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How-To: Create A Photoshop Action


How-To: Create A Photoshop Action

So, for the first How-To post, I’m going to address a Photoshop question I’ve gotten occasionally in the past. More importantly, I think it’s probably a question that many photoshoppers don’t even really know to ask. But, I bet there are some people out there that wish they had a solution for some repetitive task they do to their photos that they didn’t even realize could be automated and save them minutes, hours, and sometimes even days of their lives down the road. And, this is just the first look into what should be a two part series of Photoshop Automation.

In this blog, we’ll cover how to create a simple Action to make images web ready and save a copy to a new folder. Next time, we’ll cover the different ways to deploy that action on a group of images, through Photoshop’s Batch and Create Droplet abilities. Both very useful and cool ways to get stuff done while you go check Facebook or refill your coffee! And if there’s anything that will probably show up in the future of these how-to blogs is the theme of “working smarter, not harder”. Not that I’m all that lazy, but teaching Photoshop how to do something once, then have it do it over and over again instantly, saves me from dragging the mouse to find a menu, save an image, apply a filter, etc. And that time saved adds up, believe me!

First, here’s a list of possible reasons you might want to create a Photoshop Action.

  • Resize images
  • Lighten/Darken images
  • Drop your logo or watermark onto an image
  • Turn an image to black and white
  • Rotate an image while editing with a hotkey
  • Applying filters/preset color changes

The list could go on and on, but hopefully this gives you an idea of what tasks can be made into an action. Basically, almost everything you can do in photoshop can somehow be made into an Action that will be applied each time you run that Action. Let us know in the comments section some of the ways you use Photoshop Actions. Now, let’s get to the good stuff!


Step 1.

Open an image and find the “Actions” tab. You might have to go to the menu under Windows/Actions for it to appear.


Step 2.

Next, you’re going to the lower right corner of the tab and hit the “Create New Action” button.



Step 3.

Next, you’re going to give the Action a name. I chose “Process for Web” since it’s going to resize the image to the size useful for loading to the web.

You can also put it inside a “Set” of actions or a folder, if you will. I’m leaving it in the Default Actions because you can always move it later, much like a layer. But, A USEFUL STEP: The Function Key. I set it to F1 so it’s easy to reach if I’m in the middle of working. (In reality, I’d probably save F1 for something like rotating an image or color correction since it’s more likely I’ll need to do that in the flow of working, but for the sake of this tutorial, we’ll use F1) You can also go back and edit that part of the Action later, but it’s just easier to do it now.

Then hit RECORD!



Step 4.

Now, you are recording. You can tell by the Red Record button in the Action tab. We are going to hit Option-Command-I (or go Image/Image Size) and change the height from it’s original size (something big, can’t remember) to 500px. IMPORTANT: This will tell the action to ONLY change the height of every image you use it on. NOT the width. So if you run this Action on a landscape oriented image as opposed to this portrait oriented image, those files will be larger than the portraits because the height of a landscape image won’t be reduced by as much. Confused? So say this image was originally 1000px tall by 700px wide. We take it to 500px tall (constrained so there’s no image distortion) which makes the image 350px wide. Now for the same size image, but laid on it’s side in landscape mode. It starts as 700px tall and 1000px wide. Run the Action and it goes to 500px tall (because we’re only telling the action to adjust the height) and 714px wide. Get it? The resulting file is almost twice the data (something like 512k vs 1.02mb in this case).

We’ve also told it to make every image 72dpi from the original 300dpi. So now, it’s going to take every image we run the action on and constrain the height to 500px and the dpi to 72. In Photoshop 6 at the top of the dialogue box, it shows that the file originally was 23MB and will be 522k – which sounds scary, but we haven’t hit save yet! (Also, not a bad idea to only run this Action on a copy because you’ve already backed up your originals on a separate drive like a good photographer anyway!)



Step 5.

Next, we are going to add a “Save As” step to the Action.


You can see we have a separate folder called “Web Images”. IMPORTANT: NOW, Make sure you save these somewhere other than the original destination or else you might end up overwriting the original large file with this new small web file!


And, you can see that we drop the quality down to 10, just to make the file size a bit smaller. If you’d like to create an even smaller, better compressed web file, try File/Save For Web.



Step 6.

Now, Hit Stop Recording. And, that’s it! You’ve just created an Action that takes any open image and reduces the height to 500px, the dpi to 72, and saves it in the “Web Images” folder as a 10-level quality JPEG. All by hitting F1 or pressing the play button in the Action tab.




Play around with what you can add after you hit Record. I personally like levels, color correction, filters, stuff like that. And by setting those function keys, you can set up and add new capabilities to Photoshop that didn’t previously exist!

Next time, we’ll cover how to use those Actions without having to open the file, or hit a Function Key. Sound like magic? I know that if you’ve ever opened a hundred files to change the dpi to 72 for web loading, you really will think it’s magic when you watch those 100 files open and close on their own, while you sit back let Photoshop work for a few minutes compared to the hour you wasted doing it manually.

And, I know there are similar batch sizing, or even color correcting capabilities in Lightroom or other similar software. But, for my money, Actions are more powerful in the limitless possibilities that you might come up with to create a certain effect and apply to your images.

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