How to Create and Use Photoshop Actions to Speed up Your Workflow


Photoshop_CC_icon.pngWhat are Photoshop Actions?

Photoshop Actions are very useful time savers. Should you find yourself applying the same Photoshop commands or a series of commands repeatedly to images, wouldn’t it be nice to just push one key and apply that series of commands to your image, or even to a whole folder of images? It can be done, read on.

What kind of things can you do with Actions?

Inside Photoshop, just about everything you do to enhance images can be done with an Action, ranging from: applying creative styles, resizing, converting to Black and White, sharpening, watermarking, or even compositing star trails – all with one click of the mouse or a keyboard short-cut.

Why use Actions?

The use of Actions will streamline image processing by combining multiple commands into one key stroke, or batch, which will save you lots of computer time and give you more time for shooting. Every photographer wants more time for shooting.

Create a simple Action

Okay, so perhaps you want to resize an image for the web. This simple action will resize the image to 600 pixels wide, and also add copyright and contact information to the image.


Steps-by-step how to create your own Action

  1. In Photoshop , open the photo file you want to work on.
  2. Open the “Action Palette” or panel (Alt+F9)
  3. Select “Create New Action” from menu or click on the “New Action” action3
  4. Name your Action; use a name that will tell you what the Action will do. In this case we will name it “Save for dPS Blog”.
  5.  Assign a key board short-cut.
  6. Assign a color to Action button. (This is optional, but can be useful to organize your Actions when you set up multiples.)
  7. Assign a set in which your Action appears. This is useful if you want many Actions for many different types of work, for example “Sizing Actions”.
  8. Start recording – select record from the menu or click the  “Start Recording” button.
  9. Now, simply apply all the Photoshop commands to your open image that you want saved in that Action.
  10. Select image size (Alt+Ctrl+I) and set to 600 pixels wide.
  11. Select File Info (Alt+Shift+Ctrl+I) and enter your Copyright information.
  12. Select “Stop Recording” from menu or click the “Stop Recording” button.If any of your commands require variable settings that need to be changed on an image by image basis, click on the pause button for that Action. Now when you run your Action, it will stop at that command for your input. Otherwise, your action will run just as it was recorded with all input being applied the same.

How to use Actions

There are three ways Actions may be used:

  1. Applying it to a single open image
  2. Applying it to a batch of images
  3. By creating a Droplet of your Actions

Explanations of how each of these work follow.

Applying to open image

You can apply your Action to an open image by simply selecting the desired Action in the Action Palette and then selecting Play from the menu or by clicking the Play button.

Applying to a batch of images:

  1. Place all the  images into one folder
  2. Select the Action you want to run
  3. Under the File menu, select Automate and then Batch (because the Action you want to run is already selected, the action field will have already been preloaded with the right one)
  4. Under Source, select the desired folder from the menu.
  5. Click on the Choose button and select the folder that contains your images.
  6. Under Destination, select Folder.
  7. Click on the Choose button and select a folder where you want the final images to be saved.
  8. Select Override Action “save as commands”
  9. Click OK and Photoshop will automatically start opening all the files in the source folder one at a time and running the Action, then saving them to the destination folder. Cool, huh!?batch

Make a Droplet from an Action:

With this method you can create an executable file, which you can be place on your desktop. Then if you want to run an Action on a file, you can just drag it to your Action Droplet and the changes will be applied to your file and saved to a specified folder.

Creating a Droplet:

  1. Select the Action that you want to use to create your Droplet.
  2. Under File menu, select Automate and Create Droplet, the Create Droplet menu will open.
  3. Under Save Droplet In: click on Choose and select a destination for your droplet. Your computer desktop is a great destination and makes the Droplet easily accessible.
  4. Under Play, since we already selected the Action in step 1, this section already contains the correct command info.
  5. Under Destination select Folder.
  6. Under Destination click on Choose and select a folder where you want the finished images to be stored.
  7. Select Override Action “Save as Commands”.
  8. Click OK and Photoshop will automatically create your Droplet.
    Now simply drag your image to the Droplet and the Action will be applied to the image and saved to your specified folder.Droplet

Actions can be used for the simplest series of commands, but after you get the hang of it you can create some very complex applications. The purpose of this article is to show just how easily you can create your own Actions and thereby simplify and speed up your work flow.

If you have other tips for using Photoshop Actions please share in the comments below.

For more on Photoshop Actions try these articles:

Read more from our Post Production category

Bruce Wunderlich is a photographer from Marietta, Ohio. He became interested in photography as a teenager in the 1970s, and has been a passionate student of the art ever since. Bruce recently won Photographer’s Choice award at the 2014 Shoot the Hills Photography Competition in the Hocking Hills near Logan, Ohio. He has also instructed local classes in basic digital photography. Check out Bruce’s photos at Flickr

  • Jim Coffee

    Actions are wonderful. Folks should also understand that Actions can call Actions. For example, an action could call ‘Image Size’ and ‘Add Copyright Info’ actions one after the other. The benefit of this kind of structure is that you could change your copyright action (adding or correcting a detail or whatever) and all actions that called the copyright action would automatically be updated.

  • Useful tips! Thanks for sharing.

  • Bruce Wunderlich

    That’s a good point Jim, I think most of us have just barely touch the surface of the time saver that Actions can be to photographers.

  • Asif iftekhar

    Thanks for the post. really effective.

  • Debi Kirk-Allen

    Which Photoshop I have PSE 11

  • sohi

    Thanks ….. .

  • Bruce Wunderlich

    Hi Debi, You can not create actions in PSE 11, but you can load and play actions created in Photoshop. There are a lot of free actions that you can download.

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  • Lee Gyamfi

    very good

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