Adobe Photoshop Elements 2018 is available as of this morning! I’ve had the chance to play with it over the past couple of weeks. I’ll share my initial reactions to the new version in this review.

You might notice right off the bat that the naming convention is different. Normally, we would have expected Elements 16 to be released this year. However, Adobe will begin referring to Elements versions by the year. Adobe Photoshop Elements 2018 is the first version of the software using this new name style.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 2018: New Organizer Features

For those of you who use the Elements Organizer, you’ll find useful and intriguing new features. First off, if you use Premiere Elements for your videos in addition to Photoshop Elements for your photos, you can incorporate your videos into the Organizer for a seamless view of your photos & videos together. That is good stuff!

The Organizer has improved with each new release over the past few years. Organize all of the photos on your computer automatically by date, by specific people, and by places. Elements even applies smart tags automatically to common subjects like sunsets, dogs, and cats. Adobe’s vision for the Organizer is to make it easy for you to find the photos you need easily.

A new Auto Curate feature is quite intriguing to me and is the next step in making your favorite photos easy to find. The Organizer will use a series of criteria, like exposure, focus, composition, and even emotional parameters, to choose your “best” photos. No need to spend time sorting through your photos to find the best.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 2018: New Editor Features

The Photoshop Elements Editor has several changes as well – you’ll find them both in the Expert Editing Mode and the Guided Edit. We’ll start with the Expert mode.

PSE 2018 Auto Select

The biggest difference in the Expert Mode is a new Auto Select tool. Use this tool to draw a rectangle or oval around the area you want to select and Elements will use its object detection algorithm to select for you.

Photoshop Elements 2018 auto select

As with all selection tools, Auto Select works better on some photos than others. You can see from the screenshot above that it did great with my daughter’s jacket, even against other denim, but it didn’t do as well with her hair and my older daughter’s red shirt.

Access Auto Select with the selection tools in the Expert Editor. You can also find it in the Swap Backgrounds tool in the Guided Edit, which we’ll talk about that tool shortly!

PSE 2018 Open Closed Eyes

Another feature new in the Expert Edit is the Open Closed Eyes tool from the Enhance menu. I wasn’t thrilled with it. I used this photo of me and my daughter to test. My eyes aren’t closed all the way, but they are close.

The interface for this tool looks like this:

You can use a photo from your computer or one that is already in your Organizer for the source of the opened eyes. I used another photo of me – you can see the thumbnail in the screenshot above. My results were:

Photoshop Elements 2018 open closed eyes

Yowser, right?! The eyes themselves look good, but the skin around them didn’t blend well. And unfortunately, Elements doesn’t give you an option to refine this edit. (There is a workaround for this. Check it out here.)

There is a selection of non-diverse faces listed in the “Try Sample Eyes” section:

Those faces are helpful to show you how the tool works, but they aren’t meant to be used in your editing. It’s important to use eyes from the person whose eyes are closed for the most natural look.

Photoshop Elements 2018 Guided Edit Additions

You’ll find several new additions to the Guided Edit. Swap Backgrounds is the first tool I played with. This tool walks you through selecting a subject and pasting a new background behind it. You can also remove the original background altogether.

The interface looks like this:


I cut my daughter out of one photo and placed her in front of one of Element’s presets.

You can see that the same spots that gave me trouble with the Auto Selection tool above gave me trouble when replacing the background. However, after you leave the Guided Edit, you can adjust the layers that Elements created.

Photoshop Elements 2018 background swap layers

I masked out the problem areas to create this version:

Photoshop Elements 2018 background swap


In addition to Swap Backgrounds, Double Exposure is worth a look.

I created this using Double Exposure:

Photoshop Elements 2018 double exposure edit

It’s a combination of these two photos:

Elements created the layers you see below. I added and edited the circled layer mask to touch up the selection boundaries.

Photoshop Elements 2018 double exposure


Keep in mind that The Guided Edit doesn’t do anything that can’t be done in the Expert Editor. The Guided Edit is designed for people who aren’t sure how to do everything they want on their own. The great thing about the Guided Edit tools is that you can learn from them AND refine their results in the Expert mode.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 2018 Upgrade Recommendation

I’m going on 10 years now of making an annual upgrade recommendation for Photoshop Elements. Just like in the prior years, I’ll give you my honest assessment of whether you should upgrade based on the version you currently use.

  • Upgrade from Elements 13, 14 or 15: It depends on how comfortable you are with Elements. If you don’t need the new Guided Edits because you already know how to do them yourself, an upgrade won’t be a huge deal. However, if you use the Elements Organizer rather than Lightroom, the added features of the Elements 2018 Organizer are a great reason to change.
  • Upgrade from Elements 12: Probably. The past four years have brought so many beneficial new features that it’s worth the upgrade.
  • Upgrade from Elements 11 (or prior) – YES! Elements is much faster and more fluid than it used to be. In addition to new tools, the user experience is better. You should definitely upgrade.

If you take a lot of videos, whether on your phone or your camera, you should upgrade to the Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements 2018 combination. Even if you don’t do anything with those videos (yet), the Organizer will make it easy to incorporate them into your digital sharing and memory keeping.

If you purchase at Adobe and have any version of Elements starting with PSE 1 (!), you are eligible for upgrade pricing of $79.99. Purchase of a new license is $99.99.