Hello, everyone, it’s Jennifer Valencia here with an article on how to write and use your own actions in Photoshop.
THIS IS EASY – I PROMISE! KEEP READING!
What’s an action? It’s a little macro - a mini program - that runs and does stuff to your photograph or layout in Photoshop automatically. For example, I turn many of my photographs to black and white, and the technique I use is considerably more complicated than just selecting the “desaturate” command. So I recorded the steps I usually take when I convert a photo to black and white. And now when I want my “usual” style of black and white, I just run the action on a color picture and it does all 27 steps for me. Voila! Instant black and white! If I have to convert 50 photos to black and white, that’s a large amount of time and mouse/clicking motion saved! And because the results of the action can be edited, I can still tailor individual pictures to suit my needs.
You can also write your own actions to save documents for the web (smaller sizes for posting to scrapbook galleries, for instance), for sharpening photographs, or changing the color cast. Here I’ll show you how to write an action to change the size and sharpen your 12×12 layout so it’s optimized for web upload.
First, open a .psd layout that you’re ready to share. You have to create the action “in real life” as you do the steps on a particular layout or photograph. So open a document that is similar in style to documents that will need the action.
REMEMBER – IT’S STILL EASY! KEEP GOING! (<—totally subliminal hint to get you to keep reading)
Here’s an example of mine — a layout I made about my dog, Pablo, and how he likes broccoli. (Seriously!) You can see that it’s a 12×12 layered .psd file with all the layers still intact.
Next I created an Action Set. Every action needs to reside inside an action set, just like your homework is stored in a folder, or your spaghetti sauce is stored in a jar. So before you can make the action, you need to make an Action Set for it.
You get to pick a name for your action set. Pick something that describes what your actions will do.
After you’ve created the action set, now you can start recording your action!
Remember that once you hit the Record button, EVERYTHING you do will be recorded. So be sure to do just the steps you need. Of course you can delete steps later on, after you’re done.
While your action is running, just do all the steps to your open document that you want to save and do to future documents. Here, we’ll start by flattening and resizing the document to 600×600.
Now that you’ve flattened the document, you can change the size. If it’s a 12×12″ scrapbook page, one of the most popular ways to resize is to change it to 72dpi and 600×600. Sometimes I just leave it at 300 dpi and set it to 600×600, because that works too. Hint: If you want the page RESOLUTION to be set at 72 ppi (dpi), set that FIRST. So before you change anything else, go into the Resolution field and enter 72. This will usually automatically reduce your Width and Height already, and then you can go ahead and change them to 600 and 600.
Now the document is reduced in size. If you want, you can hit the Stop Recording button right now. However, let’s go ahead and add sharpening using the High Pass Filter. You could just as easily add sharpening using the Unsharp Mask, but I’ll use High Pass here because it’s come up quite a bit in recent discussions on the message boards. If you DO prefer to use the Unsharp Mask, our own site owner & guru Gennifer Bursett says she likes to use settings such as 84%, 1.1 pixels, and threshold is at 4. And our CT member Emilie Stevenson says that she likes to use Amount 150%, radius 0.3 pixels, threshold = 0. (here’s a link to the post where we’re all discussing sharpening!) Using the Unsharp Mask is one of the most popular ways to add sharpening to small layouts to make the “pop” in web galleries. Thanks to our CT member Barbara Unzen for getting the topic going – there’s been some great discussion on that thread!
The first thing to do is to duplicate the background layer. It’s ALWAYS a good idea to sharpen on a duplicate layer — that way you can turn the sharpening off and on to see how it has changed, and you can reduce the opacity if it’s too sharp.
Now with that duplicate layer highlighted, select Filter — Other — High Pass. Add 0.5 to the radius box and hit OK.
Now change the layer mode of the duplicate layer from Normal to Vivid Light.
Now reduce the opacity of that top layer to 60%. And then hit the Stop Recording Button.
At this point, you have an action that does the following:
- Flattens your multi-layer document into a single layer
- Changes the image size to 600×600 pixels
- Adds a High Pass Sharpening Layer to make the layout “pop” when you post it
It’s always important to test your action to make sure that you recorded it correctly! So open another document that needs to be resized, and run the action.
The action we wrote here does NOT save your file as a .jpg — it just makes the image smaller and adds a sharpening layer – so you can save it separately when you are ready. Click the sharpening layer off/on to see if you like it, further adjust the opacity on the sharpening layer as needed, then reflatten the image and save it as a .jpg with whatever name you like. I often name my small web files “XXX for web.jpg”. So the layout entitled “Garden 4.psd” becomes “Garden 4 for web. jpg” after I prepare it for the web.
If you are sure that you ALWAYS want the sharpening included just as written in the action, and don’t need to review it, you can change your action to do more things. Instead of stopping the action after you make the sharpening layer, you could keep recording and add the following steps:
- Flatten the image
- save as .jpg (you can specifiy which folder it gets saved into)
- close the file when done
I have a separate folder called “Images for Web” saved on my drive. When I shrink my layouts for the web, I typically save them in that “Images for Web” folder for easy access later on when I need to upload them.
I hope that this tutorial helped you feel more comfortable understanding actions, and even trying to write one of your own. Please download the free action I created that does sharpening using the High Pass filter. Included in the download is a manual full of screen shots to help you use the action. Thanks for reading, and happy scrapping! (And action-using!)
Here’s the free action download link here at Pixels & Co, and below is a picture of the preview. I hope you enjoy it!