Adobe Photoshop

What are Photoshop Actions? 4 Reasons to Use Them

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Written By Nate Torres

Photoshop Actions are a powerful tool that can help photographers and designers to streamline their workflow, save time, and achieve consistent and professional results. But if you’re new to the world of Photoshop, you may be wondering – what are actions, and how can they benefit me? In this article, we’ll explore the answers to these questions and more.

This is a guide covering Adobe Photoshop actions.

We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):

What are Photoshop Actions?

Photoshop Actions are like a set of tasks (or macros) that you can apply to multiple photos in bulk. These sets of tasks can be applying some visual effects, changing the image size, or saving in a certain format. Photoshop Actions also include modal controls that allow you to control the values of certain actions.

Photoshop actions can be applied to any image that Photoshop can open.

There are also some Actions that are made specifically for specific types of images.

For example, there are some Photoshop Actions designed specifically for portraits, outdoor scenery, food, etc.

But why should you use Photoshop Action when you can just edit the pictures manually by yourself? What are the benefits of photoshop actions?

Photoshop Actions save time. A huge amount of time and energy can be saved by just using Actions. This gives you more time to rest, do extra editing, and generally improve your workflow.

photoshop actions

What are the Drawbacks of Photoshop Actions?

Unfortunately, there are some tasks that are not recordable. This includes custom tasks that you perform with tools.

As an example, Photoshop Actions are unable to crop a certain object from a scene, let’s say the face, and edit out the model’s teeth.

Before diving further into the capabilities of Photoshop Action, let’s talk about Photoshop Action Panels.

What are Photoshop Actions Panels For?

The Photoshop Actions Panel provides an overview of your current action set, and options such as record, play, edit, etc. This panel can be opened by opening the windows tab and clicking the actions option.

There are two modes, the default one is the List mode, and the other one is the Button mode.

The Button mode is more compact and convenient. Unlike the List mode, it only presents a list of buttons when you click it. Fast, easy, and compact.

The List mode is the default display, as its name implies, the list mode presents each action as a list of folders. Each folder can be clicked to see its content and steps. This mode is required if you want to record an action, or when you are editing individual steps.

The list mode itself has three columns, left, middle, and right.

The left column has checkboxes to select or deselect depending on your needs.

The middle column is toggled when an Action displays a dialog box. For example, when we use a certain action that creates a fading, a dialog box appears as a “modal control”. If this is deselected, then Adobe will use its default modals.

The right column shows the name of the actions. If you click the arrow pointing to the right, then the constituent steps of the action will be shown.

There is also a useful shortcut that is worth noting that can help you in selecting multiple Actions. First, click on the desired Action.

If you want to select multiple actions, then shift-click the said animation(s). If the desired actions are not back to back, then select them by using Ctrl-Click (for windows) or Command-Click (for Mac).

After understanding how the panel works and what its columns do, let’s get into how to install and more importantly, how to use Photoshop Actions.

To further explore how to use the Photoshop Action Panel, we also recommend this video by mahalodotcom:

Learn Adobe Photoshop - Actions Panel

How to Install and Use Photoshop Actions?

To answer this question in one fell swoop, let’s use an example. Say we are going to use Photoshop Action for portraits.

First of all, let’s look at how to install photoshop actions.

Move it to a chosen folder and unzip the Action file. Most of the time there will be a tutorial or requirements to use the action inside the zip file, this is particularly important since it can help you save a lot of time troubleshooting.

In the Actions window, proceed by clicking the menu icon that looks like a cheeseburger in the upper right corner and selecting Load Actions. Locate the action in the folder you previously saved it.

Now the action is installed, how to use Photoshop Actions?

To further explore how to install actions in Photoshop, we also recommend this video by Chad:

How to Install Actions in Photoshop CC 2019

How to Use Photoshop Actions?

After installing the Action, the last thing you need to do is to just select it. Then the action is ready for use!

The typical steps you would perform to apply an action to an image are:

  1. Turn on the Action window through the windows tab.
  2. Choose the Action that you want to be applied.
  3. To apply an Action, click the Play button (found at the bottom of the Action Window).
  4. In just one click, the Action will be applied to your image!
  5. After applying there should be an option to save it to a certain layer, as a whole document, or to merge it with another layer.

If the Action seems to make the contrast or brightness too strong, you can opt to lower its opacity.

This is how most Actions will work, for Actions that require masking there may be an additional step that needs to be performed.

to further explore how to use the actions, we also recommend this video by Morgan Burks:

How To Use and Install Photoshop Actions

Why Use Photoshop Actions?

So, what are Photoshop Actions offering the user?

As software that can deliver fascinating and high-quality results in just a few clicks, Photoshop Actions offers many benefits for its users.

Starting with saving your time and energy, to people guessing that you are an expert photographer. Now let us dive into these benefits, shall we?

1. It Saves You Time and Energy

Photoshop Actions can help you reduce the time used to edit each photo individually, which really saves you time and energy.

This speeds up your workflow, which allows you to generate finished photos as fast as possible.

Although there are often still likely to be some custom adjustments here and there, Photoshop Actions will pretty much do 80% of the job for you!

2. Gives You Professional and Stunning Results

Consistent and dazzling results are also one of Photoshop Actions’ strong points.

There are many actions out there that will provide your desired results, especially when you can buy Actions that are made by professionals!

Their Actions will also aid you in minimizing errors and help you get that perfect photo even faster!

Not to mention that these Actions can help you finish your picture within minutes.

3. Is it Really Worth Your Money?

You can buy a bundle of Actions from professionals or download a few of the free ones.

dollar sign

Another method is that you can make your own actions by using the Actions that you downloaded as a reference!

This is a good idea if you wish to fully personalize and give your photos that trademark look.

4. User Friendly

New software may seem to be daunting but worry not. Photoshop Actions are a simple feature.

Using this feature alone does not require you to be a master of photoshop, even beginners are able to use Actions. It is surprisingly easy to use despite its incredible powers.

Photoshop Presets vs. Actions – What is the Difference

If you have reached this point in the article, and you know presets, then you may be wondering what the difference is between Presets and Actions.

In general, these two features do the same thing, their goals are pretty much the same too!

To produce better, higher quality post-processing photos as fast as possible. But their differences become more noticeable when we start digging deep into their features and functions.

Which raises the question, what is the difference? What are Photoshop Actions’ advantages over Presets? What are Photoshop Actions’ disadvantages compared to presets? Well, let’s jump straight into the fray!

1. Comparison in Time Used

The step-by-step approach that Actions take, needs a few seconds to apply based on the complexity of the action.

If the Action chosen gives you an undesirable result, then you will need to delete or hide it and proceed to choose the next Action.

Although the time used in the process may not seem to be a lot, it can quickly build up when applied to large batches of images.

With Presets, the changes made are almost instantaneous.

If the result of a Preset is not good enough, the user need only hover their mouse onto another preset! This really saves the editors time and energy, especially in Batch Editing.

2. Control and Adjustability

Starting with Photoshop Actions, there are many ways to control and adjust your output image.

This can take a toll on your time and energy since there may be more than one control modal that you need to adjust.

One of the key advantages that Actions have, is the ability to mask out certain undesirable parts of an image.

With Presets, however, although there may not be any options to remove any object, adjustability is still its strong point. With only a few settings to meddle with, the impacts on the output image are greater.

Which is Better?

In the end, it is up to the user and what their needs are.

If you are someone who does not take many photos and just want to mask your photo in a certain way, then Actions would best suit your needs.

If you are someone who takes many photos at a party and needs to quickly process them then a preset may suit you.

If you need fast batch editing with results that you can easily control, then Presets would be your best bet.

You should always use the software features based on your needs, and perhaps learn both of them to get the most out of your picture! It should also be noted that Presets and Actions are unable to make a bad photo into a million-dollar photo.

These apps only help improve an already good photo, which means that photography skills are still important.

Final Remarks

Photoshop Actions are a “pre-recorded” set of actions that can be applied to any kind of image. The benefits offered by Actions include time efficiency, professional and polished results, ease to use, and worth every penny.

I also recommend checking out photoshop overlays.

Although there are striking similarities with Presets, both features have their own needs and advantages. Presets are better for faster less detailed edits, and Actions are for fast detailed edits that need custom changes to the photos themselves.

Do not forget to only download or purchase Actions from verified sources to ensure the quality and safety of your work.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Photoshop actions and presets?

Photoshop Actions and Presets are both tools that can be used to enhance and automate your editing workflow in Adobe Photoshop. However, while Actions are sets of recorded commands that can be applied to your images with a single click, Presets are pre-configured settings that can be applied to specific tools or effects in Photoshop to achieve a particular look or style.

What is the difference between a script and an action in Photoshop?

In Photoshop, a Script is a more advanced tool than an Action, as it allows you to create complex automated tasks that can perform multiple actions or even interact with other programs. Meanwhile, an Action is a simpler tool that records a series of steps within Photoshop and can be played back to automate repetitive tasks.