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Photoshop Actions: How To Install And Use Them

Last updated on May 28, 2024 by [email protected]

If you haven’t heard already, then let us be the first ones to tell you: Photoshop actions are extremely useful tools. This particularly holds true for those of you who have learned the basics of Photoshop but aren’t well-versed with the more complicated actions and tools. If your goal is to speed up your post-production workflow, an action could help you with a series of tasks that you play back on a single file or batch files and save time in the process. Menu commands, panel options, tool actions, etc., are some of the things that are part of Photoshop actions. Depending on the actions you have downloaded and installed, you can use them to perform different tasks without having to put in the extra work each time. Plus, they can also include steps that let you perform tasks that cannot be recorded (for example, using a painting tool). There are also other ways that actions can help streamline your workflow. To learn more about these actions, how to download, install, and use them, and basically reach a Photoshop expert level without actually being one, keep reading! 

What Are Photoshop Actions?

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Basically, actions are created when you save a bunch of steps into an automated process. For example, you can make an action that resizes an image and saves it in a particular image format in a specific folder. With actions, all of this can be done in one click. And we know that as a photographer, you appreciate the finer things in life (Photoshop) that can help you save time. In Photoshop, you can use these actions as is, customize them to meet your needs, or create new actions. To help you organize them, actions are stored in sets. You can customize, record, edit, and batch-process actions, and you can manage groups of actions by working with action sets. 

Like we said earlier, if you are not yet a pro at the more complex edits in Photoshop, like Photoshop plugins, Photoshop actions are one-click sequences that allow you to automatically make complex edits in seconds. While Photoshop comes with a few of them already downloaded and installed, there are also several other actions that you can download and install. But whether you download them for free or pay for them, make sure you check their license. Some are only meant for personal use, and not commercial, so do your research before you use them to avoid getting into any legal trouble. 

Suggested Read: How To Batch Resize Images In Photoshop

How To Download Photoshop Actions

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As in the case of Photoshop plugins and presets, you can buy and download actions for Photoshop from multiple places. Some photographers sell them, while others offer them for free. And you don’t even have to do hours of research; you can easily find them with one Google search. It’s a good idea to download the actions and install the ones that you need and then apply them to your tasks. 

How To Install Actions 

Step 1: Unzip The File

Once you have chosen and downloaded the actions you want, it’s time to install them. People usually bundle Photoshop actions into a ZIP file (.zip). Double-click the ZIP file in your file manager to unzip the contents. You will notice that the actions are saved as ATN files (.atn).

Step 2: Open The Photoshop Action Palette

To open the Actions palette, go to Window > Actions in Photoshop’s top menu. You can also click the Actions menu icon, which is the play button, in the right toolbar.

Step 3: Load The New Photoshop Action

In the top right corner, click on the Actions palette’s local menu button (four lines). And select ‘Load Actions’. Then locate the ATN file (.atn) you want to install and select it. Now, click on Open. Once loaded, the action will appear in the Actions palette.

How To Use Actions

Now that the actions you have selected are available in Photoshop, using them is pretty easy. Since they are meant to save time, using actions also means that you will have to put in less work even when you are making complex edits to your images. Whatever layer you have selected will be transformed using that action, and it’s truly remarkable how quickly it all happens. Below, we’ve jotted the steps you need to follow to use an action: 

1. Select the layer you want to apply the action to.

2. Select the action you want to use from your action panel.

3. Hit the Play button down at the bottom of the panel.

How To Organize Actions

Clicking on the New File option in Photoshop

For more convenience and ease of use, actions are usually organized into folders called sets. According to your editing needs, you can move Photoshop actions to and from sets. But to save time and make the most of actions, it is recommended that you group similar commonly used actions together. 

For example, you may want your image resizing actions in one set, and your skin softening actions in another. Hold the Command (Ctrl) key to select two or more actions. Or hold Shift if you want to select a range of actions. After you’ve selected the actions, click the Folder icon for creating a new set. Now, rename the actions and sets by double-clicking on them. If you want to remove an action, select it in the Actions palette. Next, click on the Trash Can icon to delete it.

Cut Down Your Post-Production Workload With Actions

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We understand that as a photographer, cutting down the time you dedicate to your post-production workflow might be easier said than done. But when you incorporate efficient strategies like plugins or presets or actions into your workflow, you do end up saving a huge chunk of time in the long run. Your business is most likely to benefit the most when you spend your time actually photographing. So if not an outsourced expert, why not let technology do the heavy-lifting for you? And what’s awesome about it is that you don’t even have to be an expert at Photoshop – all you need to do is just follow the steps we listed above and get the software to make even the most complex edits to your photographs with just a few clicks. However, unless you try, you’ll never know; so next time you open Photoshop, take a deep dive into actions and see how you can incorporate that into your workflow.

Further Read: How To Scale Your Photography Business

We are passionate about helping you grow your wedding photography business, and we know that in order to take your business to the next level, you need to make time. We hope this blog gives you some direction on how you too could save time and increase your productivity without compromising the quality of your work. 

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