How to Use Photoshop Actions

December 26th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

If you have no idea what a Photoshop Action is, take a few moments to read What is a Photoshop Action. Once you’re caught up, proceed with the steps below to install and use the Photoshop Action.

Step 1

Download the desired Photoshop Action file. Most times it may be compressed in a zip file. Unzip it. The Photoshop Action file will have a .atn extension.

Check the “Photoshop Actions” column on the right bar of our website for a list of free Photoshop Actions you may download.



Step 2

Copy the .atn file into the Actions directory.

For PC Users: C:\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop\Presets\Photoshop Actions

For Mac Users: It is within your Applications > Photoshop > Presets > Actions


Step 3

Open Photoshop. If you had Photoshop open during the above steps, you will need to restart Photoshop for the Actions to show up.

In Photoshop select the “Window” menu at the top, and select “Actions” to open up the Actions window.

The window like the one below should pop up and the Action should now show up in the list.


How to Use a Photoshop Action

Now that you have the Photoshop Action installed and ready to go, we can go ahead and use it. It is first important to determine what kind of Action you have. In the Actions window, click the little triangular arrow beside the folder icon of your desired Action (to expand it).

Type 1: Photoshop Actions that create a template for you

Some Photoshop Actions will have the “Step 1” action. This might be labeled as “Create” or “Create Template”. Basically you simply run this step first without doing anything. This step will open up a document at the right size for you with a basic template. After you modify the template and add your images/text ect, you run the “Step 2” of the action which may be labeled something along the lines of “Render”. You will usually find Actions with Steps like this for more complicated Photoshop Actions, such as ones that create book covers or CDs.

Type 2: Photoshop Actions that do NOT create a template for you:

Simple Photoshop Actions like those that apply filters/effects to photographs will most likely NOT have the “Step 1 Create Template” to open up a template for you. If you think about it, you actually don’t need a template per say because your photographs can be of any size!

Type 3: Photoshop Actions that have multiple bundled effects/variations:

Some Photoshop Actions files will have multiple variations of the effect, as well as auxiliary actions that compliment the main action. If this is the case, you only apply one of these Actions at a time. If you don’t like it, undo it, and try another variation.

Step 4

Determine which of the above kinds your Photoshop Action is. If it has a “Create” step then first run that so it will open up a template for you. Else, you will have to start by first opening the image/document for which you wish to apply the Photoshop Action to (File > Open).

If you’re using an image you’ve been editing in Photoshop, you will want to first ensure that there is only one layer (so that the Photoshop Action knows wont mistakingly use the wrong layer). To do this select the Layers drop down menu and select “Flatten Image”.  You can also opt to File > Save for Web , save it as a jpg, and then re-open the jpg using File > Open. It’s all the same thing, just make sure your document only has one layer!


Step 5

With the desired image now opened, select the desired Photoshop Action from the Action’s window. (if there are multiple variations of the effect, select one) and press the play icon at the bottom of the Action’s window.

Now sit back and watch as an array of actions get performed. Ocassionaly you may get Layer Style windows popping up. Simply click “OK” without changing any settings. You also may get text prompts advising you of whats being done.Once its all done, you’ll end with your final product.

Step 6

Now you are ready to export this image. Go to File > Save for Web and choose either JPEG, GIF, PNG or whatever format you desire.

If you got lost anywhere in the process, feel free to drop a comment below and we will try to help out!

By Chari Ross