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Photoshop Elements 11: The Missing Manual by Barbara Brundage

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Chapter 19. Beyond the Basics

So far, everything in this book has been about what you can do with Elements right out of the box. But as with many things digital, there’s a thriving cottage industry devoted to souping up Elements. You can add new brushes, shapes, layer styles, actions, and fancy filters. Best of all, a lot of what’s out there is free. And many of the tools are designed to make Elements behave more like Photoshop.

This chapter looks at some of these extras, how to manage the stuff you collect, and how to know when you really need the full version of Photoshop instead. You’ll also learn about the many resources available for expanding your knowledge of Elements beyond this book.

Graphics Tablets

Probably the most popular Elements accessory is a graphics tablet, which lets you draw and paint with a pen-like stylus instead of a mouse. A tablet is like a souped-up substitute for a mouse: You control the onscreen cursor by drawing directly on the tablet’s surface—an action that many artists find offers them greater control. If trying to use the Lasso tool with a mouse makes you feel like you’re trying to write on a mirror with a bar of soap, then a graphics tablet is for you.

Most tablets work like the one shown in Figure 19-1, where you use the stylus on the tablet just as you would a mouse on a mousepad. Any changes you make appear right on your monitor.

A Wacom Bamboo tablet in action. The working area is inside the rectangle on the tablet’s surface. The buttons and ring at the top of the tablet let you do things like zoom and scroll. For basic photo retouching, a small tablet is usually fine. If you want to do more drawing and like using sweeping strokes to draw, then you may want a larger model. You can also buy tablets that let you use your fingers for input, like a laptop trackpad. But for photo editing, you’ll be happier with one that comes with a pen-like stylus, since the stylus lets you be more precise when doing things like making selections.

Figure 19-1. A Wacom ...

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