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Something worth pointing out is that to get the best from Elements, and indeed any image manipulation program, you should look into a drawing tablet. Without one of these you will be restricted to using the mouse. Of course drawing with a mouse is possible, but not something you should really be contemplating. Without a tablet you will be seriously limiting the possibilities of your imaging software.

What then is the verdict? In my opinion if you are looking for photo imaging software and really cannot afford the full version (and you can live without the inclusion of the Pen tool, and Paths Palette) then Elements is worth a look.  It is worth however reading carefully the system operating requirements.  On lesser systems the program could well be very slow.  The laptop I used for the review (a Sony Vaio with a 1.79GHz processor and 512MB of RAM) was in my opinion only just fast enough.  Elements should however serve you well, and will provide a cheap introduction to the full version you will likely be using when you win your first employment as a designer.

If you have never used software such as Elements before you will be amazed at what is possible....
Upon first using Elements you are immediately reminded of Adobes intended target audience for this product. It is after all a photo manipulation program aimed at photo enthusiasts and hobbyists.  This is far more apparent in this cut down version. Whilst the full version allows you to use its powerful tools as you please, Elements introduces a lot more hand holding into the processes. Of course this is no bad thing, it is however apparent that the hand holding is not directed at those who wish to use the tool for sketching, rendering and such like. For instance the program offers a great deal of functionality aimed at sorting and arranging your photo collections, as well as a Quick Fix tab obviously aimed at making speedy adjustments to your holiday snaps. For those who are very familiar with the full version this can introduce a slight frustration into using Elements. Personally I found it slightly annoying when reviewing the product that many of the tools I am already familiar with were in different locations or functioned differently from my previous knowledge. However, and importantly, for those who have less experience with the full product this should pose no real difficulty, so I will not dwell on this for too long. And indeed, even for those who are familiar with the full product, a little time playing with Elements should see you navigating speedily around the interface with no problems (as I was).

The interface is easy on the eye, and the basic tools are laid out within easy reach. For instance you have a floating palette containing the most often used tools. For sketching and rendering you of course have the paintbrush, airbrush and erasure, as well as many other supporting tools. The functionality of these also includes tablet support allowing you to adjust many parameters of your lines by using pen pressure. Of course layer functionality is also present. This allows you to keep different elements of your image separate, enabling you to adjust and modify each of them independently. There are many other useful tools as well as these. However there is one important tool that buyers of Elements will miss. The Pen tool and Paths palette. In the full version this tool allows you to draw very precise lines. These are vector lines and can be scaled and adjusted easily, and importantly the paintbrush or airbrush can be made to draw a line along these paths. It is used by many to great effect when rendering. The fact that this is missing from Elements is a little disappointing. Also missing is the Actions tool. This however is not so much of an issue.

Adobe Photoshop Elements also includes the Layer Styles functionality from the full version. This is very useful for creating different effects in your images. Drop shadow, Bevel and Emboss, Outer and Inner glow amongst others. These however are laid out very differently from the full version, and of course do not have quite as many parameters you can adjust. A little familiarization with the tool however can see you achieving many useful effects.  Alongside all of this there is also the option to create flash based photo galleries, and flip books.  For those intending to showcase their drawings online this could prove a useful tool.  A very simple example of one of these possibilities can be viewed here.  The gallery is free, with Elements helping you set up the look, and then taking care of the uploading.  All you need to do is sign up!

Elements is Adobes cut down home version of the very popular Photoshop. Photoshop is commonly found in automotive design studios being put to use for many different purposes. It is a very versatile and powerful program, and can be used for sketching and rendering or putting together large presentation drawings. Its use, along with the computer in general, has also helped speed the decline of traditional tape drawings (accurate scale drawings of a vehicle normally produced on drafting film using drafting tape). These can now be done very accurately and speedily on screen before being plotted out at whichever scale is required. For many however the drawback with Photoshop is the price. At approximately 649 US Dollars (from the Adobe website) for the basic Photoshop option, there are not many able to afford the full application. This is where Elements comes in. It contains many of the features of the full version, not to mention Adobes considerable experience at creating leading photo manipulation programs. Elements is designed to appeal to budget conscious buyers. At 99 US Dollars (from the Adobe website) it is a fraction of the cost of the full version. However, does this cut down version still offer enough functionality for those hoping to pursue a design career?
page last updated; 2014-06-15
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