How to Create Professional Photoshop Actions

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Creating Actions in Photoshop

Photoshop Actions are created by manually performing a series of steps and recording them in an ATN file. You can replay those steps on any image by hitting the play button in the action dialog.

Actions can save a ton of time when you need to perform a task repeatedly in Photoshop. Actions also help you do things like resize, Color, Sharpen and save images.


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The Keys to Creating Flawless Actions

Creating an action can be difficult if you have never done so before. There are specific rules and guidelines to creating a flawless action. Here is a list of tips for creating flawless Actions in Photoshop.

  • Make Each Step “Non-Specific” – One of the reasons Actions tend to come up with errors is because when they are created the steps refer to specific layers or commands. For instance if your Action includes the step “Select Layer 1” and your document has no “layer 1”, the action will return an error. The best way to get around this error is to create steps that are non-specific.
    • When switching layer use the Keyboard Shortcut (ALT/OPTN + [ ]). This will register as “Select Forward/Backward Layer”
    • When making layer changes such as blending mode or Opacity changes – double click on the layer, make your changes in the “Layer Style” dialog and then hit OK. This will register all your changes at once instead of making many different steps.
  • Use the “Stop” button when needed – If you are creating an action and make a mistake don’t worry about including it in the action or starting over. You can simply press the stop button in the action dialog and then delete unnecessary steps. When you are done making changes press the record button to continue.
  • Use “Insert Stop” and Dialog Options – If you are making an Action that requires entering a value that will change for each image these commands can make a huge Difference in the quality of the action. The “Insert Stop” command is found under the Actions Menu, it will allow you to write a message to the person using the action. The Dialog Option box can be checked if there is a step that has changeable values, examples include Gaussian Blur and High Pass. The Dialog Option will allow you to change the amount of blur or High Pass values during the Action.
  • Test Your Actions – After creating an action be sure to test it on multiple images that vary in Size and aspect ratio. An action that performs well on every image is what you want. If your action works great on a “Landscape” oriented image but not a “portrait” oriented image you may need to re-think how you create the action.

Download Sample Action

In today’s episode we show you how to create a Photoshop Action from scratch. If you would like to use the Action we make in the episode, simply Download the Sample Action.

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