Posted by IG Designs On January - 7 - 2011 Comments Off on Actions in Photoshop

Some tasks we do in Photoshop take a load of time to get them done. Sometimes there is a need to perform same task many times for many images. And if you don’t have a whole day to waste on doing the same thing again and again that’s when Actions come out to play. Actions will save you a huge amount of time on routine operations in Photoshop by automating them. Unfortunately people underestimate Photoshop actions and use them very rarely. Usually that happens because of incomplete understanding them. In this article I’ll try to throw a bit of light on the subject.

What is an action in Photoshop? An action is a set of one or more commands pre-recorded by you. They can be played back to apply to a single file or a batch of files. Just that simple.

They also can be loaded from a preset file. That means you can use somebody’s actions shared with you. And that’s really handy – there is a massive amount of them shared by other people on the web.

So, shell we record one simple action for demo…

To do that we use the Actions panel:

Window – Actions

open actions panel

We use this panel to record, play, save and load actions. Say we want to record the steps for sharpening, desaturating and saving the image as an action.

1)    Open the file you want to work on

2)    Click the Create New Set button on Actions panel, name new set My Actions

create new set

my actions

3)    Click the New Action button, name it Sharpen and Desaturate, choose the set My Actions and click Record.

new action

record an action

Keep in mind that you’re not recording anything related to time. So, there is no rush. You can click Record, leave it and go for a lunch if you fancy. Steps are the only thing you’re recording. There is no timeline 🙂

4)    Filter – Sharpen – Smart sharpen. Adjust your settings (action will remember them), click Ok

5)    Image – Adjustments – Desaturate

6)    File – Save As – Save

7)    Close your file

8)    Click Stop Recording

stop recording

Now every time you’ll run this action it will sharpen, desaturate, save and close the image. To run the action you open the file you wish to work on and click Play on the Actions panel.

play an action

Easy isn’t it?

Say you wish to apply the same action to a number of files. For batch-playing an action you have to do the next:

1)    Open the files you wish to work on

2)    Go to File – Automate – Batch

3)    On the dialog box choose SourceOpened Files


4)    Click Ok

If you want to apply an action to the whole file folder, change the source in step 3

3)    SourceFolderChoose – browse to your folder


4)    Click Ok

When you’re doing a batch-processing some settings may vary and need some human input. In that case you can set your toggle dialogs to let the action know what to do. You’re doing it by simply clicking an empty check box next to the step and you’ll see the small icon appear in it.

toggle icon

Then every time Photoshop gets to that step it’ll bring you a pre-filled dialog box and you’ll be able to adjust any settings  it contains. Then you click OK and the action will play on further as normally would.

And even if there is a hundred photos, you can go for a coffee instead of spending couple of hours processing them manually. That’s the power of Photoshop Actions. No more boring routine. You don’t have to remember every single setting to duplicate an effect from one picture to another – Photoshop does. The only thing you’ll need to do is – give your actions descriptive names. Just don’t to get lost in them later on 🙂

Here are some ideas for using actions:




Cross Process

Lomo effect

Any artistic effects of your choice

And much, much more…

That’s what actions basically are. Hope this article will help you to save some time and will give you a bit of inspiration.

Have a nice day!

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