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How to use Adobe Photoshop Actions

My Ink Blog Articles Jul 14, 2008

To the left is the original photo that I used for this tutorial, feel free to use this photo or your own if you are following along. This tutorial covers the use of Adobe Photoshop Actions. Once you learn how to use Actions you'll wonder how you ever got by without them.

In this example, I will be creating a photoshop action on a wedding photo (of me and my beautiful wife). We will perform some common tasks, that you would have to do to a bunch of times, for a nice consistent look in a photo album or scrap book.

image 1

Let's Get Started

Open up your picture in Photoshop.

Locate and open the actions palette. If it is not visible, you can find it clicking window -> actions.

Click the create new set button, to start a folder for your actions. I called my folder, My Actions

Click the create new action button. Title the action something applicable that you can remember, I used Wedding Album. Place it in the My Actions set, leave the other defaults, (you can set the action to a function key if you so desire) then click record.

image 2

Note the record button is now red, anything you do in Photoshop will now be recorded as part of your action, however you are not in a race and Photoshop won't record the time it takes you between steps, it merely records the actions you perform. If you do a step within the action that you don't want to keep, simply click the stop button and drag the that step to the trash can. Then resume your action by pressing play.

image 3

Duplicate the background layer by pressing ctrl j (PC) cmd j (mac). This is a good practice to get in for anything you do in Photoshop, so that if you make any major mistakes you can always have the original copy in its own layer.

Next we are going to fill the background with black. Click layer->new fill layer->solid color. Choose black and click ok.

Move that fill layer below layer 1. So the black fill is behind the picture.

image 4

Our next step will be to change the image size so that all our photos will be the same. Click image -> image size. Change the dimensions to whatever works for your given project. I used 550px for the height, 150 for the resolution, and kept constrain proportions checked.

image 5

Next we are going to add a black and white adjustment layer. But before we do that we must get off the color fill layer we had created. To do this within an action you must make it a reference step and not just click on the applicable layer. So from the color fill layer, we must get to layer 1. To do so press "alt, ] (the right bracket key)" This will select the foward layer.

Click on the adjustment layer within the layers palette and select black and white as shown below.

image 6

These are the adjustments that I made. This box is really useful for making your black and white photographs more professional. It gives you all kinds of control, and since you put the adjustments on its own layer, you can go back and change them later and you'll never damage the original picture.

image 7

Now we would like to work on the image layer again, so we need to step backward layer, press "alt, ["

Grab the rectangle marquee tool and make a selection similar to this.

image 8

In order to make sure you have a step that controls the selection you need to have a transform the selection step. Go to select->transform selection.

Next, feather the selection by pressing "Alt, ctrl, D" or select->modify->feather. Change the feather radius to whatever works for your picture, I choose 15.

Then select the inverse by pressing "ctrl, shift, I" on the keyboard or select->inverse.

Now we should cut the feathered outside pixels, press "ctrl, x" or edit->cut.

Click stop on the actions palette.

We're almost finished now, but before we are we should remember to make stop actions on some of the steps. I stopped the following: Make Fill Layer, Image Size, Make Adjustment Layer, Transform Selection and Feather. To make a stop action, click on the toggle box to the left of the step. Like the example below:

image 9

Here is the final result that I achieved using this action:

How to use Adobe Photoshop Actions

I hope you can see how Photoshop Actions can be extremely helpful with any repetitive task. I've found in numerous uses for this, hopefully you can as well.

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