Adobe Photoshop Elements 13 review

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Photoshop Elements is a great choice for personal photo editing: for a reasonable price, it will handle everything from one-click fixes to advanced multilayer edits. It’s grown so powerful, in fact, that Adobe seems to be struggling to come up with further improvements.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 13

Thus for Elements 13, the headline is the rather pedestrian Photomerge Compose wizard, which walks you through the process of extracting an element from one image and pasting it into another.

Beginners may find this a useful educational experience, but it’s hardly a creative revolution. The best thing about it is the new Refine Selection brush, which lets you click and drag to expand, contract or smooth the edges of your selection. It’s a more visual and immediate way to work than the Refine Selection requester – and, incidentally, something that the full edition of Photoshop currently lacks.

Another enhancement is the new Crop Suggestions feature, which analyses your image and comes up with four crop options. This sounds like a potentially promising way to get a fresh look at your images, but in practice we found Elements’ suggestions very obvious – and you can preview only one at a time, making it hard to weigh up which you prefer.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 13

A feature that does work well is the new Facebook Cover wizard, tucked away under the Create menu. This automatically sets up a correctly sized template for a Facebook profile, with a placeholder image and optional text overlay. You can drag and scale your main image to your heart’s content, and if you wish you can “spill” your cover image into your profile image. When you’re happy with your work, the Upload button connects to Facebook and uploads the images directly. It probably isn’t something you’ll use every day, though.

The remainder of the updates in Photoshop Elements 13 are even more mundane. Under Guided Edits, a new Black and White option lets you turn colour images into high-contrast black and white, with an optional glow to add atmosphere. The B&W Selection tool lets you “paint” monochrome onto the chosen parts of the image, while the gimmicky “Color Pop” tool keeps one colour and desaturates the rest – an effect that gets tired fairly quickly.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 13

The Effects palette has been souped up as well; in Expert Mode it’s now subdivided into styles such as Textures,Vintage and so forth, while in Quick mode you get a selection of basic operations such as Lithograph and Split Tone, each offering four variations, which you can select by simply clicking the relevant thumbnail.

As well as new tools and wizards, Photoshop Elements introduces an integrated news channel, known as Elements Live (eLive for short). Built right into the main interface, this serves up a series of links to online tips and projects. There’s some good stuff here – early posts include a tutorial on fixing tan lines on photos and a useful guide to adjustment layers.

The experience feels rather cold, however, since there’s no interactivity whatsoever. True, the links take you off to places such as Behance and YouTube, as well as independent creative blogs, many of which host their own forums, but it would be nice to be able to bookmark eLive posts and discuss them in context with other Elements users. Perhaps that’s something to look forward to in a future release.

Photoshop Elements 13: Verdict

Last year we opined that, with Photoshop Elements 12, Adobe appeared to have “run out of ideas”, and there’s little here to dispel that impression. The Refine Selection brush is a hit, but other than that, the new features in Elements 13 are likely to be of limited and occasional use.

That shouldn’t be taken as a criticism of Elements as a whole. If you’re looking for the sort of hands-on editing tools that Lightroom doesn’t provide, Elements ticks many boxes, with support for multilayer compositing, raw image import, batch processing and even basic automation capabilities. It’s no surprise if Adobe’s struggling to find meaningful ways to improve it.

If you’re already using a recent version of Photoshop Elements, however, the best arguments for upgrading are probably technical rather than creative: Elements 13 at last brings support for high-DPI displays, plus a 64-bit edition that enables ambitious edits to address more than 4GB of RAM. That’s enough to keep Elements high on our list of recommendations, but we wish there were more here to feel properly excited about.

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Software subcategoryPhoto editing software

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