QUESTION: "I've used Aperture 3.x with managed libraries for some time.
As time went by, I became interested in layers and adopted Photoshop Elements 11 for that purpose. The Elements Organizer, however, allows you to be sloppy in your habits. My photo storage is a testament to that, and I now have lots of photos in Aperture libraries, and lots of newer photos all over my hard drive.
Is there a workflow that lets me store in Aperture and have fun with layers, blending modes, etc., in Elements, leaving Organizer out of the loop? " John
ANSWER: There definitely is a workflow that will allow you to maintain your image library in Aperture while being able to take your images out to PSE11 for editing. This capability is called round-tripping.
On the Export tab in Aperture Preferences, you can select an external photo editor. Once you've selected Photoshop Elements 11 as your external editor, a menu choice of Edit With Photoshop Elements 11 will appear when you right-click on an image during browsing or editing. This menu choice will also appear under the Photos menu.
When you select Edit With Photoshop Elements 11, Aperture creates a new version of the image and brings your image up in the external editor (Photoshop in this case). After you've made all your edits and have saved the file in the external editor (just use Save, not Save As), all your adjustments will show up in Aperture. If you want to retain layers, you'll want to select PSD as the External Editor File Format.
Since you're already using a managed library in Aperture, I suggest sticking with that approach rather than converting to a referenced library. You can use the Import Folders as Projects command in the File menu to consolidate all your images into your Aperture managed library. Depending on how many folders you have in different locations, this could be a bit of a project. But when you're done you'll have a nicely organized library all in one place that is managed by Aperture. Now when you back up your Aperture library you'll know that you're backing up all the images that are important to you.
Now a bit of advice: I recommend that you save round-tripping for images that truly need Photoshop tools. Why? Because the file that is handed off and returned on this journey is much larger than the master file you have stored in Aperture. (Check for yourself; you should have both versions side by side in your browser window.) The size of your overall library will grow much faster if round-tripping is used often.
For more background on round-tripping with Aperture and Aperture library strategies, you could check out Derrick's Aperture 3 Essential Training over at Lynda.com.