Photoshop Elements is definitely the way to go for the home user. I have taught Seniors (those over 50) how to use Photoshop Elements in a community college Emeritus Program. I had students all the way to 80+ years in age. That tells you that the learning curve is not prohibitive. Also Photoshop Elements can be purchased for less than $100 and sometimes less than $75 at your local Fry's Electronics, Sam's Warehouse, Costco, etc. And, yes, it does have brushes and you can download the free brushes and other goodies people post at the various Photoshop websites. Adobe has a good website devoted exclusively to Photoshop Elements and has LOTS of videos, tutorials, etc. They also publish a magazine called "Adobe Photoshop Elements Techniques" and comes out eight times a year. I don't remember the subscription cost but it is well worth it. I would strongly advise you to purchase a good book with tutorials (for example, "Teach Yourself Visually Adobe Photoshop Elements 7," by Mike and Linda Wooldridge).
I am so high on PSE because it can do so much more than the other graphics programs (except Photoshop CS) and gets better with each new release. Photoshop CS is really for the pros and has a steep learning curve. In addition the price is prohibitive and all the features you will ever want are in PSE. Go to Amazon.com and peruse the reader comments on PSE software--you will get a pretty good idea about the capabilities from the comments.
Approachable Art:but I'd also love to play with some of those "brushes" (isn't that what PhotoShop calls it's special effects?) to alter my photos and scans.
Judi, if you do a search for PSP +brushes you'll find brushes that work for either PSP or PhotoShop. It may depend on what version you are using, but I think you're pretty safe with version 7 or higher.
Denise in Mendota, IL
hI use Paint Shop Pro and love it. I took a week-long class on Photoshop and was able to use all that I learned on my Paint Shop without a problem. I also bought a "Dummies" book on Paint Shop Pro and that helps me out a lot.