Quick Look #5: Photoshop Actions

This week I’m going to have a look at automating Photoshop with the use of the Actions palette.

I’m using Photoshop CS4 but they apply back to CS2 at least, probably way beyond as well but anyway.

Actions are great, combined with automated batching they can save you a tremendous amount of time and if you do a search there are loads of free pre-​​made actions doing a whole manor of things.

Just as a side note the reason I don’t have many actions is because I only recently reinstalled Windows Vista and Photoshop and I didn’t back up any of my Photoshop files.

Okay then, the Actions menu can be found by clicking the Play-​​like symbol in a rectangle icon (below the History icon usually). Clicking this brings up a whole host of default actions that come with your Photoshop installation ranging from the Vignette effect to applying Gradient Maps automatically.

You can always play around with the various included ones but in this tutorial I’m going to be showing how you can apply a batch action like resizing or cropping.

Here I have a set of photos that I want to resize to a maximum width of 800 pixels so I can reduce their file size to upload to an online Portfolio, for example.

Let’s open one of the images up because before you can batch edit all the photos you have to tell Photoshop what actions you want carried out, this can be achieved by recording them. To set up a new action click the New button (highlighted below), this will bring up a New Action dialog box, give it a name and click Record.

Okay now you are in Record mode, anything you do now Photoshop will Record and the action will do when you play it through in batch edit. So you carry on with the previous example you will want to open up the Image Size option (Ctrl + Alt + I) and resize the width to 800 pixels. Then save and close making sure you save it in the correct format. Go back to the Actions menu and hit the Stop button.

If you make a mistake you can always stop it, delete the action and hit record again.

To make sure everything is working before you apply it to all your photos open up another photo and hit the Play button in the Action menu, Photoshop should now carry out the instructions by resizing the image, saving it and then closing it. Don’t worry if it isn’t properly animated, find the image in Explorer (or Finder) and you’ll see that the dimensions have changed.

Okay now it’s time to resize them all as a batch edit which can be found under File > Automate > Batch… this will bring up the following.

The action you just created should already be present and selected in the Action drop down menu, so all you need to do is choose the folder containing all your images by clicking the ‘Choose…’ button and then hit OK. You can tell it to save and close under ‘Destination’ but I prefer to specify it in my Action.

Photoshop will now work through all your images following the Action you just set up. You can halt it at any time by hitting the Escape key, this will not revert any changes it has already made. So it is still a good idea you keep a back up handy just in case something goes wrong.

Actions can do a whole lot more than just resizing images but I’ll leave that up to you.

That’s all folks.

3 Responses to “Quick Look #5: Photoshop Actions”

[…] Before getting started in Premiere Pro you’ll need to have taken your photos, copied them onto your computer and (in this tutorial) made them 1920 x 1080. I do this because 1080p is the best HDTV resolution you can get and also because on its lowest setting my camera takes 1920 x 1200 pixel photos so it’s easy to batch resize all my photos. To find out more about Photoshop Actions read Quick Look #5. […]

Putting together a Stop Motion animation in Premiere Pro - Craig Baldwin’s Blog added this comment on 06 Apr 09 at 12:01

Hello, really great post i appreciate you work!

Web Hosting added this comment on 23 Sep 09 at 22:50

really good!
It help me a lots.

nardulus added this comment on 23 Oct 09 at 09:48