The best way to start with Menu design is to Open one of the existing PE Menu Sets in PSE and spend time looking carefully at the Layer structure of each, the Main Menu and the Scene Selection Menu in the Set. When you do any editing, before you go to Save, consider that you do not want to overwrite the existing Menu Templates. You will want to alter the name, but only a little bit, as PE needs many of the characters in the Menu file name to function. Also, remember that you will need to work with a Menu Set, so you will need to do a Save_As and apply your new naming convention to both the Main Menu and the Scene Selection Menu that you create. I do this in a new sub-folder within the Menu Template folder structure, and name it "Hunt_Menus" (in my case). This keeps the existing PE Menu Template Sets intact, and keeps my Menu Sets in a separate folder.
Notice also the naming conventions of both the Menu PSD's and especially the Layer Sets, plus their individual Layers in each set. These aspects are very, very important.
PE does most of its DVD authoring automatically, and relies on things being the same throughout all of the Menu Sets, that are included. If you alter the format of the Menus, or break up the Menu Set, PE will be lost and will not be able to work with what you create.
Little things to notice will the the Color Sets in the Button Layer structure. These are the "(+2)," and similar names for the Layers. These are important, as they tell PE what colors you are using, and also tells the DVD player what colors to display.
One important aspect to learn is that the Subpicture Highlights can only be 2-bit color w/ Transparency. Think of Transparency as the exact opposite of PSE's Opacity. These cannot have any Effects on them, and will, by design, appear above all other Layers in the Menu and the Button Layer Sets. They WILL be on top of anything else. No way around this, as it's part of the DVD-spec.
Once you have looked closely at the structure, it's probably time to go see a tutorial, or two. Muvipix has some great articles by Steve Grisetti (MOD here) on Menu design for PE. He covers some "must-do," and "must-not-do" aspects, as the designs relate to PE.
An entire book could be written on Menus, and especially what PE needs from the PSD files. Since PE does much of its authoring on semi-automatic mode, the requirements differ, from say Adobe Encore, where everything is done by hand.
For some great info on Menus for DVD (though not the unique requirements for PE), Jeff Bellune (MOD on the Encore and PrPro fora) has written a great book, Focal Easy Guide to Adobe EncoreDVD 2.0, published by Focal Press. Though the title belies that it was written for an earlier version of Encore, 99% of it covers work in even newer versions of the program. Also 100% of the discussion on Menus applies to all DVD Menus, leaving out only the special aspects that PE demands. Great book, even if one does not use Encore.
Thanks for the plug, Hunt!
Yes, I do have a how-to article on creating your own custom DVD menus on Muvipix.com. We've also got lots of free tips, tutorials, DVD menus, licensed music and motion backgrounds on the site. This article, however, is one of the items only available with a subscription membership. Which is still a great deal!
You can also find instructions for creating DVD menus in the Advanced Tricks chapter of my new book, The Muvipix.com Guide to Photoshop Elements & Premiere Elements 7, available on the products page of the Muvipix.com site and from Amazon.com.
If you do purchase either a Muvipix membership or the book and get stuck working through this how-to article, I'll gladly answer any specific questions or even help you troubleshoot your menu template.
This article, however, is one of the items only available with a subscription membership.
Thank you for that clarification. My memory of what is free, and what is fee, is often cloudy, especially before my second cup of coffee...
It's also nice to know that you do cover Menus in your book. I have not gotten that far into it yet. Been spending too much time in AfterEffects and the volumes that I have on it.