Adobe Photoshop Elements Tools and Shortcuts of the Quick Mode Variety


Photoshop Elements 12 Quick Panel Tutorial Tools and Shortcuts
Photoshop Elements 12 Quick Panel Tutorial Tools and Shortcuts

Adobe keeps the Photoshop Elements Quick panel pretty simple in every version. A couple of the main things you will want to know about are the tools on the left side bar, and the tool adjustment options found on the bottom left of the screen, which we’ll be covering in this tutorial.

To open a file in Photoshop Elements go to File in the top menu bar, and click open file
Opening a File in Photoshop Elements

To start, you’ll need to open the pictures to be edited. At the top of the screen click File> Open. If you want to open an image in RAW, choose “Open in Camera RAW”. Then navigate to the folder with your chosen pictures and highlight the ones you want to edit, and then click Open. Before I start getting crazy with my editing I make sure to create a special folder for my edited photos, and I only save the edited photo to that folder, just so that I’ll never do anything irreversible to the original. To do this, go to File>Save As… and then save the photo under whatever name or folder you have designated for this purpose.  The shortcut to do this is Ctrl+Shift+S.

You can see both the before and after photos simultaneously in the Quick Edits panel in Photoshop Elements
Before and After View

In the Quick and Guided panels you have the option to see the “before” and “after” images simultaneously as you edit . To change the view, just click on the drop down menu.

Magnifying glass on left panel in PSE Quick edits screen
Magnifying glass on left panel in PSE Quick edits screen

Going from top to bottom on the left tool panel, we start with the magnifying glass. Can you guess what that does? No, it doesn’t kill ants, but it does enlarge your picture, so you can work in greater detail.  Shortcuts to know:  Ctrl+(+)= zoom in, Ctrl+(-)= zoom out, and Ctrl + 0 = full photo view.

Hand Tool grabs your image and moves it
Hand Tool grabs your image and moves it

The next one shaped like a hand is called…the “Hand Tool”. Creative, I know. Essentially it grabs your picture so you can move it without having to scroll horizontally or vertically. Especially helpful when your picture is enlarged.

Hotkeys are keyboard shortcuts to select a tool
Hotkeys are keyboard shortcuts to select a tool

Also, do you notice the capital (H) next to the hand tool when the mouse hovers over the icon? This is the hotkey shortcut to select that tool, so that you don’t have to drag the mouse away from what you are doing, all the way over to the left side panel and back, just to change the tool. Instead you can just press “h”, and voila! You’ve got your grabber all set to go. This is true for all tools in all panels. I love me some hotkeys.

Tool Options Panel gives the ability to customize your tool to whatever job you're doing at the moment.
Tool Options Panel gives the ability to customize your tool

This would be a good time to note the Tool Options panel just below your photo. This space doubles as your Photo Bin (to see all the photos and projects you have opened at the moment) and your tool options. Just below the tool options/ photo bin you will see the buttons that control what it is showing at the moment.  That’s also where you will find the Undo button, when you do something you regret (Undo hotkey is Ctrl+Z. Just save yourself some trouble and memorize it now. Ctrl+Z. You’ll be needing it). Anyway, back to tool options, if you want to adjust your tool at all, the Tool Options is where you will manage that. Also, some tools have more than one form, the tool options is where you will be able to choose between them—or, by pressing the tool hotkey multiple times until it selects the one you want. For example:

Quickly select a portion of the Photo to work on
Quickly select a portion of the Photo to work on

The quick selection tool can also be used as a Selection Brush Tool in the quick panel. To select the alternate option, just click on the tool icon on the left panel, and then go to the Tool Options panel below to choose the form of the tool you would like to use. Or you could just press the hotkey (A) repeatedly to scroll through the alternate tools without moving your mouse. In this case, the difference between the two tools is that the Quick Selection tool will try to automatically outline the object for you as you drag the selection tool around. It does this by defining the shape by drastic color changes in the area you’re selecting. With the Selection Brush you’ll have to manually “color in” all of the parts you want selected. This tool is useful if you only want the adjustments or effects to affect a certain portion of the photo, just select the part you want to work on so that those adjustments won’t go any further than the borders of your selection. Got it? There are easier ways to do this when you work with layer masks in the Expert panel, but we aren’t there yet.

Subtraction will...subtract...from the selected area
Subtraction will…subtract…from the selected area

If you accidentally select some stuff you don’t want selected, never fear. You won’t have to start over. Just go to the second section of the Tool Options panel below and choose Subtraction, go back to the picture and select the parts you want to be excluded from your selection. To the right of that section you’ll find the opacity and brush size options.

Red Eye Removal tool Photoshop Elements 12
Red Eye Removal tool Photoshop Elements 12

The red eye removal tool is useful when exorcizing demons from photos. Please note in the Tool Options below there is an option for pet eyes as well.

Teetch Whitening made easy in PSE 12
Teeth Whitening made easy PSE 12

The little toothbrush simulates what your teeth would look like if you brushed and flossed twice a day. Joking. My gorgeous sister obviously has great dental hygiene, as is evidenced by her pearly “before” picture. But the Teeth Whitening tool does brighten even more without the need for a dentist or whitening strips. And it even prevents you from getting too heavy handed, which is great for a beginner. There’s a tendency to do some serious whitening, which results in a fake teeth look. Not flattering. And very obvious.

To add words on your pictures use the Text tool
To add words on your pictures use the Text tool

“T” is for Text, so that hotkey is easy to remember. If you want to add words on top of the pic, this is the tool you would use to do that. Tool options allow you to write the text as a selection outline, vertical, horizontal, and special shapes. And then there’s the font, font size, color, alignment, bold, etc. Hot tip: the best way I’ve found to size your font is to choose your font first, then write the diddy, press enter, and then click and drag the text box to desired size. It can be super tedious guessing what size text will best suit the photo, especially since the font will really mess with the over all size.

Use Spot Healing brush and Healing Brush to remove unwanted elements in the picture
Use Spot Healing brush and Healing Brush to remove unwanted elements in the picture

The Spot Healing Brush (J), and the Healing Brush are quick easy ways to get rid of unwanted objects in your pictures, including but not limited to: zits, boogers, bruises, garbage. But I wouldn’t use them for removing unwanted people from your precious photos. There’s a different tool for that; the Recomposition tool, which we’ll talk about when we move up to the Guided editing panel. Major differences between the two are that the Spot Healing brush just gathers nearby patterns and color composition and you paint it on top of whatever you want to cover. The Healing brush requires you to choose the sample area that you want PSE to use to paint over your trouble area (Alt+ click to choose your sample area).

Crop tool allows you to change the size or shape of your photo, or even give it a zoom effect.
Crop tool allows you to change the size or shape of your photo, or even give it a zoom effect.

You can cut your photo, or crop it, using the rule of thirds, which can be conveniently applied from the Tool Options panel below, you can also choose to keep the original photo aspect ratio, or customize it. Make sure you choose the right pixels per inch though. 72 is as low as I would go, and only for an internet photo. Although, with all the HD devices out there I wouldn’t do that anymore. 300 ppi is recommended for high quality pictures.

Use the Move tool to reposition your photo, or text, or project layers
Use the Move tool to reposition your photo, or text, or project layers

And the move tool (V), does just what its name suggests. It’s similar to the Hand tool, except this can be used on specific layers of your project, like text, or other layers that will show in your Expert Layer panel. However, in the Quick panel, you’ll probably only use it to move text or photos. Note that the easy alignment tools are there in the Tool options at the bottom. And that, my friends, should give you a general idea of the tools on the left hand side of your Quick Edits Panel, and some short cuts that will come in handy as you sharpen your skills and have a need for speed. The best way to get to know them is to play around and get comfortable with what each of them does so that when you want to accomplish a certain something, you’ll know exactly what tool does that and the quickest way to get her done. Happy Editing! Next time we’ll talk about the Quick adjustments and effects panel.

I’m a technological enthusiast with a completely unrelated degree in English Literature. I’ve also been known to dabble in photography and DIY furniture refinishing, with occasional stints of fitness sprinkled among all of the above.


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