Understanding Actions

Tell me about Photoshop Actions and how they can rock my world! :)

Photoshop actions are simply a recording of all the commands used to create an effect in Photoshop or Elements. They can be replayed at the click of the “Play” button, saving you hours of time in editing as well as creating complex effects with little to no effort. Actions can be used to do simple corrections like increasing contrast and brightening an image, or can do complicated techniques like skin smoothing and selective color popping. They are also a wonderfully easy way to add an artistic flair to your images without needing to go through the tedious steps of creating the look from scratch … black and white looks, vintage looks, intense color pop, you name it. They can take a ho-hum image and turn into a WOW image in seconds, and can save an image otherwise destined for the trash into a keeper.

After downloading your actions (which have an .atn extension), open your Actions Panel inside Photoshop. Go to Window>Actions to bring the window up if it is not currently visible. Click on the little arrow in the upper right hand corner of the panel. Inside this drop down menu select “Load Actions,” and navigate to your saved actions. Actions are cross platform compatible, so both Mac and PC users can have fun with the same actions. There are actions available for both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Most actions compatible with Elements are also compatible with full versions of Photoshop, but not the other way around. So, be sure to check your version of software for compatibility before purchasing or downloading actions.

Once loaded into your Actions Panel, simply select the action you want to run and click play. It will go through all the steps in seconds, leaving you with new layers in your Layers Palette and a new look for your image. Click here to jump to demo and install video for Photoshop.

The first thing I always tell people when trying actions for the first time is “tweak your results.” Not every action will work perfectly straight out of the gate on every photo. Individual photos have different tones, exposures, etc. that can affect how an action will look when finished playing. After clicking play on your action you’ll be left with a series of layers … some simple actions will produce just one layer, while other more in depth actions will leave you with many layers to go in and play with. Take a look at what you end up with … turn layers on and off, adjust the opacity slider on each layer, etc. as you watch how each layer affects your image. Maybe your image is too bright? Well, take a look and see if there is a “Make Darker” layer to help adjust this or a “Lighter” layer that you can turn off or lower opacity on. Is your image not showing enough contrast? Take a look through the action’s layers for a contrast layer, sometimes called pop, and adjust this to your liking. Many actions will have layers that are “creative” additions, such as a “Vintage” layer or a “Haze” layer … you can totally customize your look by adjusting these (on/off or changing opacity).

Doing this extra bit of tweaking at the end of an action will give you a custom look that fits your style and your individual image.

Photoshop Actions Tutorial - How To Enhance Your Images Quickly

And some examples of before and afters to show some of the looks actions can accomplish with the click of a button or two.

A little about Paint the Moon:

Paint the Moon offers Photoshop actions to help bring new life to your images and take hours off of your editing time. Offering professional editing tools that help you do everything including extensive retouching, essential workflow edits, and beautiful and unique artistic processing. Using Paint the Moon actions will make complicated processing amazingly quick. Paint the Moon actions are also highly customizable for just the right look and are a breeze to use.

Also offering vintage and fine art textures to add a unique and high end look to your final images. Included with every texture purchase is my exclusive Textures Rock action set that makes applying textures and customizing the final look super easy.

Paint the Moon also offers video tutorials to help guide you through the editing process (new ones are now being added weekly) and beautiful free actions and textures to try before you buy.

By Annie Manning