Adobe Photoshop Elements 2020 is perfect if you're just starting out with photo editing and graphic design. It's a simplified version of Photoshop 2020 designed to introduce you to the basics of design and editing, before scaling up to become a more advanced tool as your skills progress. The problem with Elements, however, is that it's increasingly getting squeezed out of the market. Many rival editors offer similar (and in some cases better) toolsets for a cheaper upfront price, and the actual full-fat version of Photoshop is getting easier and easier to use. So, while Elements remains on our list of the best photo editing software, it's in danger of being squeezed out.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2020 review: Features
Photoshop Elements lets you select one of three workspaces to correspond with your skill level: Quick, Guided or Expert. The Quick view displays only the most common tools and elements, to help you quickly create a design or edit a photo. The Guided view shows you different design effects and teaches you how to apply them to your images. And the Expert workspace has all of the tools for you to use at your discretion.
This categorization makes this software especially appealing for beginners, because the Quick and Guided pages aren’t as overwhelming. When you’re comfortable with the Quick and Guided modes, you can move on to Expert mode. This prepares you to jump into Adobe Photoshop, the higher-level photo editing program.
Photoshop Elements includes several tools to help you create unique and intricate designs. With a wide selection of brushes and the option to create your own, the program allows you to adjust the thickness, stroke, color and tip of a brush. The software is also compatible with tablets, so you can adjust the pressure of a custom brush or use the tablet to draw.
While the software has several tools, it does not offer a pen tool or vector brushes. This isn’t surprising, considering Photoshop Elements is a simplified version of Photoshop. Adobe Illustrator deals with vectors and is the program that uses pen tools. Although Photoshop Elements’ lack of pen tools limits the type of designs you can create, there are shape tools that let you easily make stars, hearts and other pre-programmed shapes.
If you are looking for a program that offers vector and pen tools, consider Xara Photo & Graphic Designer. With grids, snap-to alignment and text wrap, you can place your objects and typography in the precise location you want and create accurate designs. Unfortunately, the software lacks custom guides that allow you to create your own grid to align your objects.
With Adobe Photoshop Elements, you can customize your typography by color, size and weight, or add effects. The software allows you to alter the fonts, shapes and images with gradients and opacity, giving you a wide range of typography effects.
With the Photoshop Elements' 130+ photo filters, you can add textures and adjust colors on each of your photos. The program even includes panorama merging and HDR imaging. In addition to the photo effects, Elements has tools that help improve the quality of photos, such as color correction, noise removal and automatic lens correction. These enhancement tools are AI-driven in Elements 2020 and these auto-correct options manage to get the balance right more often than not.
Elements also has content-aware scaling, which allows you to resize images without distorting them, as well as a history log that displays every edit you make and allows you to undo any unwanted changes. You can also use the mask tool to remove unwanted objects or subjects, but it isn't as sophisticated as the one in the full version of Photoshop.
To help you design projects, Photoshop Elements comes with over 100 pre-designed templates for photo books, Facebook headers and more. It also has a helpful feature that allows you to export your designs directly to social media sites, and there are new tools in 2020 that lean towards meme and collages.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2020 review: Compatibility and export options
Photoshop Elements works with most image file types, including PNG, GIF, TIF, JPEG, PSD, BMP and RAW. However, it cannot read AI, SVG, SWF, DOCX or TXT files. However, just about any raster-based file should work.
This software offers bleed setup and printer’s mark tools so you can make sure your designs print and cut exactly the way you want them to. If there is a potential problem with your print order, Elements will notify you before sending your print request to the printer.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2020 review: Price and support options
Although most of Adobe’s products have been converted to subscription-based services, Photoshop Elements remains a one-time-payment software. It sells for $99.99, which is actually quite expensive for a single-purchase photo editor, although you'll often find it on discount for far less. Before deciding on it, you can use the 30-day trial to see if it’s a good fit for your work style. We actually think Corel PaintShop Pro 2021 is better value, as it offers more features and better workspaces for around $20 less...
Adobe has several support options. You can access help within the application or use the support page on the company’s website. Adobe’s website has video tutorials, support forums and solutions to common problems. You can contact an Adobe customer service representative via live chat, phone and forums. In Elements itself you get 55 guided edits, which take you through the process of some of the software's most common uses. They're really handy for beginners.
Should you buy Photoshop Elements 2020?
While we can't recommend Photoshop Elements over programs like Lightroom and actual Photoshop 2020, it's a good program to buy if a) you're a beginner, and b) you'd rather pay for a one-time download for your photo editor, rather than sign up for a monthly subscription. Elements has almost all the tools you need to make images look stunning, clean, and unusual, and the three workspaces help you grow as a photographer/artist as your skills develop. Our main issue is that Elements doesn't do any one thing better than its competitors - it's just a solid all-rounder for beginners.