A Beginners Guide To Photoshop Actions

Photoshop actions make the life of photographers a bit easier. However, if you have never used actions in Photoshop, you might be a little confused about how to use them to make your post-processing workflow both faster and get better-looking images as a result.

What are Photoshop Actions?

Photoshop actions are a simple one-click way to apply a series of post-processing steps to your image. The steps are first recorded into an “action” that you can then re-play to apply the same recorded step onto a new image. You can use Photoshop actions to perform the steps that you usually do to prepare a photo for publishing. Instead of doing the same steps over and over again, you can automate the process by using actions. If you have a certain post-processing “recipe” to attain a special look, chances are that you can also save the steps you take to achieve this special look into a Photoshop action and thereby save time and effort the next time you want to process an image to have the same look.

Adding a beautiful border to your image take only a single click if you have previously recorded the steps in a Photoshop action.

In this article, we’ll give you a thorough introduction to Photoshop actions. You will get to know how you can use them in your work as well as the benefits of spending a few dollars on getting a package of tried and proven Photoshop actions that can speed up your workflow.

How Are Actions Different From Presets And Scripts?

The decision between using i.e. Lightroom presets or Photoshop actions comes down to the sort of work you’ll essentially be doing. In case you’re a wedding or event photographer and need to edit hundreds to thousands of photographs, using presets in Lightroom will be a lot quicker than running actions in Photoshop. However, if you have a proven workflow in Photoshop that you like and trust to give you a high-quality result, it makes sense to use actions to automate the process. For instance, I always resize and prepare my photos for using online by using a special recipe or workflow that Lightroom simply cannot mimic in terms of the final image sharpness. Another example could be a series of steps in Photoshop to bring out the details in your images or applying a special border to all images in a folder by combining actions with batch processing.

Using Photoshop actions instead of presets offers you more flexibility in terms of the what you can ask Photoshop to do for you.

In Photoshop you can also use Scripts to automate post-processing even more, but these require coding skills and are not for the average Photoshop user. While actions are incredible at playing out a lot of steps over and over, these are not savvy. Consider the possibility that you need Photoshop to perform several steps over and over again, but if certain conditions are met you want it to do things a bit differently. That is the place Scripts come in. A Script is a made of JavaScript code giving guidelines to Photoshop to play out a specific errand using coding logic. In short, actions are built using the user interface while scripts need to be created manually using coding.

Both scripts and actions allow you to automate things in Photoshop. However, scripts are viewed as a more intelligent type of actions, but way more complex to create.

The Benefits of Using Photoshop Actions From a Photographer’s

Working with Photoshop actions has ended up
being stunning for photographers. Here are a couple of the favorable
circumstances a photographer may find while utilizing them.

  • Save time and accelerate your work process in Photoshop.
  • Improve your photographs and give them a special effect.
  • Makes altering your photographs fun and intriguing.
  • With premium actions, you have the possibility to use the methods of pro photographers, while you are still learning to master Photoshop yourself.
  • Achieve the same look across a set of images.

Examples of Photoshop Actions You Can Create

There are a lot of possibilities for you to create your own actions if you like. For instance, you can record the steps to:

  • Create your favorite border (8 steps). Remember to make different actions for each border size you want.
  • Create luminosity masks (around 70 steps).
  • Give you optimal output sharpening while resizing the images so they are ready for export.
  • Enhance details in your image (12 steps).
  • Add a retro effort to your image (20 steps)
  • Apply high-frequency sharpening
  • Add three different contrast curves for shadows, mid-tones, and highlights based on luminosity values. It gives you excellent control of the contrast in your image (23 steps).

This was just a few examples of some techniques in Photoshop that you could record as an action.

After recording it you would save a lot of both time and mouse-clicking because you turn the technique into being a one-click affair + a few necessary adjustments to modify the result to your specific image. It’s is amazing to be able to go from i.e. 20 clicks to do just being able to do it in 1 click instead.

How To Use Photoshop Actions?

Before you can apply an action to one of your images, you need to record it or import actions that you have downloaded. The action panel in Photoshop is where you do everything related to actions.

Where Is The Action Panel in Photoshop?

This is the most asked question from everyone new to using actions in Photoshop. They want to find where the Action panel in Photoshop is. Most of them fail to find it.  If you are one of them then let me help you find the right button. It is highlighted right sidebar of Photoshop. It looks like a Play button. If you hover over it, it says Actions. Click on this button to open up the Actions panel in Photoshop.

How to Create Your Own Actions in Photoshop?

To create your own actions in Photoshop you need to activate the record button in the action panel and then perform the exact series of steps that you want to record. Don’t click on anything else than exactly what you need to get the result you are after. It is often good to “rehearse” the steps in advance, so you know where to click and what settings to use, before recording the steps into a Photoshop action. You can see an example with an explanation here on how to Photoshop actions to create an exclusive border. It shows you both how to create a border in Photoshop and wrap it into an action for you to use over and over again.

Buttons to record, play, delete or organize the actions you create in Photoshop

How to Run A Photoshop Action

To run a previously recorded action, you need to select it from the Actions panel and push the play button at the bottom of the Actions panel (see the image above). After running the action, you can go to the layers panel and tweak the settings of each adjustment layer added by the action.

How To Export Photoshop actions?

In order to share your Photoshop actions with other or use them on other computers, you have to export them.

To do that you should choose the action set, that you want to export from the action panel.

Save or Export your actions by using the Action Panel Menu

You can do this by first selecting an action /action set and then opening the Action Panel Menu in the upper right corner of the Action Panel. Scroll down to the menu item Save Actions… and click it. This will bring up a file dialog enabling you to name the action file.

When you save/export your actions must have the suffix .atn in the filename so your PC/Mac will be able to recognize that this is a Photoshop Action file. When you have given a name to the file and chosen a suitable folder, you can hit the OK button.

Now you will have a copy of your Photoshop actions saved as a file outside Photoshop. You can share this file with others so they can benefit from the actions you create, or you can copy them to your other devices that use Photoshop.

How to Load / Install Photoshop Actions?

Installing or loading actions is even easier. There are two methods that you can use.

Load / Install photoshop actions by using the Action Panel Menu

The first method is just locating the Photoshop action file on your computer and double-clicking it. This will open Photoshop (if it is not already open), and load the actions within the .atn file into your Action Panel.

The other method is by using the Action Panel Menu, where you should scroll down to the menu item Load Actions… and click it. In the file dialog that appears, locate the folder where you have already placed the Photoshop action file (.atn) and select the file and press OK.

Where Can I Get Photoshop Actions?

If you don’t want to create your own Photoshop actions you can still enjoy the benefits of them, by finding them on the Internet.

There is a wide range of sites that sell actions for Photoshop including here on Photography-RAW (link is just below).

You can likewise locate some quality actions that are accessible for free. The issue with free actions is that you can spend numerous hours pursuing the web to locate free actions, loading them into Photoshop to find that they are not of the best quality, and therefore need to remove them from Photoshop again. Or you might discover that it suits your needs just fine. That being said paid and professional Photoshop actions are often of higher quality.

Here at Photography-RAW, we deliver high-quality Photoshop actions built especially to help photographers get amazing results by automating the complex techniques Photoshop offer, so you don’t have to do everything over and over again.


Photoshop Actions are extremely useful for automating the steps you do over and over again in Photoshop, so you don’t have to remember a lot of complex techniques in your head. Even if you master the techniques and know them by heart, you can save a lot of time, by creating several actions that together can assist you in processing your images faster.

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Hey I’m Peter. I’m the owner and editor of Photography-RAW. I make sure that you get the best articles about photography. Personally, I prefer to shoot landscape, nature and macro photography. I hope you enjoy the site 🙂
Hey I’m Peter. I’m the owner and editor of Photography-RAW. I make sure that you get the best articles about photography. Personally, I prefer to shoot landscape, nature and macro photography. I hope you enjoy the site 🙂
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A Beginners Guide To Photoshop Actions

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