Ever wish you could record a set of Photoshop commands and repeat them at a later time? Welcome to the world of Photoshop actions. So what is an action?
An action is a recorded set of image editing commands that can be performed at a later time without having to re-enter each change manually. Actions can provide a handy way for editors to speed up commonly used tasks and are compatible with the Batch function in Photoshop (allowing you to automatically apply commands to hundreds of images with only a few keystrokes).
Like most features in Photoshop, actions have their own palette within the program. Palettes are located along the right side of the Photoshop interface, but their configuration will change from user to user. Thankfully all palettes are located within the Window menu located on the top of the program. Remember, if you ever lose a palette you can ALWAYS find it in that handy Window menu.
Selecting “Action” out of the Window menu will open up the Action Palette if it is not already out. With it you will see folders with actions grouped into them. Folders are simply a way to organize actions as you see fit. You should see a folder named Default Actions that are included in the program when you install it. An action will have a little arrow to the left of its name that when clicked will display, or hide, all the commands contained within. To run an action simply highlight its name and either double click or select the Play button from the bottom of the palette. Feel free to try to some of the default actions out and get a feel for how they work, but the real power here is the ability to make your own.
Making a new action is a straightforward process: begin by selecting the new icon from bottom of the palette (the one that looks like a little sheet of paper). A command box will immediately open allowing you to name the action, organize it into one of the folders, and optionally assign the action to a keystroke. When you’ve configured this box how you want hit the Record button and your shiny new action will be created. You’ll see your new action highlighted in the palette and the red record button active along the bottom of the palette.
Now its time to enter some commands. These can be whatever you want, contrast adjustments, color tweaks, sizing changes, etc. Since your new action is currently recording, anything you do in Photoshop is going to be logged into the action. Start with something simple, maybe only a command or two to get an idea of how this process works. When you’ve done your editing hit the stop button next to that red record button along the bottom of the Actions palette. Your action is no longer recording and you are ready to test it out. Open a new image and highlight your action and press the play button. The same commands you just recorded will be applied to this new image exactly as you performed them the first time. Cool huh?
By now you should start to see the potential for how you can tap into the power of Actions in Photoshop. Tune in next time for a look into more advanced features of actions.