The Cookie Cutter tool in Photoshop Elements 4 is a cute name for a pretty powerful tool. You can think of it as a Custom Shape tool for images. But while the Custom Shape tool creates a mask and just hides everything outside the shape, the Cookie Cutter actually crops away everything outside the shape. The preset libraries offer you a large variety of interesting shapes, from talk bubbles to Swiss cheese (really!).

Here's the lowdown on using the Cookie Cutter:

1. Choose the Cookie Cutter tool from the Tools palette.

There's no missing it; it looks like a heart. You can also press the Q key.

2. Specify your options in the Options bar.

Choose from the following:

Shape: Choose your desired shape from the preset library. To load other libraries, click the palette pop-up menu and choose one from the submenu.

Shape Options: These options let you draw your shape with certain parameters, as follows. Unconstrained, the default, enables you to draw freely. Defined Proportions enables you to keep the height and width proportional. Defined Size crops the image to the original, fixed size of the shape you choose. You can't make it bigger or smaller. Fixed Size allows you to enter your desired width and height. From Center allows you to draw the shape from the center out.

Feather: This creates a soft-edged selection.

Crop: Click this option to crop the image into the shape.

3. Drag your mouse on the image to create your desired shape.

Size your shape by dragging one of the handles of the bounding box. Position your shape by placing your mouse cursor inside the box and dragging.

You can also perform other types of transformations, such as rotating and skewing.

4. Click the Commit button in the Options bar or press Enter to finish the cropping.

If you want to bail out of the bounding box and not crop, you can always press the Cancel button in the Options bar or press Esc.