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Tools & Tips: Photoshop Actions

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Ready, Set, Action! Actions are a great productivity tool and timesaver. They are a series of recorded steps that you can play back. Virtually any operation, filter, command, or step you take in Photoshop can be recorded as an action, stored, and then played back. Actions are very powerful, save you lots of time, and are simple to make.

How Actions Work

Actions are recorded through the Actions Palette. Once recorded, you can apply them to single or batch files. You can also create droplets, which can be used to drag and drop document onto for quick activation.

Get familiar with the Actions Panel. Photoshop's help covers this topic very well. There are also some tutorials on the subject across the Web. They will help get you up-to-speed quickly with how Photoshop actions work:

  • Simple Photoshop Actions Tutorial

    Adactio put together an introductory tutorial on using Actions. It keeps the steps simple and is a good place to start learning about them.

    Visit Tutorial

  • Photoshop Actions Total Training Video

    This a professional training video that shows you step-by-step how to record and play back an action. Of course, actions are useful with huge groups of images. This tutorial shows you how useful actions can be on small image sets as well.

    Visit Tutorial

  • Complete Guide to Using Actions in Photoshop

    A comprehensive tutorial about creating and using Actions.

    Visit Tutorial

  • Actions automate repetitive Photoshop tasks

    Microsoft has a good write-up here on creating and using Photoshop Actions.

    Visit Tutorial

Production Actions

Actions are a tremendous timesaver, especially in a production environment, for example, if you need to prep 100 images as thumbnails for the Web. It is quicker to run a batch action than prep each file individually. Some tutorials on creating timesaving Actions:

  • Automate and Batches

    This is a second part in a series. It applies actions to a group of photos. It shows you how to resize and import multiple photos into a specific-sized document.

    Visit Tutorial

  • Using Photoshop Actions to Prepare Web Photos

    This tutorial is a little old, yet it's a good tutorial on prepping photos for the Web by using Actions.

    Visit Tutorial

Creative Actions

Actions can be used to record a creative process. It allows you to package and save the steps under one name. You can further group these Actions into Action Sets as well. Its a lot easier to remember a named action such as "Soften Skin" or "Color Correction" than to remember every step involved. You can use Actions as part of your creative toolset in Photoshop. Some tutorials on creative Actions:

  • Creating a Photoshop Action

    Veerle has a tutorial on creating Actions. She had previously created a tutorial on how to apply some Photoshop effects to a photo to give it a vintage feel. Some of her readers felt the steps were cumbersome to apply to multiple photographs. So, she packaged her steps as an Action and offered it to her readers. Good solution.

    Visit Tutorial

  • Surfer Girl Post Production

    In this tutorial, a professional photographer walks you through each step of a model shoot. On the last page of this tutorial you can see how saved creative Actions are used to add sharpening, softening, and lighting effects to the image. This gives you a good idea of how Actions can fit into your creative workflow.

    Visit Tutorial

Finding and Sharing Actions

There are numerous free actions on the Web. Last week in our Febuary Roundup we pointed to a resource called Photoshop actions: 124+ Free Photoshop Actions to Boost Your Designs. This is a good place to get started with finding Actions. Of course, you could search broadly on Google as well. Graphic design communities are a good resource for finding free actions. There is a good resource on Deviant Art in an article titled Go for it - Photoshop Actions.

After you create a successful action, consider sharing it with the design community. You'll find that by giving back it helps sharpen your skills. You'll get feedback that will encourage you to improve your actions. In some cases, you'll get ideas from the community you might not have come up with otherwise. Design communities or your blog are good places to give away actions. Freebies are an excellent way to build your online reputation as well.

Using Actions

Actions will come in handy when you have a series of steps that will apply a specific artistic result to your artwork. You can record the steps as an action and save it. Then you can easily apply that action at any time. You can also find these types of artistic Actions from across the web and build up a collection. They could be used to supplement your filters.

The timesaving benefits of actions are unquestionable. If you need to do any repetitive task in Photoshop, an action will speed up your workflow. Once you get used to using actions, you'll find that even on relatively small repetitive tasks, actions will still save you time. On large tasks and tasks that you do on a regular basis, you'll see the greatest benefits to your workflow.

Take the time to get used to working with actions. Make them a regular part of your Photoshop workflow. It's worth investing the time in learning actions now in order to save you time later.

Feel free to link to any great actions or resources on actions in the comments. Thanks.

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