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Photoshop Actions

Updated on October 26, 2016
Photo of a classic car with the Night Fury Photoshop action applied.
Photo of a classic car with the Night Fury Photoshop action applied. | Source

Starting out with Photoshop Actions

Photoshop actions can be used for everything from underexposure correction to transforming your photo into an amazing graphic. Actions can save you time and money and have your clients coming back for more. You can find photoshop actions all over the web. We are constantly searching for new Actions, and you can find a variety of Photoshop Actions both paid and free on our Pinterest Page. In this hub we will discuss installing Photoshop Actions, using Photoshop actions, some of our favorite Photoshop Actions, and creating your own Photoshop Actions.


1. Downloading

Start out by searching Google/Pinterest/or you preferred part of the web for a Photoshop Action that fits your need. Once you have located the action, download it to your computer. Once the Action has been downloaded you must extract it to an easily accessible place on your computer if it is in a zip file. If the file is not in a zip file then make sure the file is saved somewhere easily accessible. I personally have created a folder on my desktop called Photoshop Actions that I have unzipped/save all my Photoshop Actions files in that folder.

2. Loading The Action into Photoshop

Once you have taken care of extracting and saving your files open the image you wish to edit in Photoshop. Once the image is opened you will need to click the play button in Iconic Panel as pictured in image 1-A, this will open the Actions Panel. Once Actions Panel is opened, click on the 4 vertical line icon which appears in the upper right hand corner of the Actions panel. This will bring up the Action Panel menu. In the menu select "Load Actions" as pictured in image 1-B. A popup will appear which will allow you to navigate through your computer to the folder where your actions are saved. Click on the action you wish to load from the folder and click the open button at the bottom of the popup. After you click open the popup will disappear and the action will be loaded into your Actions Panel available for use.

Please note some actions require you to load custom brushes/presets. If there is a read me file included with your Actions download it is best that you read it and follow any directions specified by the creator.

Image 1-A
Image 1-A
Image 1-B
Image 1-B

Using Photoshop Actions

Using each Photoshop Action will vary based on the action. Make sure to read the read me file included with the action if available. Some Actions require you to change the name of the background layer. Some Actions require you to create a blank layer and draw over the part of the image you wish the Action to focus on(example in image 2-1, usually these layers need to be renamed as well. check read me file for exact name layer is required to be). Remember if there are specific steps you need to take before playing the action you must complete them in order for the Action to work properly. To play a Photoshop Action open the Photoshop Action panel, highlight the action you wish to use and then click the play button at the bottom of the Actions panel as pictured in image 2-2. Now you should notice several different things occurring without any input from you. Wait until Photoshop is done playing the Action, this can sometimes take a while depending on the size of the Action and your computers processing power.

Note: If you encounter any errors the Action may not complete as desired. If errors occur, make sure you have loaded all the brushes/backgrounds/presets if required. If this is not causing the issue, ensure that each layer is named properly. If you are still experiencing issues you can try contacting the creator of the Action for additional advice.

Image 2-1
Image 2-1
Image 2-2
Image 2-2

Some of Our Favorite Actions

There are some great Actions you can get for free. If you are looking for Actions that will go above and beyond you will more than likely have to pay. Premium Photoshop Actions are typically pretty cheap. You can look for free and premium actions by searching on google or browsing Pinterest. Below we have some examples of our favorite Photoshop Actions.

Created with the Hero Effect Photoshop Action
Created with the Hero Effect Photoshop Action
Created with the Dark Magic action from the Ghost Stories Collection
Created with the Dark Magic action from the Ghost Stories Collection
Created with the Night Fury Action
Created with the Night Fury Action

Creating Your Own Action

Creating your own actions can be a great way to customize your photo with effects which you can reuse over an over again. In this section we will cover creating your own actions. An action is a recording of steps you take while customizing your image. An action can be as simple as just resizing an image to fit certian dimensions that you frequently use and as complex as completely manipulating the image and its background to create a whole new image. In this section we are just going to demonstrate the basics of creating an action.

1. Starting your action

The first thing you want to do when creating an action is picking an image that you believe will best suite the action. For this demonstration we are going to use the image in displayed in image 3-1. With this action we are going to create a warming and sharpening effect.

2. Start your action recording

Once you have opened your image you will need to open your actions panel as you did when you applied your first action. If the play button to access the actions panel is not visible in your extended tool bar click the Window tab at the top of your screen and then select Actions. Once the Actions Panel is open you will want to create a new folder to store your action. At the bottom of the Actions Panel there is a folder icon, click it to create the new folder and name it. In this case I will name it "simple warming action". Next you will want to create the actual Action file. To do this click the icon to the right of the folder which looks like a piece of paper with the bottom left edge folded up. A dialog screen will appear prompting you to name your Action. You can name it whatever you want, for this tutorial we are going to call it "Warming 1". Leave all the other default settings alone and click record. You are now recording your action, anything you do while actively recording will be played when you use the Action.

3. Creating the action

We are going to start the Action by creating a new layer. To do this go over to your layers panel and click the create a new layer button. Notice how in your actions panel it now says "Make Layer" underneath "Warming 1". The next step we are going to do is fill the new layer with a solid color. Go to the color picker tool, select the box in the background to change the background color. We are going to change the color to "aa5a1f". Click Ok and then hold down Ctrl Backspace on Windows or Command Delete on a Mac to fill the layer with your newly selected color. Next we are going to right click the layer on Windows or Control click the layer on a Mac and then select "Blending Options" in the pop up that appears. In the Blending Options Dialog box we are going to change the Blend Mode to Hard Mix, change the Fill Opacity to 30%, and then click ok. We can see that this step has been recorded in the Action as well.

Actions are very specific and if creator of the Action does not properly create the Action then the Action will not work properly. I want you to select the layer we originally started with. Depending on what the layer is called you will see something like Select layer "Background" appear in the actions panel. The issue with this is that the person using the action may have named that layer something other than Background. In my case the layer is called "Layer 0". If I were to run the action and the action was created and expecting that layer to be called "Background" the action would fail at that point. There are two ways you can avoid this. First you can include instructions with the action and tell your user exactly what that layer needs to be called. Second you can press Alt "[" on windows or Option "[" on a Mac. This will be recorded as "select backward layer" in your action and will move your layer selection down by one.

We are now going to erase the "select layer" step in the Action and use the "select backward layer" method instead. To do this you need to hit the "stop recording" square icon at the bottom of your Action Panel. Once you have stopped recording, you can click and drag the "select layer" step to the trash can at the bottom of the Actions Panel. Once you have deleted the step click the circle record button to start your recording again.

Now we want to sharpen the image. Select the Filter tab at the top of the screen, then select Sharpen -> Smart Sharpen. When the dialog box appears we are going to change the amount to 300, radius to 3, reduce noise option to 25, and then click Ok.

We have now created a basic action which when played will apply a warming and sharpening effect to your image. Click the stop recording square icon at the bottom of the Actions Panel to complete the action.

4. Exporting your action

Once you have a completed Action you can save it so you can share your Action with others. To do this select the main folder that holds your action, in this case it is called "Simple Warming Action". Next click the icon with the four horizontal lines on the upper right side of the Actions Panel. This will bring up a menu, in the menu select Save Actions. Next navigate to where you would like to save the action on your machine, name it and click save. Your action is now ready to be used on future images.

Image 3-1

Save this image to use when creating your Action.
Save this image to use when creating your Action.

In Conclusion

Actions can bring your images to life. They are easy to use and a great way to perfect your photo without spending lots of time doing so. Creating Actions can also be profitable. You can create your own Actions and sell them on online market places or your own blog. In the end mastering using and creating Actions in Photoshop is a smart idea if you plan on being a serious graphic designer.


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