Photoshop Elements is usually seen as the poor relation to Photoshop itself, but it offers many of the same high-end features if you know where to look! Photoshop has alpha channels, but Elements has ‘saved selections’…

You can get by perfectly well most of the time just working with one selection at a time, but there are situations where you need to combine them to create a particular effect. It’s also useful to know how selections and layer masks are related and how you can use them both together.

Elements saved selections

I’ve chosen this image to show a situation where this kind of know-how can be useful. I want to progressively darken the background for this statue from the base of the picture to the top, which suggests an adjustment layer with a gradient mask. But I don’t want to darken the statue itself, so I need quite a tight selection to separate it from the background.

So how do I combine this tight selection with the graduated effect in the background?

01 Select your object

Elements saved selections

I’ve started by selecting the statue, and you can use whatever tool suits your subject, but I’ve chosen the Quick Selection tool here because it is quick, but it also produces selections with nice, tidy edges.

02 Save your selection

Elements saved selections

Precise selections like this can take a little time, so wouldn’t it be great if you could save the selection as soon as you’ve finished it? Well you can! You just open the Select menu and choose the Save Selection option…

03 Choose a name

Elements saved selections

You’ll be prompted to choose a name for your new selection, and the key point here is that the selection is saved permanently within the file – you can save the file, open it some other time in the future, and the saved selection will still be there. The equivalent in Photoshop would be ‘alpha channels’.