PFB: Actions! They Speak Pretty Loud

Hello again and welcome to another Photoshop tutorial,

Today: Actions, how to use them and how to make them.

Feature ImageSml

First off lets start with what an action is in Photoshop. Actions are preset steps that can be saved in a sequence so that it can be used again and again instead of manually redoing each step yourself. Basically it’s a huge time saver if you have the same effect you want to apply to multiple images or documents. Actions can be made by you or found online and downloaded to be used any time. As with any tool we need to know where to find it first, the button that looks like the “play” symbol is the actions menu. If you don’t have it as part of your side panel already it can be found in Window>Actions or by using the hotkey Alt+F9.

Actions MenuThe actions menu, as seen on the left here, opens up to reveal all currently active actions. As you can see the default actions folder is open and I can browse the actions that came installed with Photoshop. By clicking on the little purple arrows the steps of each action are shown. If you would like to run and action, simply select the title and the play button at the bottom will become active. Once you hit play the action will start going through each of the preset steps to carry out the effect. Depending on the type of action and the author all the layers and effects will show up in your layers panel once the action has been completed. In the series of photos below I will demonstrate how to use an action on a photo.

Using Actions

Now that we know how to use an action let’s try and make one. One of the first things you will need to do is get a photo. For this tutorial I will use this photo of a gull from the animals tab in my Gallery, if you want to follow along exactly grab that photo or find one of your own.


We are going to do a simple HDR effect that is not too crazy and can be used on many different photos. (For those of you that are unaware HDR stands for High Dynamic Range which brings our the darks and brights in a photo.)

  1. Open the image you have chosen to work on.
  2. HRDNewIn the Actions menu select the new action button and this menu will pop up. You have the option to name your new action, select which folder to house it under and even set if you want a key function (that is a hotkey) if you plan on using this action a lot.
  3. Hit Record (red circle) to start recording the steps you take.
  4. Click in the layers panel on your base layer.
  5. Add an adjustment layer of Curves with a 2 point S curve. Set the first point to output: 76 input: 99 and the second point to output: 183 input:168 (Refer to picture below)
  6. Add an adjustment layer of Levels set to 17    1.20    255 in the slider boxes. (Refer to picture below)
  7. Add an adjustment layer of Vibrance set to vibrance of +25 and saturation of +9 (Refer to picture below)
  8. In the actions menu hit the stop button. You have now successfully made an action.

Vibrance Levels Curves

This is the end product.Gull

Now any time you wish to use your HDR action just open up the actions menu and select is and press play. This actions didn’t really save you that much time but sometimes there are a lot of steps to take and using the knowledge you gained here can save you a lot of time in the long run. Have fun making some new actions and experimenting with them. I would love to see some of what you come up with and even try out some of your actions.

Stock for the Feature Image was found through Google and I claim no ownership of the images that were used to make the image. Mr. Statham was not consulted about using his image but he’s an awesome guy and I’m sure he would be ok with it. If you are not Mr. Statham could you please contact me and I will change the photo.


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