Photoshop Actions - Everything you Need to Know

What are Photoshop Actions, how do you use them, how do you install them, how do you create them? These are all the questions we are going to answer in this BLOG.

Plus, at the end of this BLOG there will be a link with a FREE PS Action Download for sharpening your images! 

If you prefer video, here is the video that goes along with this BLOG:

What is a Photoshop Action?

First thing to understand is what a Photoshop Action is. It is quite simple: It is a set of steps that have been recorded in photoshop and then saved. This way you can "play" back those steps on other files without actually doing the steps yourself.
For example, let's take a routine you do every day. Say something at work. You walk in, sit down at your desk, pull out the day's paperwork, go through each page and verify it. You then sign it and put it in the outgoing. You move to the next until the whole pile of paperwork is done.
This action you do EVERY DAY! What if you could record those steps and each day, simply press PLAY and it's all done automatically in less than 3 seconds? That would be nice wouldn't it? This is essentially what a Photoshop Action is. 
Editing in Photoshop can be quite lengthy, Actions can help reduce the amount of time substantially. If there is a set of steps in Photoshop that you do on every photo, or a type of edit you use often, you can record and create an action which allows you to simply press PLAY and the action will automatically be done. This will save you all that time, every photo. 
Actions are similar to Presets. Instead of color adjustments saved for later use, it is the steps done from the time record is hit until the stop button is triggered.

How to Use Photoshop Actions

Photoshop Actions are very simply to use. You just need to understand what they do. If you created it, you will know when, where and how to use it. If you downloaded it from someone, most likely they told you where and how to use it in the video or BLOG where you got it from.
The action I am using for this example is a sharpening Action. It will add a touch of sharpening to any of your photos. You can apply it at any point but I recommend applying it when you are fully done editing your photo.
We're getting a little ahead of ourselves though. First where are actions located? They are usually located on the right side of Photoshop, just above the Layers Panel. Most of the time they are in with the 'Libraries', 'History' and other tabs like this. 
If you don't see it there, make sure the window is active. You can do this by going up to 'Window' and making sure Actions is selected.
Your Actions window should now appear on the right side. You can remove it from the side by clicking and dragging the tab away from the menu. Return it by clicking and dragging it back to the menu.
Now that you know where the Actions are and how to find them, how do you use them?
Choose the Action you want to use, in this case we will be using: 'Exploring Photography - Vivid Light Sharpening'
You will notice that the 'Play' button at the bottom is grayed out. This is because we have the folder that the action is in selected. Click the arrow to the left of the folder and the action will appear below it. 
Now the play button is click-able. 
Select the layer that you want the Action to start with and simply press Play!
Once you press 'Play' you will notice that the action has created a new folder with a bunch of new layers. These are the Sharpening Adjustments that were recorded previously. 
That is how simple using an action is. You could then double click on the Gaussian Blur and adjust the amount of sharpening you want to apply. You could add a layer mask on the entire group (Sharpening) and apply it to only certain parts of the image or adjust the opacity to adjust how much of the effect is affecting the image. 
But by simply using this action, you saved yourself about 5-10 minutes. That adds up! 

How to Import or Install an Action

 A Photoshop Action file has the extension .ATN and looks like this:
To import one into photoshop, simply click the three lines in the top right corner of your action window and click 'Load Actions'
Once you do this, navigate through your folders until you find the action you want to import, select it and click Open
Your action will now by in Photoshop and ready to use! 

How to Record an Action

 Recording an Action is very simple as well. First, create a folder and name it what you want. You can have multiple actions in one folder if you'd like. 
Next, select the folder and click 'Create New Action'. This is the square with the plus inside it. 
You can name it, set the folder you want it in, give it a hotkey (F1,F2, etc) and even give it a color label. Once you have it all set, press record.
You will notice the circle has turned Red. This means Record is on and all the adjustments you do from now on will be recorded. 
When you are done making your adjustments, simply press the 'Stop' button next to the record button and your action will be complete. 
You will notice that below your 'Action 1' is all the steps you did. They have been recorded under 'Action 1'. You can click the little arrow beside Action 1 to expand or contract the menu. However, at this point your Action is ready to use as explained above.

How to Export an Action

Finally, how do you save actions so you can share them with others?
In the Action window, make sure the folder is selected of the action you want to export, click the three lines in the top right again.
Select 'Save Actions...'
Find the folder you want to save it in and click 'Save' - Easy Peasy! 
And that wraps up how to use, create, import, export and work with Photoshop Actions. I hope this answered all your questions, feel free to comment below any questions you have, 

And if you'd like that free Sharpening Action, Click Here:

Here is the video on how that Sharpening Action works as well:

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