One of the easiest ways to expand your image editing skills and abilities in Photoshop is by using Actions, pre-recorded adjustment steps that automate image processing.
Working with actions is as simple as clicking one button. Photoshop does the heavy lifting by automatically applying multiple settings to your image. You can create amazing effects without having to go through and set each filter, adjustment layer or other customization. Pretty great, especially if you have a lot of pictures that require the same settings.
Adobe offers some premium actions sets for sale but you can get loads of free ones by searching around the Web. Phototuts+ has a nice collection of 100 actions at no cost to download. Alternatively, you can create your own actions sets by recording a series of your adjustment steps to apply to future images.
Today we’ll learn how to install and use actions in Photoshop.
To install the actions sets select the actions files (ends in .atn) one at a time and move them to the Photoshop Actions folder. For me the pathway on my Mac is:
Applications > Adobe Photoshop CS5.1 > Presets > Actions
Once moved to their new locations select the action files, right-click and open with Photoshop.
The actions files that we just installed are located in the ‘Actions’ palette. Make sure the palette is visible by selecting it:
Window > Actions
You should now see the Old Tones and Vignette actions displayed in the palette.
Open an image to process with the actions sets. Some pictures will work better than others depending on the desired type of effect. The actions we just loaded work well to create a haunting vintage look. So, for this tutorial I am using a picture taken at an antiques fair.
With an image opened we can now start processing. Select ‘Old tones action’ and click the ‘Play selection’ button. This should create a noticeable change to your picture.
Next select ‘Darker hue effect action’ and click play.
Then select the ‘Add sharpness’ action and click play.
Finally select the ‘Vignette’ action and again click play.
That’s all there is to it. Working with actions is quick and easy way to creatively transform your pictures without a lot of effort. Play around with some of the other free actions sets available online. A word of caution: limit the amount you download since having too many options may leave you overwhelmed and paralyzed. Start with a handful and enjoy.