Sunday, November 9, 2008

Actions in Photoshop

Ever wonder what in the world people are talking about when they say "I LOVE using my Actions in Photoshop"? I used to... I had no idea what it meant. But now that I do, I could NOT live without them! They save SO much time when performing common tasks in Photoshop, but even better than that, there are some out there that have the most interesting and creative effects for your photos!!

An Action is a set of steps you take to perform a task that are recorded and can be replayed by pressing the PLAY button. (They work almost exactly like Macros in Microsoft Excel.) So when you press the RECORD button, you are telling Photoshop... "Please remember these steps for me and do them automatically whenever I say." And they work for virtually anything! (This tutorial was written using Photoshop CS3. I'm not sure of how differently other versions of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements will treat actions.)

Today, we will talk about loading and savings actions, but even better than that we'll go step by step in actually making an action. I thought I would do one that most of you could use... this way when you're done with this tutorial, you will also have a GREAT tool that will save tons of time!

We are going to create a very basic action that will automatically save your scrapbook layouts 3 different ways in 3 different places. Since I have a set folder where I save layered files, another for printable jpgs, and yet another for saving low res copies of my jpgs for posting to galleries, it takes quite a bit of time to do all of that. But by making an Action for those steps... it is all done in about 2 seconds with the press of a button.

First, let's take a look at the Action palette and get familiar with it's settings. If you do not see your Actions palette, go to Windows and click on Actions.

When your Actions palette appears, notice the buttons along the bottom. This is what allows us to control our actions.

STOP: This button will stop recording while in the middle of creating an action. It is also what you press when you're done recording your steps.

RECORD: This button is what is activated when you are ready to start recording. It will turn red while redording. If you press stop, it will turn back to gray.

PLAY: This, of course is what you press when you're ready to perform your action.

NEW SET: This is like a folder for your actions. A set can hold at least 20 actions within it, probably more.

NEW ACTION: This is what you press to actually create a new action within an action set.

DELETE: This button does a couple of things. It will delete an action or an action set. But it will aslo delete a step within an action. So if you are recording your action and you click the wrong thing, simply press STOP, highlight the offending step and press DELETE. Then press RECORD again to resume recording with the proper step.

1. Ok... let's get started with creating our action. On your actions palette, press the little folder icon for Create New Set.

2. Now, choose a name for your action set and click OK.

For the record, I have the action we're about to create already saved in a set I call "Resizing". Within that set, I have actions for gallery posting+printing; prepping an image for the web, resizing 12x12 paper to fit my usual 11x8.5 scrap canvas, an action to create previews for my designs, etc. But for all practical purposes here, I will just call it "gallery posting".

3. Now, your new action set should appear at the bottom of your action list, like so:

4. Now before we move on, go ahead and open a layered .psd or .tiff file so we can use that to create the action from. Once you have that opened in Photoshop, click on your new action set so that is highlighted in blue.

5. Making sure that your new action set is highlighted, click the icon for Create New Action.

6. Choose a name for your new action and double-check that the Set indicates the set you want to create the new action for. Then click Record.

Notice now that your RECORD button has turned red. This indicates that Photoshop is now recording all of your clicks.

Just a sidenote... now that you're recording... don't panic. hahaha. there's no need to rush. Photoshop records your clicks, but not the time in which it takes to do them. It also only records "Completed" tasks. For instance.. if you accidentally click on Edit instead of Image, no worries. It will not actually record that click because there was nothing actually "completed" there. So you can freely move over and click Image and choose your command. It will be recorded once you click OK at the end of that task. (Does that make sense?) If it doesn't make sense now, don't worry... it will as we continue. And don't forget that you can always press STOP and delete a task that you may have inadvertantly recorded.

8. Now with your layered file open go to Image and choose Duplicate.

9. Photoshop will give you a default name for your duplicated image of "file name copy". Leave that as is and click OK. (Make sure that Duplicate Merged Layers Only is not checked.)

Once you click OK, take a look at your actions palette. Photoshop has just recorded our first step. :)

10. Now, the image we just duplicated is a layered image. Since we want to save this image as a .jpg so that we can use it for printing, we want to merge all of our layers. So go to Layer and choose Merge Visible (Flatten Image will also work for this).

11. So now we have an image that is ready to be saved as a .jpg file. Go to File and choose Save As.

12. Now, find the folder that you normally save your high res .jpg layouts. You file name will appear, change your Format to JPEG and click Save.

13. Ok, now let's go ahead and duplicate *this* image since we still need another .jpg for posting. So again, go to Image and choose Duplicate. This time, Photoshop will give your duplicated image a default name of "file name copy 2". Again, leave the default name it gives you and click OK.

14. Let's make our "copy 2" file our low res .jpg file. Go to Image and choose Image Size.

15. When your Image Size window comes up, change your resolution from 300 to 72. Then, change your go to the top of the window and change your width to 600 since this is the most common gallery posting size. (*Note: if you're working with a 12x12 layout, both width and height should be 600, but if you're working with an 11x8.5 size just change the width to 600. Photoshop should automatically adjust the height to coordinate.) Last, but certainly not least refer to the bottom of your Image Size window. Pull down that drop down menu and select "Bicubic Sharper (best for reduction.) This will keep your image from becoming blurry or pixley during the size reduction procedure... a very important, but often overlooked step. Then click OK.

16. If your version of Photoshop does not have the Bicubic Sharper option, you can still acheive a sharpened image. Go to Filter and choose Sharpen. But no need to do both.

17. Now that our "copy 2" file is resized and ready to save, go to File and choose Save As. Find the folder that you normally save your low res .jpgs in and click Save. Now, when your JPEG Options window opens, you will want to reduce the quality. This makes the file size smaller. Most galleries have a size limit of 150k for posting. I can usually get away with 8 because I scrap in using 11x8.5 size canvas. But if you scrap using a 12x12 canvas, you will probably want to drop this number down to 6.

18. Now, before we press stop to complete our action, close out of all 3 files.

We are now done with our action. So simply press STOP.

19. To test your action, open a .psd or .tiff file and press PLAY. Then go and check your folders to see that your files saved in the proper place.

That's it. That's all there is to it! You just created an action. And not just any action, but one that you will use over and over and over.

Now that you have the basic principles... try to make others. Make one for brightening and boosting the color in your photos, make one that turns your photos b/w or sepia toned. The possibilities are endless.... and Photoshop can handle some pretty complex actions, so don't hold back! :) It may take some practice, but keep at it!!

But WAIT!! We aren't done yet! You will be AMAZED at all the free actions that are out there just waiting to be downloaded!!! Let's go ahead and pick out an action so we can learn how to get it into Photoshop!

Downloading and Using Your Actions:

Let's use this one from a website called ShutterFreaks. It was made by Pete Perry and is called Hayes Island Varient. It takes your photo and turns it into what looks like a canvas painting. Let's go step by step of downloading, unzipping, and loading and saving it to Photoshop. Here's the link where I found it so you can follow along.

1. Click the download link to whatever action you are purchasing or downloading for free.

2. Click Save

3. I have an Actions folder within my Scrapbook Supplies folder. This is where I save all of my actions. Find the folder you want to save your action in and press Save.

4. Now, open the folder you saved your action in and locate the zipped file. When you find it, right-click on it and choose Extract All.

5. Leave the Destination as is and click Extract.

6. The folder to get to your action is now saved in the same folder. Now you can delete the zipped file.

7. When you open your action folder, you will see the ATN file. This is your action. :)

8. Now, open Photoshop and open up your Actions palette. Click on the little arrow (yours may have a little circle with an arrow inside it). This will show you your options. Choose Load Actions.

9. Navigate to the folder where you saved your action, click on the action and click Load.

Your action will be loaded at the bottom of your list on your Actions Palette in Photoshop.

10. Now, choose a photo to test it out on. Once your photo is open, click the action in your actions palette to hightight it in blue. Now press PLAY.

11. Now this particular action gives me a warning. It's basically saying that it was created using a full sized image straight from the camera. Just click Continue.

12. Now sit back and allow the action to do it's thing. Depending on the complexity of the action, this may take a few seconds, so don't get too impatient. :) Here is our finished photo.

That's it! And don't forget that there are LOTS of Photoshop actions in our store over at Oscraps!!!

I would love to know what you think about this tutorial. Feel free to leave comments! And you can certainly email me directly if you have any questions.


Arya said...

Wonderful tutorial, Amanda. I've always loved actions, but it hasn't crossed my mind to use them for resizing or saving for web or anything else but 'the usual stuff'.

Thanks again!

Deca said...

I just love this tutorial.. But I still have a question!! How to create warnings or tips while you are recording.. Like :"choose a 12x12 canvas paper" or "select something..". Do you know what I mean?
Kisses and grateful to find your blog.. Went to my fav....

Jopke... said...

What a great tutorial! It just so happens to be that my husband told me a few days ago that there was something like 'recording' in photoshop. 'Well, that would be great' I said. But It would take some time to figure all that out! 'Cause where can I found some info on this, right!? Well, you should have seen my face this morning when I discovered this tutorial! THANK YOU!

Brooke - in Oregon said...

Amanda you are a DARLING! I love actions and have really wanted to know how to make them. Great Tutorial!!! My favorite actions for photos are Totally Rad Actions, a bit pricey but so worth it. I got them for my birthday last year and have used them over and over. My next question is how do you organize your actions and do you leave them all loaded?

On a totally unrelated subject, do you have plans for any more brushes like your last set of hearts? I LOVE THOSE!! Maybe some Christmas ones??? hint hint! lol

My Life and My Loves said...

i think it looks good but i'm bummed cuz i'm an elements girl.

Ann said...

I love actions! I use yours and a the one from Holly mc Caig, love them!!

I try to use the free download you named in your tutorial, but it don't work. He play but say over and over again, layer background not available. I don't know what it means so I click go on but then it says the same.
Mmmm hope you understand this hole story, my English is not so good..

Betsy said...

Wonderful, well illustrated tutorial. Thank you so much. I know it must have taken you a lot of time and energy.

Tali said...

Miss Amanda - I want you to know that I did read through your whole tut, even though I'm an Elements girl! ;) Now I'm really, really wishing I had CS, I want to use actions! Especially the actions for photo effects. So jealous!

Nichole said...

I have never been so jealous of CS3as I am now. I have PSE6.0. And I love it!!!!
but soon enough, once I now my pse inside out I will get it and then watch out!!!!!!!
these tutorials are awesome and so detailed. Perfect. Thanks again for taking then time!!!!

Cassandra said...

Great tutorial! Before today I'd only used the actions once, and thanks to you I've had fun playing with a handful of them today. I've always loved your photo treatments and now I have a little extra insight into how you create such gorgeous photos. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This is SUCH a time saver!!! Thank you so much!!!

Marjohn said...

GOD BLESS YOU! I've downloaded free actions, used them, and have understood WHAT they do. Now, I can't wait to make my own! Whoo-Hoo--You've help alleviate the fear!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

SHAUI said...

WOW A! thanks for breaking it down so clearly! This is very helpful and you made it soo easy for us to understand. Thanks!

Swr4him said...

I certainly appreciate your tutorial and also would like to know what causes messages about "background layer not found" or other messages. I see this quite often and wondered if I had to start out with a certain layer before the action will work. Thanks again

Jody said...

Wonderful tutorial as usual! You really are helping me to learn so much. Thanks again and keep them coming!

Helen said...

Hey A! You usually have a link to the printable version at Oscraps...can't find it here or at O. Can you help please. Thanks!

Ada said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I find your tuts always very clear and understandeble (i don't know if that is en existing word but hopefully you understand what i mean..
I do have an other question...
when i save my stuff and later i try to find it some of my maps are just yellow and some of the maps have little pictures of what is inside. Is there a way to make it so that all of the maps are like the ones with the pictures?
Again, thanks a lot for all your tutorials.

Cindy Welch said...

Wow, Love all the tuitorials Moving up from elements is so much easier with yoru tuitorials

ms88 said...

Thank you for the tutorial to action posting gallery. It's simply and I have understanding it.
I love your blog !

Christine said...

I just downloaded a trial version of CS4 to play with PW's actions and didn't even know where to begin... And here you've showed me exactly what I needed to know (and more)! Who knew you could have an action for resizing pages! Thanks, Amanda!

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Anonymous said...

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

Gabrielle said...

Thank you so much for both of these tutorials. As I am new to photoshop and hadn't a clue what the 'actions' did this has been an eye opener. I thought everyone in 'digiland' was extremely talented and organized- unlike me- but now I find it's possible to have this little computer and photoshop do all the tedious work while I get the credit. Being 60 and a late learner is not too bad after all! LOL. TYVM.

Gabrielle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Milena Brandão said...

It's so generous of you to share your knowledge like this! I've been meaning to understand actions for a while now, but yours is the first tutorial that actually helped me! You have this gift of making it all seem easy and pleasant. Thank you so much!

heather said...

Superb tutorial. Rather than save large JPEG files, I save them as .png files, simply because JPG files deteriorate each time they are opened.I'm not sure of the amount of deterioration, but to be on the safe side, .png or .bmp files are a safer option.

scrappyt said...

Thank you so much for this amazing tutorial. I am so new to photoshop (a convert after years of PSP) and am so happy to have stumbled across your site.

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