Photoshop Elements is marketed as the consumer photo editing software. It’s meant to be an easy way to improve photos and create graphics, cards, scrapbooks, etc.

But the first time you look at PSE after installing it, it can feel a bit overwhelming. Here are the first things I always do in a new Elements installation to make it more user friendly!  Watch the video or scroll down for the text version.

photoshop elements video

Photoshop Elements Workspace

First off, PSE has 3 separate workspace modules: Quick, Guided, & Expert. Quick is designed for those who are brand new to photo editing. Using the Quick Workspace, you’ll soon feel limited by the lack of control you have. The Guided Workspace eases you into to more sophisticated edits. But, if you want full control, skip over both Quick & Guided and click on Expert.

photoshop elements workspace

Once you select Expert, your workspace should open directly to it from now on (unless you decide to activate Quick or Guided in the meantime).

Photoshop Elements Panel Bin

Once you’re in the Expert Workspace, you’ll find that PSE has defaulted to a “simplified” panels presentation on the right. Panels are like the drawers in your craft room – they contain the devices that will help you create your final masterpiece. The default looks like this:

photoshop elements default panels


Right off the starting block, customize them to give yourself access to the panels that you will use most frequently. Click on the tiny arrow next to the “More” button in the lower right corner. Select Custom Workspace. Now, you can choose the panels you want to display and organize them the way that makes sense for your unique needs.

After selecting Custom Workspace, you can choose the panels to display by going to the Window menu and clicking on the panels you’ll use.

photoshop elements window menu

And then, click and drag the panels in the Panel Bin to organize as you’d like. My panels usually look something like this.

photoshop elements panel layout


Photoshop Elements History States

Notice how I have the History Panel displayed in my Panels Bin? I use it all the time. When you install PSE, you’ll be able to see no more than 20 history states. That means that you can only use this panel to undo the last 20 edits you’ve made. However, you can tell Elements to remember more than 20 states in the Preferences menu item.

If you use a PC, you’ll find Preferences under the Edit Menu. If you’re on a Mac, look under the Adobe Photoshop Elements Editor menu.

photoshop elements preferences

Select the Performance tab and then change the History States field to 50. I would’t recommend going any higher because Elements might slow down significantly. And, if you have a slow computer to begin with, you might not even want to go as high as 50.

photoshop elements history states

So, these are my top three Photoshop Elements tweaks that I make after I install it on a new computer or upgrade to the most recent version. If you are just getting started in Elements, I have lots more free tutorials to help you. Check them out here.