An Adobe Photoshop action is an automated rule or pattern that specifies a certain input sequence. This is similar to Macros found in other applications such as Microsoft Word. To put this in layman’s terms, it is a plugin that you can create to save you time with repetitive tasks.
If you often open a file, reduce it’s size to a specific dimension and then apply a sequence of filters, an action will automate this for you. All you need to do is record the procedure using the actions palette and then play it back on any image.
A video tutorial on creating an action
How to create an action
It really is quite simple…
- Firstly, call up the actions palette from menu: Window > Actions
- If you can see lots of colourful bars, then click on the small arrow (top right of palette) and uncheck ‘Button Mode‘. Now you will be able to create and manage your Photoshop actions.
- You may need to expand the ‘Default Actions‘ to see all of the other actions.
- To start creating, click on the ‘Create new action‘ button at the bottom of the palette. If you’re not sure which one this is, let your cursor hover over each button to reveal the descriptions.
- In the dialogue box, choose a Name as well as a button colour and shortcut (Function Key) if you wish.
- When you are ready to start recording, click on the ‘Begin recording’ button at the bottom of the palette. You will notice that this button is now indented and red in colour to denote recording mode. Now, every step you take in Photoshop will be recorded. Steps such as changing image size, applying a filter, performing colour/contrast adjustments, etc.
- Now, go through each step of your procedure. Some steps may not work with actions as they may require a very specific set of circumstances (such as painting, Clone Stamp work, etc). It’s a good idea to experiment to get a good feel of what you can work with. Be creative – you’re not going to break Photoshop!
- Once you have finished performing all of your procedures, click on the dark grey ‘Stop playing/recording‘ button at the bottom of the palette.
You have now created an action. It should appear within the list within the Actions palette.
You can run your action from here, but I’d recommend for now that you run it from button mode. Click on the small arrow (top right of palette) and check ‘Button Mode‘. You can now see your action within the row of buttons.
Now, all that’s left to do is to use you action. Simply load up an image and click on the button that you have just created. You can also run your action on multiple files by going to menu: File > Automate > Batch (not covered in this tutorial).
I’ve created a large selection of actions for you to look at and mess around with if you wish at http://www.turningturnip.co.uk/photoshop/photoshop-actions.php.