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Photoshop Elements 11 Arrives

By Kelly  ·  September 24th, 2012

It’s that time of year, my friends! The leaves are changing, the air is turning cooler, and a new version of Photoshop Elements has made its debut.

Photoshop Elements 11, which is available for Windows and the Mac, marks a significant departure from recent versions. Adobe has spent the past year—longer, in fact—completely redesigning the program’s interface to make it more approachable. There’s also a very welcome improvement to the program’s compositing tools, an interesting selection of new guided edits and filters, and several new options for viewing your image library in the Organizer. Here’s a closer look at some of the biggest changes. (To see many of these new features in action, be sure to check out the video collection in our Elements 11 Learning Center.)

A New Look

The most striking change in version 11 is the completely retooled interface. Adobe has worked to simplify the program’s visual design in hopes of making it more accessible to new users and a bit easier on the eyes. This means no more dark gray–a much welcome change–larger icons and buttons, and more legible text.

Elements 11 sports a lighter background, larger icons, and a relocated Options Bar.

Experienced users, however, will have to spend some time getting used to where everything is. The Options Bar, which used to sit above the image window, is gone. Instead, you’ll now find those options in a new, much larger Options panel at the bottom of your window. This is also where you’ll now go to access the various tools nested within a tool group–for example, to select the Magnetic Lasso tool or the Rectangle tool. (Clicking on the tool icon in the toolbar no longer brings up a submenu of related tools, though you can still press the tool’s keyboard shortcut to cycle through them.) If you don’t like how much space the new Tool Options panel occupies, you can quickly hide it with the push of a button.

Another change that may take some adjustment for longtime users is the way panels now work on the right side of your workspace. In the Basic workspace, which is the default mode, you’ll only see one panel at a time. Panels can’t be  dragged off into separate windows as they could in previous versions. Instead, buttons at the bottom of your screen let you quickly switch between Layers, Effects, Graphics (formerly known as Content), and Favorites. Meanwhile, a second category of panels, accessed from the More button, only opens in a floating window and cannot be anchored. These include the Histogram, Info, History, and so on. If this new setup doesn’t appeal to you, you can revert back to the old way of doing things by choosing Custom Workspace from the More menu.

If you prefer to see multiple panels at once, you can switch to Custom Workspace.

There are also many smaller interface changes throughout the program. It’s now easier to see when a layer mask is selected, for example, thanks to a blue outline (rather than the subtle double outline used before), and an Open button in the top-left corner gives you quick access to recent files.

Refine Edge

Despite its many selection tools and masking options, Elements has never particularly excelled at making a selection of fuzzy or semi-transparent edges, such as wispy hair or fur. Elements 11 takes a huge step in the right direction with the vastly improved Refine Edge feature. Borrowing technology from the full version of Photoshop, the Refine Edge dialog makes it much easier to get these types of selections.

The new Refine Edge dialog makes it much easier to select spiky hair like this.

You start by using one of the selection tools to create an initial selection around your subject. Then choose Select>Refine Edge. In the Refine Edge dialog, you’ll get a collection of sliders and tools to further refine your selection. The Refine Radius tool lets you expand your selection to include all of the wispy bits your original selection may have missed. When you release the mouse button, Elements works to detect the edges of the strands of hair and removes the rest of the background. If you do a lot of compositing work, this feature alone may make the upgrade worthwhile.

New Guided Edits and Filters

For times when you just want to get a specific look fast, without all the work of doing it yourself, Elements 11 offers the Guided Edit mode and a wide variety of artistic filters. In version 11, Elements adds four new Guided Edits—Vignette, High Key, Low Key, and Tilt Shift—as well as three new filters.

Vignette Darkening or brightening the edges of your images—known as a vignette—can help draw attention to the subject at the center, which is why the effect is used so often by photographers. A couple of guided edits already made it possible to quickly add a vignette, but none made it the sole focus. The new Vignette effect lets you choose from a black or white vignette, adjust the intensity of the vignette, and even refine its shape. It’s a great shortcut for a particularly common task.

High Key Creative lighting can add a lot of interest to an otherwise boring shot. But getting that lighting with your camera isn’t always easy. The High Key effect lets you pump up the highlight details in your image to create a bright, ethereal glow.

Get that dreamy, washed out look with the High Key guided edit.

Low Key If you’re looking to add a bit of drama, the Low Key effect may be more your style. This guided edit emphasizes the shadow tones in your image, and is a great way to place your subject against a black backdrop after the fact.

Tilt Shift Capitalizing on a popular trend in photography, the Tilt Shift effect gives your shot the look of a miniature model by selectively blurring all but a thin band of the image.

Make landscapes look like miniature models with the Tilt Shift guided edit.

Artistic Filters Adobe has also added three new entries to its collection of Sketch filters: Pen And Ink, Graphic Novel, and Comic. All three filters aim to create a hand-drawn look and provide many options and sliders for customizing the results, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach.


New Workplace Views in the Organizer

Like the Editor, the Organizer has received a top-to-bottom makeover, resulting in a brighter, more visually appealing interface. Labels are much larger and a row of generously sized icons along the bottom gives you quick access to common tasks, such as rotating images, jumping to the Editor, or displaying photos fullscreen as a slideshow.

The Organizer gets a cleaner interface and four new viewing options (available at the top of the window.)

More importantly, the program makes some welcome improvements to managing and searching your library. Previous versions let you use keywords to tag your photos with names, locations, and other searchable metadata, but the process of applying and then searching based on these tags wasn’t entirely intuitive. In Elements 11, Adobe has made the process of applying this type of data much easier and created four different viewing environments that take advantage of the metadata you’ve applied and make it easier to search your library:

Media  This option gives you access to all of your photos—as well as videos and other files you may have.

People If you’ve used the Organizer’s people-recognition features to identify the important people in your shots, this view will take you to a page that displays a stack of photos for each person. Moving your cursor over a stack quickly scrolls through all of the images tagged with that person. Double-click to see all of the photos in one place. You can also arrange people into groups—such as your immediate family, classmates, or mortal enemies.

The People view displays stacks of photos for each person tagged in your library.


Places Like to travel? The Places view gives you a mapped view of your photographic exploits. When you click on the Add Places button, you’re given the opportunity to place your images on a map. The feature relies on Google maps and is fairly intuitive to use. Once you’ve placed photos on the map, you can quickly fly around to different locations and see just the images taken there. (You’ll need to have an internet connection for the maps feature to work; however, you can also peruse your mapped locations in a list form if needed.)

Red markers on the map show you how many photos are tagged with that general location.

Events To see all of the photos from a past vacation, your wedding, or the birth of a child, use the Events view. You can manually identify special events by selecting a group of photos and clicking Add Event; however, an even faster option is to let Elements group them for you. Switch the slider to Smart Events and Elements will group them according to date. You can then quickly turn one or more of these smart events into a permanent one. Saved events appear in photo stacks, making them easy to navigate.

In all, the new views offer a more intuitive and more visually appealing way to navigate your library. By the way, if you prefer to keep your images organized within a detailed file structure, Elements 11 also makes it a bit easier to drill down through that structure.

Smaller Changes

There are also many smaller additions and tweaks throughout both the Organizer and the Editor in version 11.

  • In Quick Edit mode, each adjustment now also offers a grid of preview thumbnails that let you see the result of various settings before you make a change.
  • If you aren’t familiar with actions, these recorded steps let you play back a set of editing steps on multiple photos. This can greatly speed up repetitive tasks, such as adding a border to the bottom for a caption. In Elements 11, Adobe moved the Action Player from Guided Edits to Expert mode to make it more accessible. It’s now also easier to load actions that you find from third-party sources. Unfortunately, Elements still cannot record actions.
  • Elements 11 makes the process of loading third-party layer styles and effects much easier by adding them to the Preset Manager. Simply click on the Options pull-down menu from the Styles or Effects panel and choose Load Styles or Load Effects to access the appropriate the of files on your system or choose Preset Manager to manage all of your add-ons from one place.
  • Mac users who use Adobe Revel, an online service that syncs images across multiple devices—such as an iPhone, iPad, and Mac—and provides editing tools, can now use the Organizer to send photos to a Revel library.

The Details

Photoshop Elements 11 costs $99.99; however, you can upgrade from any previous version of Elements for $79.99. You can also get the program bundled with Premiere Elements 11, Adobe’s consumer video editor, for $149.99.

Find out more in our Photoshop Elements 11 Learning Center!

51 Replies to Photoshop Elements 11 Arrives:

  1. kevin

    September 24, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    Looks great. Where do I buy it?

    • Dionna

      September 25, 2012 at 11:10 am

      You can go on the Adobe website. It’s available now.

  2. Mary

    September 25, 2012 at 4:05 am

    Windows 8 is coming next month – should I wait?

    • Mike

      September 25, 2012 at 7:43 am

      Hi Mary. I’m not a Windows expert, but I don’t think it’ll matter much, unless you want to save yourself an install.

  3. Gloria

    September 25, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Looks interesting but how will this effect our various subscriptions — techniques…
    I was just getting used to 10 and all of its features not sure that I want to rush to get this upgrade because before I know it there will be elements 12.

    • Mike

      September 25, 2012 at 7:46 am

      Hi Gloria-

      The features you have in 10, along with all the tools, etc. are still there. It just looks different. As for the mag and website, we’re talking about how things will shape up and look going forward. :)

    • Tom

      September 25, 2012 at 11:09 am

      Hi Gloria,

      We are going to start recording tutorials in Elements 11 soon, but we know there are plenty of people using previous versions (especially 9 and 10) and we’re going to keep fresh content coming for you too. As Mike said earlier, everything you know how to do in previous versions also works in Elements 11, but your starting point might be in a different panel or menu. Getting comfortable in Elements 11 is a bunch of small adjustments rather than having to start from scratch.

      You’re right that there will eventually be an Elements 12. This is the blessing and curse of technology, right? “Do I buy the new thing today when I know that just over the horizon there’s an even BETTER new thing coming?”

      You might base your upgrade decision on the answer to the question “Does Elements 11 allow me to more easily and efficiently do the things I do right now using Elements 10?”

      If the answer is a BIG yes, as it is for Rick (our “Glory Hallelujah!” commenter below :-) then it’s an easy decision. Take a look at the Learning Center videos (the link is up above) to get a good idea of the new look and new features to see if Elements 11 feels like a good match for your needs.

  4. Rick

    September 25, 2012 at 7:20 am

    GLORY HALLELUJAH! It looks as though they may have finally addressed my two biggest complaints since having to upgrade from Elements V. 2 all the way up to 9 and then 10 last year when I got several new computers running Snow Leopard: The hard-to-read gloomy black interface, and the virtual impossibility of successfully installing my old beloved Photoshop Wow! layer styles.

    I can’t wait to read some reviews from early adopters, and input from Barbara Brundage and others as to the usability of these and other new features. Hopefully they have also solved some bugs, like the program’s refusal to remember Save for Web settings, and the file extension Prefs bug.

    I’m very excited about the potential of this new version.

  5. H Dean

    September 25, 2012 at 8:26 am

    I received a email from Adobe warning the the Element Plus subscription will not be included in V11.0.
    If you count of that automatic back-up to Plus Website do not switch to V11.0.

  6. Rob

    September 25, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    I am to the point where I can quickly edit my work with Elements 10, I may wait for Elements 12..
    I also have CS5 but much prefer Elements 10 having moved up from E 8.

    As for organizer, I do not find it that useful a tool.

  7. Michel

    September 26, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Some time ago, I bought Elements 10 Plus and it works fine with PSE 10. I wonder if it will work with the new PSE 11? I hope it does.

    • Abegail

      September 29, 2012 at 10:51 pm

      I’m a bit confused, what exactly is Elements 10 Plus? I thought there was just Photoshop Elements 10 and Premiere Elements 10 and then you have the bundle which includes them both. Can you please clarify and enlighten me, ’cause I’m a little lost? Thanks.

    • Abegail

      September 30, 2012 at 1:00 am

      What will happen to the plug-ins, actions and my Graffi’s Add-O-Matic tool, that I have added to PSE10? Will they automatically be transferred to the new upgraded version PSE11?

  8. Sheryl

    September 26, 2012 at 10:20 am

    What about us Mac people? Any better integration with iPhoto for us?

  9. Karin

    September 27, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I want to upgrade. I started with 2, went to 5 and now have 8. But it took me a very long time to transfer my organizer so that I could still access with tags and such. What is the trick for easy transfer of organizer items and tags into a new version?

  10. Kevin

    September 27, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Adobe likes to tease us yearly with the “New” version of Elements. They being out a few small changes every year, but never address the real issues. You still can not do in elements what you need to do without buying the full blown version of Photoshop. Example: you can not add a plugin to the batch processing so you can get rid of noise, set up portrait preferences, add an effect, all while you are processing you batch of photo’s. You can’t even add Actions to Elements. You can for 100 times the money of buying Elements. When they get to the point where they stop changing the “Look” and allow us to actually add some real improvements to their program, then I will consider spending the next $80.00 for the upgrade. My current version is still doing a great job for me, and with the plugins that I already have will continue to do so for a long long time. I don’t need and won’t buy Adobe’s latest offering. They don’t even offer free technical support for Elements. If they won’t even support it why should we?

    • Mike

      September 28, 2012 at 7:25 am

      Upgrading, and Elements, certainly isn’t for everyone, and, as is the case with each new version of any application, it remains an individual choice. It sounds like your current version is doing everything you need it to do, so I would tend to agree with you that an upgrade in your case doesn’t sound like something that is needed.

      One small clarification, you can add actions to Elements…you just can’t record actions in Elements. This has been true for several versions (FWIW, this did get a whole lot easier in Elements 11). You would need to do that in Photoshop (or have someone do it, or buy, download free ones, etc.).

  11. Craig

    October 1, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Anyone have any idea how to get the labels above the toolbox icon groups to show up? I’ve tried everything I can think of. I’m on a PC running Windows 7 (64-bit).

    • Kelly

      October 1, 2012 at 5:09 pm

      Craig, Do you you mean the list of nested tools that used to pop up when you held down a tool icon? That action doesn’t happen anymore in Elements 11. You can use the keyboard shortcut for a tool group to cycle through the tools. Otherwise, you have to access the nested tools from the Tool Options pane.

    • Craig

      October 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm

      This has been resolved. The labels above the toolbox icons only appear if you have sufficient vertical “real estate” on your display. On my laptop (1366×768), the labels are not visible. Others have informed me that on a larger display (e.g. a desktop with a larger vertical display) the labels show up.

      • Craig

        October 2, 2012 at 6:42 pm

        Kelly – I was referring to the descriptions for each group of icons in the toolbox (i.e. View, Select, Enhance, Draw, Modify, and Color). These descriptors were not showing up and I did not understand why. The above explanation clarifies why the descriptors were not visible on my (laptop) display.

  12. Carol

    October 3, 2012 at 7:42 am

    I’m not at all happy with how the ‘layers’ and ‘styles’ panels show up on the right side of the work place. I liked how they showed up in PSE10. Can’t figure out how to load and keep them loaded. I’ve looked everywhere for some instruction, but I can’t find any.

    I do love the new lighter interface. That is a WOW! Love the new actions ability of PSE11 playing the action for you. Love the simplicity of adding new styles. I still had to rebuilding the database to get all of my (280+) current styles uploaded to PSE11. No shortcut there.

    Still debating if I’m going to upgrade, or wait for PSE12 to come out next year.

    • Mike

      October 3, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      Hi Carol-

      Are you talking about how the panels in PSE10 could be rearranged and moved around, floated, etc.? If so, here’s what you need to do:

      – In the bottom-right corner, click the menu arrow on the button that says More.
      – At the bottom, choose the item that says Custom Workspace
      – That will let you un-dock the different palettes, let them share the space, etc. And, it should remember their locations.

  13. Glenn

    October 6, 2012 at 9:51 am

    I am wondering if I can remove the scanner block in Elements 11 in the same manner or similar steps as outlined in the Elements Techniques September/ October 2012 issue.

  14. Bruce

    October 7, 2012 at 6:00 am

    I am so very very happy that the “Set Date Range” is gone. Now it’s very easy if I just make folders for each shot date. Very nice improvement.

    • Bruce

      October 17, 2012 at 5:32 am


  15. Rochelle

    October 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I have used version 5, 7 and now 9. Never really did much on 5 or 7, but began to take more interest when I got PSE 9. So my question is, how do you transfer brushes, stamps, flourishes etc. that I have installed into the new version as well as what I have in the organizer.

    • Bruce

      October 17, 2012 at 5:31 am

      Inside the program install folder there are sub-folders for brushes, swatches, plug-ins, etc. Check the PSE help for info on managing these. If you still can’t find what you need use your favorite search engine to look up elements folder location

  16. Bruce

    October 17, 2012 at 5:24 am

    After using this for a few weeks I can say that getting a fresh start with the organizer is a very nice upgrade. I did start with a new catalog, and glad I did. It tags people a places in a much different way than earlier versions. Once I got used to the way it works I started liking it right away. Does anybody have experience with large catalogs, like >10,000 images. Does this version seem to perform better?

  17. Harvey

    October 20, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Just purchased a Canon 5D mk 111, but my Elements 9 and the Camera Raw 6.5 version does not recognize the new 5D raw format. And elements 9 will not upgrade to Camera Raw version 6.7 or higher. Would I need to up grade Elements to 10 or 11 to utilize my Camera Raw format.

    • Bruce

      October 20, 2012 at 7:40 pm

      Upgrade to 11. I had a similar problem upgrading to my Canon T4i. Also some plug-ins need upgrading. I like PSE 11, all around good collection of improvements. More intuitive to interface.

  18. Lee

    October 24, 2012 at 12:03 am

    As a long-time PSE user (versions 3,6 and 9) I have watched this program for the last 15+ years. Let me be plain: I appreciate that there is a PSE and I use it. However, I have concluded that what Adobe calls “new” and characterizes as an “upgrade”is not always an improvement. Each permutation of PSE has one, maybe two, “improvement(s)” over the previous version. However, this is really just Adobe’s tossing you and me a crush of bread and saying “See. Don’t we treat you so well? Now be quiet until we have some more scraps for you.” Take for example, how this article begins: “The most striking change in version 11 is the completely retooled interface.” Notice that the author is admitting that the greatest improvement(?) in this version is some cosmetic adjustments. Apparently you and I don’t need (or deserve) a technically improved PSE, we just need a new coat of paint and a fresh dose of “hope”. Oh, well, I guess we get what we deserve. So, I suppose I should smile and say “Thanks, Adobe. After all, you know what’s best for us.”

  19. Frank

    October 31, 2012 at 7:55 am

    I liked more the dark gray layout. I hope that in the future the color can be changed by user settings ore similar. I prefer a darker layout to give a better contrast to the picture you’r working on it. But, that is personal preference.

  20. Darren

    November 3, 2012 at 1:42 am

    I have downloaded the trial version, and converted my catalogue. However, my events don’t appear to have come across from Elements 10? Do you need to redo all of your events, because that would be a major turn-off.

  21. Michaela

    November 4, 2012 at 10:31 am

    I still have 8 and would like to upgrade to 11. Will i loose my installed plug ins?
    Also does 11 have channel mixer for IR photography?

    • Bruce

      November 4, 2012 at 1:56 pm

      You would do well to contact the developers of your plug-ins with questions about upgrading.

    • Abegail

      November 4, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      Please forgive me for my ignorance, although I’m not a newbie, I’m new enough that I’ve never heard of IR photography. So I ask you what exactly is IR photography and why does it need a channel mixer or what does a channel mixer do?

  22. Michaela

    November 4, 2012 at 10:32 am


    • Michaela

      December 28, 2012 at 9:45 am

      Hi Abegail and Bruce

      Thanks Bruce i might do that.

      Abegail, IR is Infrared Photography, its actually well known and for that you would need the Channel Mixer, you can do it differently but Channel Mixer would be best.

      So i am still wondering if 11 comes with it.

      Thanks :)

      • Abegail

        December 28, 2012 at 5:03 pm

        O thank you, I appreciate you getting back to me on that. I’ll research it further so that I may learn to do it myself.

    • Michaela

      December 28, 2012 at 9:48 am

      Hi Bruce and Abegail

      Bruce thanks i might do that.

      Abegail, IR means Infrared Photography, its actually quite known and for that you would need Channel Mixer. You can do it differently but it would be the best to work with.

      So does 11 come with it?

      Thanks :)

      • Bruce

        December 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm

        I am not familiar with a channel mixer so I poked around the web using a search engine. There is no channel mixer in PSE11 per se. It looks like you can get some channel mixer functionality using the Convert to Black & White function of the Enhance menu. There is a preset in there for IR effects along with a half dozen other presets. There are sliders for R, G, B, and contrast intensity. You may benefit from downloading the PSE11 trial and check for yourself as only you can define your expectations. All I can say is there is something there you may find useful, but if it is what you are expecting, I don’t know. That’s what trial versions are for.

  23. Michaela

    December 30, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Hi Bruce
    Thank you so much for your reply and help on this, helps me a lot. CS Versions have it but that program is very expensive.
    Thanks again :)

  24. Janet

    February 9, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    I am slowly working my way around PSE 11 on my Mac. Question about installing brushes. I understand about the preset manager at least I loaded one set that way. Yet in PSE 10 I used to go into applications, open the PSE 10 file. go to preset and drop the brushes into the brushes preset folder. They would then be available. It did not work that way for 11. It was just so easy wonder if I did something wrong.

    Thank you.

    I read through the above comments but couldn’t find something to do with this.

    • Diana

      April 9, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      Hi Janet,

      Brushes are installed in PSE 11 the same as in previous versions, at least on my Windows 7 computer. Here’s a screenshot of the installation folder with a new brush at the top, along with the new brush showing in the brush picker in Elements. Hope you find a solution for installing on your Mac.

  25. Anthony

    May 28, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Can anyone tell me if Elements 11 allows you to update the photo’s actual metadata w/tags & geo data or does it store the information in a separate database? Also – will it let me batch tag/geotag and batch rename photo’s? Thank you!

    • Diana

      May 28, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      Hi Anthony,

      I can’t answer that question, but I wanted to let you know that a larger group of people would see your question, and may possibly be able to answer it, if you posted to the forum associated with this site:

      The participants are knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful.


    • Abegail

      May 28, 2013 at 6:04 pm

      Although Diane’s idea is a good one. Why not go straight to the horses mouth… At they have an I need help section that answers any and all questions relating to they’re products. As soon as you enter the website, click on the SUPPORT & LEARNING tab, once there you will find the following column relating to support…

      I need help
      Adobe Creative Cloud
      Adobe Marketing Cloud
      Forums [opens in a new window]

      In the same tab you will find the the next column as follows…
      I want to learn
      Training and tutorials
      Certification [opens in a new window]
      Adobe Developer Connection
      Adobe Design Center
      Adobe TV [opens in a new window]
      Adobe Marketing Center
      Adobe Labs [opens in a new window]

      I assure you that your questions will be best answered by the people who created the software in the first place. Just saying…
      Good luck on your quest… thought I’d add a little dramatism :) .

  26. Kathy

    June 12, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    I have ordered Photoshop Elements 11 and Premier. Is there anything in it that will try to force me to use the “Cloud”? I want nothing to do with this. If so, I want to return it if does before I open it. If I can?

    • Matt

      June 12, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      No, Photoshop Elements will not force you to use the cloud, you bought it so you own it. Now open it and enjoy your purchase :)

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