Creating Photoshop “Actions”

So, you’ve used Photoshop for awhile now and are fairly adept at cropping, working with layers, changing colored photos to black-and-white and the like.
Have you ever had this happen? You tinkered around with a picture for awhile using Photoshop, and ended up with an image that was creative and different. The only problem is, you can’t remember how you arrived at that final look.
Actions
What you need to learn now is something called “Actions.” In Photoshop, an “Action” is a digitally written record of the steps you’ve taken to enhance or alter a photograph or image.
Some advantages to using Actions are:
  • you’ll save time and money
  • you can customize actions to fit certain workloads
  • you can share actions with others
  • you can make a hard copy of an Action you’ve developed, which can become a tutorial for you to use anytime
There is so much that can be done with Actions, it’s actually beyond the scope of what can be presented here. We’ll just touch on the basics.
To create an action, use the Actions palette.
The Actions palette is accessed one of two ways:
  • Use the menu command: select Windows > Actions or
  • Use the keyboard command: type Alt+F9 (Windows) or Opt+F9 (Mac)
This will open your Actions palette. The palette then becomes your best friend as you create a series of steps to alter a photo, make a record of those steps, save that record and then re-play those steps in the future to achieve the exact same effect with another photo.
Applying Actions to batches of photos
Not only can you alter an individual photo using Actions – you can alter large numbers of photos with Actions. And the beauty of it is, you don’t even have to be at your computer while this is happening.
To process a batch of images, first be sure that the action you want to use is loaded into the Actions palette. Then go to the Batch dialog box (File > Automate > Batch).
The Batch dialogue box contains four main areas:
Play. Choose the action you want to assign to the Batch command.
Source. Select the images or folders of images you want to alter.
Destination. Determine the destination for the images you’ll be processing.
Errors. Photoshop logs any errors that might occur during processing.
Some Action tips
Author Al Ward, Photoshop expert and self-proclaimed addict, suggests a few things to keep in mind as you set up your own actions.
  • Use as few displayed dialog boxes and stop messages as possible.
  • Establish color codes for your actions.
  • Keep the names of your actions as short and descriptive as possible.
  • Use keyboard shortcuts.
  • Save your actions frequently.
  • If you include a Save As command in an action that saves a file as a JPEG, be sure that the Save As Copy check box is checked in the Save As dialog box.

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