Quick ways to automate in Photoshop - Part 1: Creating an Action

 Apr 14, 2015

Did you know you can have Photoshop record the steps you take to modify a file and then replay these same steps on another file or even a batch of files? It’s very easy and you have nothing to lose as you simply record the tasks you already have to do.

Let’s use preparing images for a website as an example. You have a website that requires many images to be:

  • Cropped/resized to 570x320 pixels
  • Exported as JPEGS

This is easy to do, but repeating this without any automation takes precious time from your other work.

Recording an Action

  1. Decide which steps you are going to take prior to recording your action steps and have all your assets ready.
  2. In Photoshop (any version from the last decade will work), access the Actions panel: Window (menu) > Actions.
    Quick ways to automate in Photoshop - Part 1: Creating an Action
  3. I would suggest taking the preliminary step of creating a new folder in the panel AKA an “Action Set” for your custom actions: Actions Panel Menu > New Set.
    Quick ways to automate in Photoshop - Part 1: Creating an Action
  4. With the action set selected, create a new Action: Actions Panel > New Action.
  5. You can add a shortcut and colour code it, if this helps.
    Quick ways to automate in Photoshop - Part 1: Creating an Action
  6. Now click Record.
  7. Your first step should be to record a Snapshot in your History panel: Window > History > Click the Snapshot button at the bottom of the panel. Why?
    • This is a good safety to allow you the flexibility to return to your file’s previous state after running a short or lengthy action.
    • Keep in mind Photoshop’s History Panel, by default, is usually set to only keep track of the last 20 steps (AKA States) you've taken. The amount of states can be altered in Photoshop CC (via Edit > Preferences > Performance). The exact location in Preferences may vary per Photoshop version.
    • By creating a snapshot, you can return to the pre-action image easily if you change your mind. Be aware, the file must still be open as Snapshots and History States do clear when you close your file.
      Quick ways to automate in Photoshop - Part 1: Creating an Action
  8. Next perform the steps that you want Photoshop to do.
    Quick ways to automate in Photoshop - Part 1: Creating an Action
  9. You can also record yourself saving the file if you wish to specify the file type and location as part of your action. Photoshop can do this for you when you batch process an action across multiple files.
    Quick ways to automate in Photoshop - Part 1: Creating an Action
  10. If you are confident that you will not need to modify the file or undo your actions, you can even record yourself closing the file (caution: your history steps for closed files will be cleared).
  11. When you've finished recording, make sure to click the square stop button at the bottom of the Action panel.
  12. Run your action on any open file by clicking the Play button at the bottom of the Action panel.
    Quick ways to automate in Photoshop - Part 1: Creating an Action

In Part 2 and 3, I'll show you how to first modify your actions and then how to run them across multiple files with Photoshop's Batch Process. We'll also see how you can backup your actions as well as access existing action sets given to you by Adobe and others.

Till then have a great time Photoshopping your creative world.

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About the Author:

Katherine Davis  

With over 15 years of experience, Kate is one of New Horizons most knowledgeable and skilled Desktop Applications and Graphic Design trainers. She approaches each training event with an understanding of the student’s perspective and with their learning goals in mind. Her extensive knowledge and dynamic training style enables her to engage users of all varying skills levels and ensure that each student’s learning goals are achieved. Kate is especially well known around the New Horizons office for her creative flair and talent in using the Adobe suite. She takes a genuine satisfaction from helping students solve issues and always makes an extra effort to ensure that students have an enjoyable learning experience.

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