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How to Make a Photoshop Action to Create a Portrait Photo Effect

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Read Time: 5 min
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

Photoshop actions allow you to add special photo effects to your pictures with a single click. You can create unique portraits by applying Photoshop filters and effects. 

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create such a photo effect for a portrait in the form of a Photoshop action. We're going to turn a photo into a ballpoint pen drawing! And because it's an action, you'll be able to use the same effect for other photos later.

Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube Channel:

Looking for a different kind of Photoshop portrait action? There's a huge range out there, so check out the selection in this post for more ideas:

How to Make a Photo Effect Photoshop Action for Portraits

Step 1

Open your photo. It should be about 2500 px wide. Create a New Layer and name it Mask.

create mask layercreate mask layercreate mask layer

Step 2

Use a soft brush to paint the area that you want to be modified by the action. In portrait actions like this, we usually want to select the person to cut the image out from the background.

paint the maskpaint the maskpaint the mask

Step 3

Make sure that the first layer is called Background. If not, go to Layer > New > Background from Layer.

change layer to backgroundchange layer to backgroundchange layer to background

Step 4

Open the Actions panel and click the white card icon to Create a New Action. Give it a name and click Record.

create new actioncreate new actioncreate new action

Step 5

The action is being recorded now, but there's no hurry. Only your actions are being recorded, not the time between them. Hold Control and click the thumbnail of the Mask layer to set the selection. Then go to the Background layer and press Control-J to copy the selected part.

copy the selectioncopy the selectioncopy the selection

Step 6

Go back to the Background layer and Create a New Layer. Go to Edit > Fill and fill it with white. Hide the Mask layer.

add white backgroundadd white backgroundadd white background

Step 7

Go to Layer 1 and duplicate it by pressing Control-J. Add a Black&White Adjustment Layer to remove the colors.

add black and white adjustmentadd black and white adjustmentadd black and white adjustment

Step 8

Add an Exposure Adjustment Layer. Change the Exposure and Offset to make the photo brighter and less contrasting. This will fit the style of a drawing better.

add exposure adjustmentadd exposure adjustmentadd exposure adjustment
change exposure and offsetchange exposure and offsetchange exposure and offset

Step 9

Select the layer with its adjustments, and then Right-click and select Merge Layers. Duplicate the copied layer and hide the new copy.

merge layers and duplicatemerge layers and duplicatemerge layers and duplicate

Step 10

Select layer Exposure 1 and go to Filter > Filter Gallery. Go to the Sketch tab and select Graphic Pen. Drag the sliders to the maximum and select Right Diagonal for the Stroke Direction. Click OK.

add graphic pen filteradd graphic pen filteradd graphic pen filter

Step 11

Show the copy, select it, and go to Filter Gallery again. Use the same settings, except this time use Horizontal for the Direction.

add new graphic penadd new graphic penadd new graphic pen

Step 12

Add a new Layer Mask to the layer.

add layer maskadd layer maskadd layer mask

Step 13

With the mask selected, go to Filter > Render > Clouds. This mask will add the strokes of a different direction in random areas, making the effect more natural.

add render clouds maskadd render clouds maskadd render clouds mask

Step 14

Show Layer 1 again and move it to the top. Go to Filter > Blur > Smart Blur. Change the Mode to Edge Only, Quality to High, and adjust the settings to create some sharp outlines without too many details.

find outlines in photofind outlines in photofind outlines in photo

Step 15

Go to Image > Adjustments > Invert.

invert the colorsinvert the colorsinvert the colors

Step 16

Change the Blend Mode to Multiply.

change blend mode to multiplychange blend mode to multiplychange blend mode to multiply

Step 17

Add a Hue/Saturation layer. Check Colorize and change the color to something resembling a blue pen.

chamge colors of the layerchamge colors of the layerchamge colors of the layer

Step 18

Create a New Layer and fill it with any color. Double-click it and fill it with a pattern that looks like a sheet of a notebook. Adjust the scale.

add a notebook sheet patternadd a notebook sheet patternadd a notebook sheet pattern

Step 19

Right-click the layer and select Rasterize Layer Style. Then change the Blend Mode to Multiply.

rasterize layer stylerasterize layer stylerasterize layer style

Step 20

Add a Hue/Saturation layer. Clip it to the layer below, and then change the color of the grid to something more subtle.

change colors of the gridchange colors of the gridchange colors of the grid

Step 21

Finally, click Stop Recording to save the action.

stop recording the actionstop recording the actionstop recording the action

The action is now ready to be used for any other photo with a single click! Just remember to use a similar size to keep the effect as you planned it.

fun photo filterfun photo filterfun photo filter
cool photo filtercool photo filtercool photo filter
photoshop portrait actionphotoshop portrait actionphotoshop portrait action

Photoshop Portrait Effects

Magical Photo Effect

But this was a very simple photo effect. Photoshop offers much more! If you want to save time, you can use actions created by other people on Envato Elements. For example, this action creates a nice soft focus and studio lights. The effect is eye-catching, magical, and gives unique results in every photo.

magical photo effectmagical photo effectmagical photo effect
Magical photo effect

Snow Photo Effect

This action adds a snow effect to your photo. It's subtle, very realistic, and it can be used for a variety of photos, not only for portraits. It doesn't only add snow, but also creates special color effects for pictures.

snow photo effectsnow photo effectsnow photo effect
Snow photo effect

Retro Black and White Photo Effect

This is a whole set of actions, each creating a unique retro effect. Your photo is converted to black and white, and a special texture is added to give an impression of an old photo. Each action works like an advanced Photoshop filter!

retro photo effectretro photo effectretro photo effect
Retro black&white photo effect

Duotone Photo Effect

Duotones are very trendy, and this set contains 66 actions that will help you achieve such an effect in any colors you wish. After the action is applied, you can still customize it, or combine it with other photo effects.

duotone photo effectduotone photo effectduotone photo effect
Duotone photo effect

Good Job!

Now you know how to create a Photoshop action with photo effects, and how to use actions to create eye-catching portraits. If you're interested in portrait photo effects, you may also enjoy these tutorials:

how to create ballpoint pen drawing photo effecthow to create ballpoint pen drawing photo effecthow to create ballpoint pen drawing photo effect

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