Photoshop Elements 6

Universal Binary Version of Photoshop Elements 6 Finally Available For Macs

Photoshop Elements 6
Adobe Photoshop Elements 6. Adobe product box shot reprinted with permission from Adobe Systems Incorporated

Update: Photoshop Elements is currently at version 14 and still remains a well-regarded photo editing application for the Mac.

You can check pricing and availability of Photoshop Elements 14 at Amazon

The original review for Photoshop Elements 6 continues:

The latest version of Photoshop Elements, Adobe's consumer photo editing application, is universal binary, which means it can run as a native application on both newer Intel Macs and older PowerPC Macs.

It's been a long wait for a universal binary version of Photoshop Elements, but it looks like Adobe used the time wisely, incorporating many features from Photoshop CS3 and creating a surprisingly powerful image editor, while maintaining its focus on home users.

Photoshop Elements 6 – Installation

Installing Photoshop Elements 6 is a pretty straightforward process. It comes with an installer application that does all of the work for you. You'll need an administrator account on your Mac in order to successfully install Elements, but don't worry about creating a new account. The account you created when you first got your Mac or installed OS X 10.x will do nicely. You will, however, need a fairly current version of OS X (10.4.8 or later), and a G4, G5, or Intel Mac.

The installer will create an Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 folder within your Applications folder. It will also, if needed, install a copy of Adobe Bridge, which Elements (and Photoshop) uses for browsing, organizing, and filtering images.

Before you launch Elements for the first time, take a few minutes to look through the Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 folder. You'll find two PDFs in the folder: a Photoshop Elements 6 Readme file that includes some general troubleshooting tips, and a Photoshop Elements 6 User Guide. The User Guide is especially helpful for first-time users, but it's also useful for individuals who haven't used a specific feature in a long time and need a little refresher course.

Photoshop Elements 6 – First Impressions

Photoshop Elements 6 loads fairly quickly, an indication that it is truly a native application. Once it launches, you'll be greeted with a Welcome screen that allows you to pick the activity you want to perform: Start from Scratch, Browse with Adobe Bridge, Import from Camera, or Import from Scanner. The Welcome screen is handy for casual and first-time users, but more experienced users will be happy that it can be turned off.

With the Welcome screen out of the way, the full Photoshop Elements 6 user interface will hit you, and I do mean hit you. It takes center stage, completely covering your desktop, with no simple way to resize it or move it out of the way. Working almost full screen is probably the way most individuals would use Photoshop Elements, but the inability to easily resize or hide a window is very un-Maclike.

The Photoshop Elements 6 layout contains a large central editing space, flanked by a toolbox that holds most image editing tools, and bins that hold palettes and project images. The layout is similar to Photoshop, but the bins replace Photoshop's floating palettes. Bins function the same way as floating palettes, but they're anchored to the interface and are not movable, other than to expand or collapse views.

Across the top of the workspace are the Photoshop Elements 6 menus, a toolbar, and a set of tabs that control the functions you can access (Edit, Create, Share). The tabs are handy, but best of all, they keep the overall user interface uncluttered, limiting the available tools to the ones you'll need to perform the current task.

Photoshop Elements 6 – Bridge

Photoshop Elements 6 includes Adobe Bridge, which lets you browse, sort, and organize images, as well as filter them based on criteria you set. The criteria may include keywords, file types, dates, EXIF data (film speed, aperture, aspect ratio), and even copyright information you may have embedded in the image.

You can also use Bridge to inspect an image before deciding whether to edit it in Elements. You can select multiple images and view them side-by-side, using a loupe tool to inspect fine details.

If you like, you can use Bridge as your main photo cataloging application. It's similar to iPhoto, but a lot more versatile. Photoshop Elements is at home working directly with iPhoto, so you can stick with iPhoto for cataloging your images if you're comfortable with it, or use no image management application at all. If you just want to shove all your photos into a folder on your Mac, Photoshop Elements is fine with that.

I found Adobe Bridge to be easy to use. I especially liked its filtering system, which let me quickly find a specific image in a large collection of photos. Of course, for the filtering system to work, you must add metadata to images as you add them to your library, a daunting task if you already have a large untagged collection.

Photoshop Elements 6 – Editing

Adobe targeted Photoshop Elements 6 both at new users, who so far have spent little or no time editing images, and amateur photographers, who need to do lots of image correction or manipulation, but who don't need or want the complexity (or cost) of Photoshop. To meet this set of diverse needs, Adobe designed Elements to only display the tools necessary for a specific task, thus eliminating clutter and making Elements easier for everyone to use.

Elements is designed to address three specific tasks: Edit, Create, and Share. A large, colorful tab bar at the top of the window provides easy access to each task. When you select the Edit tab, three sub tabs (Full, Quick, Guided) appear. As you might guess, the Full tab provides access to all editing tools. This is where experienced users will probably spend most of their time.

The Quick tab provides access to a set of sliders that lets you change or correct most common image parameters, including brightness, contrast, color temperature, hue, saturation, and tint, as well as adjust image sharpness and eliminate red eye.

The Guided tab presents step-by-step instructions that will guide you through basic image correction tasks. The Guided tab is meant for new users, but using some of these tools is just as quick as using Elements in full edit mode, so don't overlook the Guided tab just because you're a more experienced user.


Photoshop Elements 6 – New Editing Features

Photoshop Elements 6 borrows many features from Photoshop CS3. One of my favorites is the Quick Selection Tool, which lets you select an area by simply brushing an object with the tool. Elements will figure out where the edges of the object are and select them for you. You can then refine the edge selection if needed, but I found that Elements made very good guesses about which areas I wanted to select. The ability to accurately select objects is one of the keys to creating some pretty wild effects, so having an easy way to do this is great.

The Photomerge Panorama feature, which has been available for some time, lets you stick multiple images together to create breathtaking panoramas. Elements 6 adds two new Photomerge capabilities: Photomerge Groups and Photomerge Faces.

Photomerge Groups lets you combine multiple images of the same group, and select elements from each image to combine. The benefit of this is that you can select the best features from each shot and combine them into a single image that's better than the sum of its parts. Result? Everyone in the group is smiling for a change. No one is blinking, and with any luck, no one's head gets cut off.

Photomerge Faces provides an easy way to select facial features from unrelated images and combine them into a new image. Select the eyes from one photo, the mouth and nose from another, and Elements will combine them, smoothing the transition between the various parts. Ever wonder what you would look like with your dog's eyes and your cat's nose and mouth? Now you can find out.

Photoshop Elements 6 – Create

The Photoshop Elements 6 Create tab lets you use the images you've cleaned up (or just had fun with) to create greeting cards, photo books, collages, slide shows, web galleries, even CD or DVD jackets and labels. Each project offers step-by-step instructions to guide you.

In addition to projects, Elements includes a wide selection of artwork that you can combine with your images. You can choose one of many different backgrounds for an image, anything from a sandy beach to a winter scene.

You can also select frames to surround your images, or a theme to unite them. The Artwork section has so many possibilities that you may find yourself spending more time toying with your images than you ever thought possible. (Don't say I didn't warn you.) Selecting the right frame or background can make an image complete, or add a little punch. If you like to scrapbook, you can combine your photos with some of the supplied artwork to create themed scrapbook pages, such as holidays, vacations, pets, or hobbies.

Photoshop Elements 6 – Sharing

The last tab we'll explore is Share. Once you complete one or more image projects, you can share them with others. You can also, of course, just save your work, grab the file on your computer, and do whatever you want with it (send to a friend, upload to a web site, etc.) without using Elements.

Elements can automate some of the common methods of sharing one or more images. Select E-mail Attachments, and Elements will reduce the image's size, if needed, open your email application, create a blank email message, and add the image as an attachment, ready for you to send out. You can also turn your images into a web photo gallery; this is the same as using the Web Photo Gallery option in the Create tab. You can burn images to a DVD, or order prints from Kodak. Last but not least, you can export a PDF slideshow of selected images, a handy way to take a group of images with you in a single, easy-to-access file.

Photoshop Elements 6 – Wrap Up

Photoshop Elements 6 has loads of features that will appeal to both new and experienced users. It offers a wide selection of capabilities, yet manages to keep them well organized and easy to find.

Adobe Bridge may be an attractive choice for individuals who are looking for a good image management application, but who don't need the full-blown capabilities of Apple's Aperture or Adobe's Lightroom. If you would rather stick with iPhoto as your image organizer, you can simply set iPhoto to use Elements as its image editor.

The ability to switch back and forth between tabbed functions makes it easy to fine-tune an image or group of images. You'll appreciate the same ability to easily move around in the Edit tabs, as you jump between the Full, Quick, and Guided modes to perform your image edits.

Every application has a few irksome issues, but in Photoshop Elements they're mostly minor; none would prevent you from making good use of its tools and features. I didn't like the fact that Elements only works in full-screen mode, and I wasn't fond of the charcoal gray user interface. Despite these flaws, Elements performs well, is easy to use, and has an extensive collection of features that both novice and experienced photo editors can put to good use. Bottom line? I recommend putting Photoshop Elements 6 on your short list of image editing applications.

Reviewer’s Notes

  • A review copy of Photoshop Elements 6 was provided by Adobe.
  • Testing was performed on a 3 GHz 4-core Mac Pro with 6 GB of RAM.
  • I spent way too much time playing with images during the review.

Published: 4/9/2008

Updated: 11/8/2015