Remove Some Tedium with the Photoshop Actions Panel

Here’s the first of our guest tutorials, starting with a rundown of the Photoshop Actions Panel with Jamie:

Using the Photoshop Actions Panel

Ever found yourself needing to carry out the same repetitive, mundane tasks on lots of different images?  For example, you might have a whole bunch of images that need to be resized before various colour adjustments need to be made.  Doing this for each image individually can take an age.  The Photoshop Actions Panel allows you to record and save these commands enabling you to process a large batch of images in seconds.

Find your way around the Actions Panel

If the Actions Panel is not visible, open it up (Windows > Actions or press ALT + F9).  Let’s familiarise ourselves with the panel.

  1. Action Set (This is like a folder, where you can store similar Actions in groups.)
  2. Action.  In this example, you can see some default Actions that are preinstalled with Photoshop.
  3. Recorded Commands. These are the different steps that make up your Action.
  4. Modal Control.  When some commands are run, a dialog box will pop up.  You can choose to toggle dialogs on or off for your Actions.  Turning off dialogs will mean your Action will use the value for the command that were set when the Action was recorded.
  5. Included Command. You can deselect or select a command from an Action, choosing whether or not it is performed.  If the checkbox is empty, that command will be skipped when the Action is run.
  6. Stop button.  Hitting the Stop button stops Action recording or stops an Action while it is running.
  7. Record button. This button starts recording of a new Action.  You can also append new commands to an existing Action by selecting a pre-existing Action.
  8. Play button.  Pressing play whilst an Action is selected will perform each command in the Action in turn.  If a command is selected within an Action, the playback will continue from that point onwards.
  9. Create New Action Set. A new Set will be created.  You’ll need to give your new Set a name.
  10. Create New Action. This will create a new Action.  You can colour code your Actions and even set up a keyboard shortcut for later use.
  11. Delete button. This deletes the selected Action Set, Action or Command. If you delete an Action from your Actions Panel, this cannot be undone!

Creating a new Action

Now you know your way around, let’s try using the Actions panel using a photograph.  We’re going to do several things:

 

  1. Sharpen the photograph
  2. Add a warming Photo Filter
  3. Resize the image
  4. Save it for web

 

So go ahead and open your image.  I’m using a photo of Dr. House:

Create a new Action Set by clicking on the Create New Action Set Button.  You’ll be asked to give the new Set a name.  Pick something descriptive.  Remember the Action Set is like a folder where you can store lots of different Actions.

Once the Action Set is created, hit the Create Action button to begin creating your Action.  Again, you’ll get a popup asking you to name your new Action, plus a few options.

Name your new Action.  It can be whatever you like, but I find it helps to be descriptive to jolt my memory when I see it again in the future.  You can also set up a keyboard shortcut at this point.  If you want to do this, simply select the key you’d like to use from the dropdown marked Function Key.  If you want to colour code your Actions to keep them organised, select a colour from the list.  Once you’re ready, hit record – this is where the magic starts!

 

You’ll notice the Record button is red, meaning that you are now recording.  Every command you run will be saved as a step within your new Action.

So, let’s start applying some changes to our photograph.  Firstly, sharpen your image: Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen.

Notice how this command has been added to your Action Set.

Now run through the other tasks:

Add Warming Photo Filter: Image > Adjustments > Photo Filter… Select Warming Filter (85) and leave Density at 25.

Resize the image: Image > Image Size… Reduce the image to 80%

Finally, let’s save the image.  File > Save for Web & Devices… save your file into the desired location.

 

Now you’ll see you have four commands under your new Action.  Hit the Stop button to stop the recording.

That’s it! You have now finished recording your first Action.

 

To run this Action on other photographs, simply open a new image, highlight your Action and hit play.

If you know how to do something in Photoshop, chances are you’ll be able to add it as a step in an Action.  Play around with the Actions Panel and you’ll soon find it’s one of the most useful tools in Photoshop.

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