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How to Use Photoshop Actions

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

With just one click, Photoshop actions bring you colorful and cool photo effects, no matter your experience level with the software. If you're unfamiliar with Photoshop actions, learning how to use them is fairly easy. So today, we'll learn how to install and use one of these incredible tools in this simple video tutorial.

Watch the steps unfold in this quick video lesson and get all the details you need in the written process below. Head on over to Envato Market for more amazing effects like Photoshop actions.

Follow along with this "how to use Photoshop actions" tutorial over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel.

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used in the production of this tutorial:

What Are Photoshop Actions?

Before we dive into our tutorial about how to apply actions in Photoshop, let's take a look at what they actually are.

Photoshop actions are ways to complete multiple tasks with a click of a button. They can do things like change file sizes, save files in a specific format, and add effects to images. For example, a Photoshop action can create a sketch effect from a photo.

TechnicalArt Photoshop Action

Check out this tutorial on how to create an action that can make a sketch effect to learn even more about Photoshop actions.

How to Use Photoshop Actions

Here's a quick rundown for learning how to use Photoshop actions.

  1. First, Download and Install the action (.ATN extension).
  2. Follow any specific guidelines attached to the help file for which photos to use.
  3. Select your photo and Open it in Adobe Photoshop.
  4. Then Load the action into the Actions panel.
  5. Follow the steps included in the help guide. When you're ready, select the background layer and press the Play button.
  6. Let the action play out, and modify the result if necessary.

Step 1

Follow along below for the full tutorial on how to apply actions in Photoshop.

For this tutorial, we'll be creating a moody, saturated photo using this pack of Berlin Photoshop Actions. We'll also be using this beautiful Model Stock from the stock photo library of Envato Elements.

Photoshop actions before and after

First, download the action and locate it in the right folder.

Right-click to Extract the contents from the Compressed ZIP file, and then locate the action inside—it'll be the one with the .ATN extension.

Photoshop actions how to use tutorial - Download and extract Photoshop action

Step 2

In many cases, a helpful documentation guide is also included.

Make sure you check out the help guide to understand which types of photos and formats you'll need. In this case, I'll need a high-resolution JPEG image in RGB Mode that is also completely flattened with no extra layers.

Photoshop actions how to use tutorial - Photoshop actions help guide

Step 3

Now install the action.

Go to Window > Actions, to bring up the Actions panel. Then choose Load Actions from the dropdown options. Locate your Photoshop action from the right folder, and hit Load.

Photoshop actions how to use tutorial - Load the Photoshop action

Step 4

Once your action loads, just select one of the options from the Actions panel and press Play to see the effect.

For this particular portrait, I've decided to go with Berlin 4 Lite since it'll bring out the best qualities of this image.

Here's my final result.

How to Use Photoshop actions in Adobe Photoshop Finished Product

Top Creative Photoshop Actions for Photo Editing

Now that you've learned about Photoshop actions, you know how to use premade options. There are many of them online, but the best premade Photoshop actions come from the premium library of Envato Market. 

Here are just ten of the thousands of options you can find on GraphicRiver, an Envato Market platform for single-purchase design elements.

1. Animated Real Paint FX - Photoshop Add-On (ATN, PAT, PNG, JSX)

Animated Real Paint FX - Photoshop Add-On

Turn any photo into a realistic painting with this stunning Photoshop action. Use it to create static images and beautiful animations. It also includes scenery mockups, letting you place your image on a gallery wall or an ornate picture frame.

2. Stamp Art Photoshop Action (ATN)

Stamp Art Photoshop Action

The professionally crafted Stamp Art Photoshop Action creates a stamp-like image with little effort. Stamp Art works well for sports photos, landscapes, portraits, and more. If you need help working with this Photoshop action, check out the included help file.

3. Sakura CS4+ Photoshop Action (ATN, ABR)

Sakura CS4 Photoshop Action

Sakura blends traditional Japanese art styles with modern touches for an easy-to-use Photoshop action. How easy? Just open your photo, brush over it, and run the action. In three simple steps, you can create a photo that looks like the one above.

4. VAN - Impressionist Painting Action (ATN, PAT)

VAN - Impressionist Painting Action

Turning photos into works of art is a popular use of Photoshop actions, and VAN is no different. It turns your photos into a convincing painting in the impressionist art style. This action comes with ten different actions that have three variations each, giving you plenty of options.

5. Realistic Embroidery - Photoshop Actions (ATN, ABR, PSD, ASL)

Realistic Embroidery - Photoshop Actions

Stitch up text, vector objects, and more with the Realistic Embroidery Photoshop action. This pack comes with four different actions, three material types, nine styles, and 15 brushes. You can apply the fill action multiple times, giving you increased control over the finished product.

6. Photocopy Glitch Poster Photoshop Action (ATN, PAT)

Photocopy Glitch Poster Photoshop Action

Glitch photo effects come in different styles. This unique glitch Photoshop action skips the traditional colorful look for a modern monochrome style. In three quick steps, you can create this fresh glitch aesthetic for your latest project. 

7. HDR Tones Photoshop Actions (ATN)

HDR Tones Photoshop Actions

High-dynamic-range imaging (HDR) is a feature many shutterbugs make great use of while shooting. But this effect can be achieved through this pack of Photoshop actions. It includes four different HDR effect actions. Try this with your outdoor photography.

8. Pop Art Photoshop Action (ATN, PAT)

Pop Art Photoshop Action

The pop-art style may have originated in the 50s, but it still looks as fresh as ever with this Photoshop action. The bright art style of this action can be made easily with a couple of clicks. There's also a useful video tutorial included, walking you through how to set up this action.  

9. Cartoon Painting Photoshop Action (ATN)

Cartoon Painting Photoshop Action

The Cartoon Painting Photoshop Action gives your photos a semi-realistic look with just a click of your mouse. It will give your photos not only a cartoonish feel, but also an oil paint effect.

10. Neon Photoshop Action (ATN, ABR, PSD)

Neon Photoshop Action

We round out this list with some bright lights. Neon Photoshop Action lets you save time by giving you a neon sign effect with little effort. It comes with eight different colors and three tube sizes. With a total of 24 actions, you'll have plenty of options to experiment with.

Learn More With Our Tutorials!

This is just one simple example of the amazing possibilities of Photoshop actions. I hope learning how to apply actions in Photoshop with this tutorial has inspired you to tackle your first Photoshop action with successful results!

What kind of action is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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