Photoshop’s Smart Sharpen filter. RAW files are properly handled through a scaled-down version of Adobe Camera Raw, and they come in with either 8 or 16 bits of color depth, with many of Elements’ tools now working in 16-bit color mode.

 

Photomerge Faces and Group Shot let you create composite images from multiple source photos, mixing up facial features and the best takes of your group’s heads, respectively. You’ll want to put a little forethought into getting the most from these additions, but they’re fun to experiment with, and they produce fantastic results. All of Photoshop’s filters are here (including Liquefy), but we’d love to see a plug-in for tapping into Mac OS X’s Core Image effects.

 

The Create panel has tools for creating photo books, image collages, Web galleries, and PDF slideshows—all are very easy to use and yield attractive results. There’s also a nice selection of prefab frames, backgrounds, and text effects for whipping up instant cards, DVD cases, and other useful layouts. Share mode lets you email photos, burn CDs or DVDs, and directly order prints of your images.

 

The bottom line. Photoshop Elements 6 is an amazing value—it’s pretty much everything that a point-and-shoot photographer would want in an image editor, and possibly more than they’ll ever need.

 

COMPANY: Adobe

CONTACT: www.adobe.com

PRICE: $89.99, $69.99 upgrade

REQUIREMENTS: G4 or faster or Intel processor, Mac OS 10.4.8 or later, 512MB RAM, 1GB free disk space

Extensive toolset. Easy guided-editing mode. Photomerge Faces and Group Shot are cool. Low price. Universal binary.

A little flaky in low-RAM situations. No layer masks. Where are Core Image effects?

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