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FREELessons: 18Length: 2 hours

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2.5 Actions

Actions allow you to create your own automated processes in Photoshop. This is a powerful means of speeding up tedious or repetitive tasks in the program. In this lesson we learn how to record, test, and use our very own Photoshop Action.

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2.5 Actions

Hello everybody, welcome back to Advanced Photoshop Techniques. We are now on the final lesson of lesson 2, and this is lesson 2.5, on actions. If you've never used actions in Photoshop, essentially what they are, are a set of recorded steps, that are used to automate certain redundant, or sometimes long, processes within the program. Now the actions panel is activated by this little play button here. If you don't see this, you'll need to go to the Windows menu, and select Actions from that. That's Alt+F9. Photoshop does ship with a library of different actions already available. If you don't see very many here, just use the Flyout menu, to select some other ones from here. There's text effects, and textures, and video actions, and all these are preset features within the program, that can be used to create various effects. For instance, the vignette one here, if we were to create a selection within this image and play the vignette selection, it performs that vignette type of effect for us. And we don't have to go through the steps for creating that. But the real power behind the actions comes from you being able to define your own custom actions. And that's what I wanna show you in this lesson, and how that can be a benefit for you. Because if you find there's certain steps or features that you use routinely in this same way, you're losing time in your production by going through the same steps over and over again that you could essentially train Photoshop for you. It helps speed things up dramatically. As an example, I tend to often do the same type of thing when it comes to isolating elements from the background. I'll usually start with the background layer, and I'll create a selection around that element, which I will do very quickly now, with this quick selection tool. And then often, I will isolate this onto it's own layer using a layer mask, and I usually want to put a curves adjustment layer clipped to that. Now these are all steps that don't take long to do, but they can be even faster if I train an action in Photoshop to do this for me, but you have to be careful the different type of steps you take when creating this action. Let's open up the Actions panel. I will create first, a new action set. And this'll just be my own personal set, so we'll call them KirksActions. I'm going to create a new action within that. I'm just going to call this Isolate. Now, notice that button there said Record, and we get a little recording icon at the bottom here. That means Photoshop is currently keeping track of all the steps that I take within the program, so it can reproduce them later, which does mean you need to be intentional and fairly careful about exactly what steps you take. Because if it's an image or project specific type of step, you're not gonna want to use those on other images. So for right now, first thing I wanna do is duplicate that background layer. Now I'm gonna do that through Layer, Duplicate Layer. Just keeping it called background copy is fine. Notice that the actions panel is showing the different steps as I take them, then I want to hide the original background, I currently have a selection made. This is key, cuz you don't want to create the selections while recording the action, unless you want to use this exact same selection every time you use this action. In this case, that's not at all what I want. So with this selection made, I will add a layer mask. Then i'm going to add a curves adjustment layer. I am not going to make any settings here, because I want that to be blank. I want to clip the curves layer to the background, we talked about this before, with holding down the alt or the option key. And then, often I would like to put both of these within the same group. So I have a centralized layer group that can be used to move both these around. And a lot of times I'll add additional things in there. But, for the time being, we'll just hold down the shift key and make sure we select that next layer there. Go to Layer, Group Layers. And then we need to stop the action, which means we will hit this stop button here, and this will quit recording the action. So, now we've got this action that's available of my very own isolate steps. It's critical that whenever you create an action, you test it out on a different image if you plan to use it on various images. So, I've got this plane image open. And I'm just going to create a very rough, very quick selection around this plane, simply so that I can test my action. And with this just very quick, admittedly extremely rough selection made, I'll go back to my actions panel, select this isolate action, and hit play. And Photoshop very quickly goes through those steps and isolates this plane from the background and puts it in it's own group with a curves adjustment layer, already assigned to it. Now that in itself is already pretty helpful, but it can get even more helpful and faster and more productive if I assign a function key to this action. For example, if I say, I want to make this F10, with the shift key and save that, we can see in the little description here that this can be activated with Shift+F10. Now before we test this out, we need to make that selection again. I don't really need to spend time doing that again, because we've made it once before and that was the last thing we selected. If we go to the Select Menu, we can hit the Reselect button that reselects it. So with the selection made, let's try that. Shift+F10. Ta-da. Look at that. It isolated it out, exactly as we needed it to do. Now what you want to create for your own user defined actions is completely up to you. But there's several different ways to go about this. There's a couple other very small details I need to show to you. Or, at least explain to you. It's in the pull down button here. If you plan on putting any type of a brush or tool using a brush engine in there, you need to allow for tool recording. Otherwise, the brush strokes will not be recorded. There's also conditionals within this that you can make branching actions. So, for example, if a current document is landscape, or if it is portrait, then you would have different actions that's played for each of those. In this way, you can almost program out the way your actions work within Photoshop using the conditional statements. Also by inserting a stop, it allows user input to the action. For instance, if you needed to create a specific selection mid action, instead of creating two actions, one before and after, you would create one action, put a stop in the middle of it so that you could create that selection and then hit play again and it would finish off that action. In any case, I find that actions and be immensely helpful, especially if I've discovered a certain process that I like to do, but it took me a while to figure out how to get the settings and the layers and everything exactly how I wanted it for a particular effect. In that case, I like to make an action of those, so I don't have to try to remember how I did it next time, I have it already recorded within Photoshop, and it's really easy to get back. So that not only concludes lesson 2.5 on actions, it also finishes up the second chapter on the advanced tools and techniques overview. Next chapter is chapter 3, where we will begin roughing in in our scene, that starts with lesson 3.1 on project planning.

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