Artist Resources

How to Make Photoshop Actions

Make Some Noise

While the folks at Adobe are continually adding new features to their already powerful image-editing program, the one thing they have not added yet is assistants. Little robots that speed up those repetitive tasks and help you become more efficient overall. As it turns out, there have been little assistants in Photoshop for some time now, in the form of actions. These automated scripts can help you in so many ways, and all with the click of a button.

"Milky Way Over Mountains" by regnumsaturni

In this tutorial we’re going to make a simple action for converting an image to black and white, while adding some extra effects like crushed blacks. Once you master the process of making actions, you can make them for text-effects, film emulation effects, and much more.

Step 1

Open an new image in Photoshop. It’s from this document you’ll be creating the new action. Open the Actions menu, from here you can choose to create a new action, or new action set.

Step 2

Create a new action. In the popup window you can choose a name for your new action, add it to a set, assign a function key to quickly use the action, and a color that will be associated with the action in the menu. Now that your new action is created it’s time to add the steps.

Step 3

Hit the record button and start making changes to your document. Each of these changes will be recorded in the action. While these changes can be adjusted, even deleted after the action is created, it’s a good idea to take a test run and create a series of steps to follow. This way your action will be easy to create and there will be less adjusting afterwards. For the action in this example I added a few adjustment layers that will allow me to adjust the setting for any image this action is applied to. Click stop when you are done recording.

Step 4

Now that the main steps in your action are created, you can make adjustments. The check marks will enable or disable the that specific step. You can also turn on the icon next to it so that when the action is playing, it will pause so you can adjust the menu of that specific step.

Step 5

If you click the action menu again, you can add new menu items, stops, and even conditionals. A conditional will make your action more versatile. For example, in this action we could have a series of extra steps that only work when the image is square. These steps would be enabled if the image was square, otherwise it would play other steps in the action for landscape images.

Step 6

For the image below we added a sto, and placed it at the beginning of the steps. This allows us to add a welcome screen to the action. After you record your action it’s a good idea to do some fine tuning. Add some new items, rearrange stops if needed, and most importantly to test the action on a variety of images.

That’s it, you’ve created a new action. The great thing about actions, aside from aiding your creative process, is that you can share and even sell actions you have created. This is a simple action, but there are many that execute extremely complex processes. There is a benefit to using simple and complex actions, and even using actions when performing batch adjustments from the Automate menu. We hope you see the power in actions and are encouraged to make your own.

Did you find the tutorial helpful? Please let us know in the comments below, and share any tips you might have.

Make Some Noise


Photographer, art historian, freelance writer, and Community Manager here at Redbubble.