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How to Create an Action in Photoshop

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This post is part of a series called Learn Photoshop Actions.
How to Turn a Photo Into Art by Creating a Painting Photoshop Action
How to Make a Soft Light Photoshop Action to Create a Backlight Effect
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

If you know how to make Photoshop actions, you have a powerful tool in your hands. Actions let you create magical Photoshop effects with a single click, saving you a lot of time and effort. In this tutorial, I will show you how to create an action in Photoshop so that you can design your own effects for pictures.

Follow along over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

1. How to Create an Action in Photoshop

Step 1

First, you need to have a sample image that will help you see the effects of the action. Open it in Photoshop.

open your fileopen your fileopen your file
I used this image.

Step 2

Open the Actions panel. You can find it under Window > Actions.

open actions panelopen actions panelopen actions panel

Step 3

To create a new action, click the white card icon on the bottom of the panel.

create new actioncreate new actioncreate new action

Step 4

Give the action a name. If you want to be able to play this action with a press of a button, you can assign a Function Key to it.

name your actionname your actionname your action

Step 5

The action is being recorded now. But don't worry, there's no hurry. Photoshop only records your actions, and it doesn't care how much time passes between them.

start recording an actionstart recording an actionstart recording an action

Let's show Photoshop which actions we want it to save for later. First, create a New Layer.

create new layercreate new layercreate new layer

You'll notice that your action has been automatically added to the list in the Actions panel.

new action addednew action addednew action added

Step 6

Let's fill this layer with some color. When creating an action, it's better to avoid tools that are based on clicking on the canvas, because if you play the action on an image with a different size, it may not work properly. Always try to use something as universal and fool-proof as possible—so instead of using the Paint Bucket Tool to fill the canvas, go to Edit > Fill.

fill canvasfill canvasfill canvas

Step 7

Let's do something fun with this layer. Right click it and select Blending Options. This panel is often used in actions, because it's full of switches and sliders that you can use to heavily modify the layer, without having to point at anything on the canvas.

First, drag Fill Opacity down to zero. This will make the fill color invisible.

open blending optionsopen blending optionsopen blending options

Step 8

Check Gradient Overlay and click it to see its settings.

check gradient overlaycheck gradient overlaycheck gradient overlay

Step 9

Change the gradient to a rainbow.

add rainbow gradientadd rainbow gradientadd rainbow gradient

Step 10

Change the Angle of the gradient to something more interesting.

rotate gradientrotate gradientrotate gradient

Step 11

Finally, change the Blend Mode to Color.

change blend mode of gradientchange blend mode of gradientchange blend mode of gradient

This method lets you apply the colors of the gradient to the image below without modifying it.

how to make rainbow photo in photoshophow to make rainbow photo in photoshophow to make rainbow photo in photoshop

Step 12

If you like the effect, press OK and stop recording by clicking the first button in the Actions panel.

stop recording an actionstop recording an actionstop recording an action

Step 13

And that's it, our action has been recorded and saved! If you want to use it, just click the play button.

play an actionplay an actionplay an action

You can test it on many different images. A properly created action will give you the same results regardless of the photo you use!

rainbow action examplesrainbow action examplesrainbow action examples

To give you a better idea of how Photoshop actions can be used, here are a few examples from Envato Elements.

Painting Photoshop Action

If you want to turn a photo into a painting, it can be done with a single click, too! This action uses custom brushes and patterns to create a convincing effect of an oil painting. It also organizes the layer neatly, so that you can customize the effect afterwards.

painting photoshop actionpainting photoshop actionpainting photoshop action
Painting Photoshop Action

Geometric Portrait Photoshop Action

This action is a good example of a selective photo effect. Before you play the action, you must show the program which area you want to be affected. This is especially useful for portraits, to create a different effect for the person and the background.

portrait photoshop actionportrait photoshop actionportrait photoshop action
Geometric Portrait Photoshop Action

Cartoon Photoshop Action

Photoshop actions can also be used to create a comic book effect. You don't have to be able to draw to create something that looks like a nicely stylized drawing! Just find a good photo, select the character, and click play!

cartoon photoshop actioncartoon photoshop actioncartoon photoshop action
Cartoon Photoshop Action

Vintage Photo Effect

If you want to give your photo a vintage feel, it can be easily done with many types of actions. This set has 20 of them, and each of these actions will give your photo a unique style that brings old cameras to mind.

vintage photo effectvintage photo effectvintage photo effect
Vintage Photo Effect Action

Retro Poster Photoshop Action

But photo effects don't need to be all about photos. You can create a real poster from start to finish with a carefully prepared action. This action turns a photo into a neat illustration that can be used as a retro style poster.

restro photoshop actionrestro photoshop actionrestro photoshop action
Retro Poster Photoshop Action

Good Job!

Now you know how to create a Photoshop action step by step. If you want to learn more about Photoshop actions and photo effects in general, you can try these tutorials as well:

how to create action in photosophow to create action in photosophow to create action in photosop

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