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Adobe Photoshop CS3: An Overview

This is a review that I wrote for Craft Critique.  It appeared on that blog last month.

I first stuck my toe in the digital waters about two years ago. I was largely resistant to digital scrapbooking at that time, because I love the touch and feel of paper pages way too much to ever give them up! But, Photoshop Elements had been touted to me as the greatest tool a digital photographer can have. I had become frustrated with iphoto’s range of choices and was looking for a more advanced way to edit my photos.

So, I started fooling around with a free 30-day trial of Photoshop Elements (PSE). (You can download a full, working version of any of Adobe’s products for a free 30-day trial.) Despite the fact that PSE is not exactly intuitive (there is definitely a steep learning curve), I mucked around and managed to figure some stuff out. So, I bought the full version ($89.99) and happily edited my photos for about a year.

But once I became comfortable, I wanted more.

So, I started trying to do some digital pages. Just for fun, you understand. Just to see if I could figure it out.

While I managed to accidentally stumble into some good ideas, I knew I needed a book to really harness the power of this program. So, I bought Better Homes and Gardens’ The Ultimate Guide to Digital Scrapbooking because of a recommendation. I wrote a somewhat angry review of that book here. That book frustrated me to no end because many of the really “cool” digital tricks were things that could only be done in the full version of Photoshop ($649). (I have since learned that you can use PSE for most things, you just have to be a bit clever about it.)

So, I waited and waited and then a major coupon came my way! I jumped on the opportunity to buy Photoshop CS3 (PS CS3) at a deeply discounted price. And I have been happy as a clam ever since.

I wanted to share my journey with the program, so that you would know where I'm coming from. I'm not going to do a "review" of PS CS3, so much as provide you with an overview of what the program can do for us crafters. Here are just a few of the ways you can use Photoshop CS3 (and Photoshop Elements)…


This is something that you can do in both PSE and PS CS3, but it’s not something that most people realize. If you’re planning on doing a lot of animation, you should buy a program like Flash. But for the occasional fun item, like the blinkie below, Photoshop does a great job!



Again, you can edit your photos in many, many programs. And both PSE and PS CS3 can do amazing things to photos. I edit all my photos in Photoshop before printing them. Check out this amazing before and after…

I actually did that in PSE before I bought Photoshop CS3, but it's a dramatic change, so I wanted to share it!


Photoshop makes it quick and easy to create beautiful digital scrapbook pages. Here’s a recent page of mine:


And if you’re not sure you want to go all digi, you can always use Photoshop to help you with your hybrid (mixture of paper and digi) scrapbook pages. Check out my layout below:

I altered the photos and printed them onto transparencies.


I have just recently started creating my own digital kits. Check out the kit preview below. I created the papers, embellishments, and even the preview itself in Photoshop CS3!

Everything that I've shown you so far can be accomplished in both PSE and PS CS3. So, here are two of the features that I love about PS CS3:


The ability to create paths is one of the major reasons I decided to upgrade. (You cannot create paths in PSE.) Without getting too technical on you, a path is a vector line. And for crafters, one of the things we love about vector lines is that text will follow the line. In the example below, you can see that I’ve drawn a swirl shape, created a path, and now the text automatically follows that line!

Paths can also create a closed space which text will automatically fill. You can see in the example below that I drew a wonky tree shape and then typed my text. I didn’t hit “return” a single time. The path forces the text into the correct shape!

Here’s a digital layout where you can see that I used a path to get my journaling to fit on my page exactly. I traced the edge of the flowers and the edges of the page, created a path, and then just typed in my journaling! So easy!


Actions are one of the coolest things around. Actions allow you to press a single button to complete a very complex task – anything from resizing a photo to inking the edge of an element. There are many sites out there that sell actions (many of which work in PSE, not just PS CS3). But, the only way to create your own actions is through PS CS3. For example, I love to take photos with my iphone, but I often find that the photos are somewhat dark and lifeless. So, I created an “iphone action” which makes several adjustments to the photo and all I do is touch a button.

This feature saves me lots and lots of time!

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Photoshop CS3 is a professional level program. In all honesty, I probably use a tenth of its power. If you’ve never used Photoshop before, I highly suggesting downloading the free 30 day trial of Photoshop Elements. You should also buy a book or take a class because the learning curve can be very steep. If you find yourself using it a lot, then I highly recommend Photoshop CS3. I rarely digi scrap without using both paths and actions, two things found only in the professional level program.

A note about Mac vs. PC. Adobe develops for PC first, so the Mac version (particularly of Photoshop Elements) is a bit behind the PC version. Also, for some reason Adobe has created different interfaces for Mac and PC, so the screenshots and commands don’t always look the same. Even more frustrating, some of the Mac versions of PSE are missing things that are in the PC version. So when you buy a book or take a class, be sure that the author or instructor acknowledges these differences.