Jul 6, 2009

Converting Photoshop Elements to full Photoshop (almost)

Adobe Photoshop is a de facto standard for graphical processing. If you work with web site or any other graphical design. Photoshop is usually a must.
However not everyone can afford it. Adobe charges a lot for its products. Fortunately with Photoshop there is a much cheaper replacement: Adobe Photoshop Elements. It costs nearly $70 instead of $645 for the full Photoshop. Photoshop Elements is intended mainly for Photographers and amateur designers. It lacks many advanced powerful features of its full brother, such as layer sets, curves, etc.
Recently I got a PSD file. It had layer sets. Photoshop Elements cannot open layer sets. It shows them as a single non–editable group (note non–editable pencils on the right):

I searched the web for the way to open the group in the Photoshop Elements or to split the layer set into separate layers. I could find the way to do it but I found a better solution.

I found a plugin for the Photoshop Elements that enables many of the missing features. Since Photoshop and Photoshop Elements share the same code base, functions are there, they simply have no UI. The plugin adds the UI for these features (over 150 total). It costs $12. So for $70+$12 I was able to get more of the functionality of the full Photoshop that costs $645. Some features are available in full, others (like layer set ungrouping) are workarounds. In my case I was able to ungroup grouped layers:

I highly recommend this solution to anyone who cannot afford full Photoshop but have to edit PSD files created by Adobe's editor.


  1. Cool .-)

    thx for the solution

  2. thx ... great !

  3. Very handy tip, thanks. Did you mean "Adobe Photoshop" in the first sentence?


  4. I assume he ment ;-)

  5. Simon, yes, thanks! Fixed!

  6. I don't know what's the current status, but before the Release of the CS4-Suite Adobe had a Students-Offer for the CS4 Design premium suite for about 250$, without any restrictions to commercial work.

    But that may have changed since the release.. don't know, just wanted to tell.. ;-)

  7. Bastian WaidelichJuly 14, 2009 at 12:28 PM

    Hi Dmitry,

    great tip, thanks for this!

    btw: your external links are broken.

  8. I use Photoshop in my work but have been asked to teach a small group of admins in my business unit how to use Photoshop Elements. I've installed Elements and have discovered that a small number of my psd files will now only open in Elements. Photoshop proper reads them as an invalid file. Can anyone tell me what has happened and how to correct the problem?


  9. Thank you, you're a lifesaver!!

  10. Would this be breaking the license?

  11. No. It is an add-on to Photoshop. It does not "unlock" anything hidden or replace files.

  12. Okay, if you come up with a version that works with Elements 10.0 email me at lighthousepublishingcarolinas@gmail.com. It would be great to find a work around for Grouped layers in Elements.

    1. You can get full Photoshop CC with Lightroom now for $9.95/month from Adobe :)

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