Tuesday 3 April 2012

Photoshop Elements and Photoshop CS5 Comparison

If you’re a hobbyist or a home user of photo editing software, go with Elements and if you’re a “professional” buy Photoshop CS5.  That just seems too general a statement to me. It’s not about who you are, it’s about what you want to accomplish. There are many professionals who could probably save $500 because everything they need to do is now in Photoshop Elements. Conversely, there may be a hobbyist or home user that needs Photoshop CS5 for one specific function. So, I’ll try to explain the main differences and let you decide which one is best for you.

Let me first dispel a myth. Photoshop Elements is NOT just a scaled-down version of Photoshop CS5. It’s an entirely different product, and while many of the features and processes may be the same, everything else about it appears to be different. They were both made with specific audiences in mind tailored accordingly. As a general rule, Photoshop Elements focuses on enhancing, sharing and organizing digital photography with some basic filter and text capabilities. Photoshop CS5 can essentially do everything that Elements can do (although not as easily), and you have more control over each feature. Photoshop CS5 has many advanced capabilities for professional photographers, graphic designers and even video compositors.

Why you would want Photoshop CS5?

Here is a breakdown of the major reasons you would want Photoshop CS5.

Advanced Website Development:
The only “must-have” tool in working with web page graphics is the Save-for-Web tool which both Photoshop Elements and Photoshop CS5 has. This allows you to control the compression settings of graphics for the web or Internet applications.

However, Photoshop CS5 has built-in tools that make creating websites a little bit easier and faster. For instance, if you have a web page design and you know something about html coding, you can use the Slice tool to “cut up” your page into the major sections that it will need to be in for your web page. With the slice tool, you draw lines around the major sections you want as graphics and you can name each section and apply alt tags all within Photoshop CS5. Then you can export the file and it will set up your slices with the right names, file structures and alt tags that you can then use with an html editor. For basic websites, you can even export the Photoshop CS5 web page design and convert it to an html file.

Another reason you would want to consider Photoshop CS5 is for creating animated gifs. Unfortunately, ImageReady is no longer included with Photoshop CS5, but they’ve incorporated the same basic controls for creating animated graphics for banner ads, etc. In the new version of Photoshop CS5 there is a palette window called Animation where you can show or hide layers for individual frames in an animation. You can also control the frame rate and compression settings for your animated gif.

If you like having control over every aspect of your image adjustments, you won’t find that in Elements. You’ll have to go to Photoshop CS5. Elements has good automatic tools for selection, touching up, filters and image adjustments, but Photoshop CS5 usually goes about five steps deeper in options for specific controls. If you’re a serious photographer doing large size prints I doubt you’d be happy with the automated results from Elements. Adobe has even made many of these editing tools better with Photoshop CS5: the lighting controls, healing brush tools and cloning tools are vastly improved.

Advanced Text Formatting:
Photoshop Elements has basic text options but not enough to satisfy the serious typographer. Tracking (space between letters), typing along a path, full justification and other advanced formatting is not possible in Elements. However, there are some simple text effects like warping text in Elements that make it fun for the hobbyist.

Offset Printing with CMYK:
If you don’t know what CMYK is, chances are you won’t need it. CMYK or process color is basically a different color format for offset printing. Graphic designers need this when using images in page layout programs like InDesign or Quark Xpress. Today most printers can print digitally, so CMYK is not as important if you’re designing full color brochures or flyers as opposed to catalogs.

Layer Masks
If you’re creating web designs and graphics where you’re doing a lot of experimenting and cutouts, you’ll really appreciate layer masks. Elements has basic blending tools from one layer to another where you can blend two photos together, but nothing like Photoshop CS5’s masking power. In Elements, if you want to cut out a person from the background for instance, you can erase the photos you don’t want, but if you make a mistake or change your mind, there’s no going back. In Photoshop CS5 if you apply a layer mask first and then just paint in the mask, you can erase or show whatever you want at any time.  The way masks work is anything that is black is hidden and anything that is white is shown. You can even paint with different shades of black and it will affect the opacity of the layers. This gives you limitless possibilities.

One really cool feature of Photoshop CS5 is its compositing capabilities. If you have multiple photos that are roughly the same, like a series of family shots that were taken at the same time, you can have Photoshop CS5 automatically align the two pictures and then you can just delete the parts of one photo you don’t like. Facial expressions, vehicles, birds that fly through and ruin your scene, etc., are all removable.

Custom Automation (Batches)
Photoshop Elements has some great basic tools for processing multiple files at once. With Elements you can rename files, resize images, convert files, apply “Quick Fixes” and add watermarking or captions to multiple images at once. This covers about 90% of the batching tasks people use. However, you are limited with just these options. With Photoshop CS5, you can create your own automated “actions” to apply to anything you want. You simply start “recording” a series of actions you make to one file and then stop recording when you’re finished. Then you can apply those same steps to thousands of other images with the click of one button. Photoshop CS5 does the work for you. You could literally walk away, come back hours later and it would be done.

Some of the features in Photoshop CS5 that are not included in Photoshop Elements  are:
  • CMYK and LAB color modes
  • More tools and features that work with high-bit (16-bit and 32-bit) images
  • Channels Palette
  • Recording custom Actions (for batch processing)
  • Adjustments: Color Balance, Match Color
  • Layer Comps, and Quick Mask mode
  • Smart Objects, Smart Guides
  • Lens Blur Filter
  • Vanishing Point Tool
  • Puppet Warp
  • Pen tool and paths palette
  • Mixer brush and bristle tips painting tools
  • Some adjustment layers (curves, color balance, selective color, channel mixer, vibrance)
  • Editing History Log
  • Text on a path, advanced text formatting
  • Advanced Layer Style manipulation
  • Advanced Color Management
  • Advanced Web features (rollovers, slicing)
  • Customizable tool presets, keyboard shortcuts, and menus
  • In the features and tools that are shared, the Photoshop version usually offers more advanced options for fine tuning and control.
Although these features are not natively supported in Photoshop Elements, some of them can be simulated through other tools in Elements, and some are actually there, but hidden and only accessible through actions created in the full version of Photoshop. Some generous folks who have access to both Photoshop and Elements have created add-ons and tools that will allow Elements to use some of these features.
Photoshop Elements also offers some features that are not available in Photoshop such as:
  • Cookie cutter tool
  • Smart brush tool
  • Drop-in frames, backgrounds, and artwork
  • Additional Photomerge modes, like Group Shot, Scene Cleaner, Faces, and Style Match
  • Guided Edits and Quick Fix mode
  • Multi-file processing without the need to record an action
  • Automatically divide scanned photos
  • Multi-page documents
  • Photo creation templates for photo books, greeting cards, calendars, and more.
  • Easy online sharing options for Facebook, Flickr, etc.
  • A powerful Photo Organizer
The Photo Organizer (Windows-only in Photoshop Elements 8 and under) lets you organize your photos with keyword tags, then search and share them. The Organizer also offers several types of creations for sharing your photos in slide shows, video CDs, cards, email, calendars, Web galleries, and photo books.
If you are still undecided about which version to purchase, you can download time-limited but fully functional trial versions of both programs from the Adobe Web site.

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