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Photoshop Elements Tutorial: Text Tool

by Erin Peloquin on October 28, 2011 · 13 comments

Thinking back to when I first learned PSE, the text tool was one of the least intuitive things for me to master.  So here a beginner’s guide to using it, now that I have a clue about what I’m doing.

The text tool is the one with the big letter “T” in your Elements toolbox.  Easy enough so far, right?

It’s one of those tools that has tools hiding underneath it.  When you right click on it in Elements 10, this is what you see:

Elements 9 and prior look like this:

One of the big new features in Elements 10 is the additional text tools, if you didn’t notice.

So, what do each of the text tools do?

  • Horizontal Text makes a traditional left to right row of text
  • Vertical Texts makes your letters go up and down
  • The Horizontal Text Mask creates a selection in the shape of letters that you type horizontally.  In the graphic below, I pasted a photo of pumpkins into the text mask.
  • The Vertical Text Mask creates a selection in the shape of letters that you type vertically
  • Text on a Selection:  create a selection and put text around its edges.  See an example of that here.
  • Text on a Shape:  use the Shape Tool to create a shape and border it with text
  • Text on a Custom Path:  Draw something freehand and then add text to its edges.  You don’t want to see anything I draw freehand, I promise.

To add text using the regular or mask tools, select the appropriate tool and click and drag out your text box.  Choose the font type, size, color and other settings.  Click inside the box so that you can see the text insertion cursor.  And start typing.  If you want to make changes to the text settings after you’ve typed, select part or all of the text and then change the settings for the selected text.

Click the green check box to commit the changes.  You have probably noticed that Elements will beep rudely at you until you do this.

After clicking the green button to commit, you can move the text box by using the Move Tool.  If you want to go back in and edit the text, select the Text Tool, make sure the appropriate text layer is active for editing, and click inside your text box to activate it for editing.

Have you ever noticed that the regular text tools can be persnickety?  You can type away and not see a thing appear in your text box.  This is usually caused by either the size or the color of the text.  To fix it, select all the text by typing control or command A.  Then, use the Text Options to change the size to something much larger or much smaller.

The relative size of any font will change according to the resolution of your image.  So, a font size that works for one file might look much bigger or smaller on another.  Also, make sure the color is not the same color as the background of the file you are working on.

When using the Mask tools, add a new layer before you paste something into the mask.  Elements doesn’t do this for you.  Also, you can’t change the font size after the fact on this one.  You just need to start over.

Using the “Text On” tools is a two step process.  Select the one you want, make your selection, shape or drawing, then commit the changes using the green check mark.  Immediately put your cursor on the marching ants where you want your text to start, click, and start typing.  Your text will generally flow counterclockwise.

Your assignment for the week?  See what you can come up with using the Mask Tools or, for those of you with PSE 10, the Text On tools.  So many of you are way more creative than I am and I’d love to see other ideas for what you can do with these tools.  Would you please post them on Facebook and tag them with @Texas Chicks Blogs and Pics?  Thank you so much!


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackie S October 31, 2011 at 6:20 pm

I am so glad you are sharing this with us. You are so awesome. My niece and I are creating our own website and needed some training on using photoshop text tool.

It’s confusing each time because I have to make I am on the right layer each time. If the size of the font is too big, some of the words will not appear. Also, the different angle and resizing is tricky. Thanks again.


Lori November 15, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I just got PSE 10 (and I was using 6 before!). Are you able to make text fit inside of a shape? For example, can you make the text fit inside of a star/heart/circle shape and follow the lines?

Thanks! (btw, I LOVE your site. I would have never learned to install actions without your help :-).


John Kendall April 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm

I am having trouble finding the text option tool box, I am in edit mode


Erin April 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm
Leslie June 4, 2012 at 11:56 pm

I am so frustrated. I recently started bringing my images into my PC via Lightroom. I love this program. However, when I need to edit an image, I choose the dropdown ‘edit in photoshop’ and the PSE9 program opens up with the image ready and waiting. For some unknown reason, I cannot get the PSE9 text tool to give me a blinking curser so I can begin typing. Do you have any idea why?


Erin June 5, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Try resetting your tools in Elements.


Mary M Jones July 19, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Thank you so much. I’ve spent hours getting no where.


Tommy April 22, 2013 at 1:21 pm

I’m using Photoshop Elements 11, and I would like to know how to edit text once I saved my photos?


chuck bowers June 9, 2013 at 7:09 pm

I’m having difficulty controlling text boxes. Then, I ran into a suggestion of yours and got confused even further, ( “To fix it, select all the text by typing control or command A”, you said/) My question is where do i type? and what in the world is “command a”? . Sounds like a command prompt?


Erin Peloquin June 11, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Hi Chuck. You type control/cmd a while the text box is active. Command is a button on your keyboard, if you are a mac user. If you have a pc, you would use the control button instead.


Amy April 19, 2014 at 10:01 am

The text tool is definetily my biggest struggle! I have tried the ctrl a and resized, etc. Sometimes it seems that if I have put a lot of text boxes in, that’s when it gives me fits. If I flatten my layers and then add my text box it will appear, but that makes it hard to change previous layers that I’ve flattened!? Any ideas?!?!


Lindsay May 28, 2014 at 6:10 pm

I’d like to create an image using text as a shape.
I want the text to have an image inside it.
For example: I want the background to be pink and the word, “CUTE” typed out with one picture of my daughter in each letter (a different picture of her in each). Now, the font has to be big and bold for her to fit, but any suggestions on how I can convert text into a shape?
Thank you Erin! :)


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