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Speed up your tasks – how to create Photoshop actions

If it feels like you’re sometimes either juggling or plate spinning while working in Photoshop then maybe you need to set up some Photoshop actions. Actions are a group of well, actions, that happen more or less with a click of a button. So for example, you can change an images’ ‘Mode’ from 16 bits to 8 bits (to enable the image to be saved as a jpeg for example) and rotated by 180 degrees in addition to any number of other desirable things without having to go through each task’s individual processes to complete.

The idea here is that you save time on mundane tasks that you have to repeat a fair bit. Here’s how.

managing photoshop can sometimes feel like plate spinning..

My other business (Slide to Digital) scans 35mm slides and converts them to digital images. It provides a great service for people wanting to recapture memories (dating back as far as the 1950s sometimes) and see them easily on a PC and share them. When you’re dealing with up to 2,000 slides, creating actions reduces the time spent on the basic tasks I have to complete for each slide dramatically. So I’ll use that as an example:

open photoshop actions palette

Open an image
Open an image that you can use as a template to create your Photoshop actions.

Then click the arrow that looks like a video play icon (red circled in image 1) and you will then expand your options to reveal the actions palette – it should now look something like image 2.

Record a Photoshop action
Now we can create an action. I’d suggest a practice run through of what you want to record first so that you get it right, this way you record a neat action rather than one that goes all over the place before arriving at it’s destination!

Ok, now we’re ready to create a new Photoshop action. See the little red circle on image 2? If you hover over that it will say “Create new action” and will nest the new action under the ‘Default Actions‘ folder that already exists, if you want to create a new folder (or set), move your cursor one place to the left and it will say “Create new set” and you can click this to do so.

We’re just going to create a new Photoshop action here, so click that and you will get a pop-up box in which you can name your action (if you have a few, it’s a very good idea not to skip this part!) to whatever is likely to prompt you as to what it is a month down the line; if you’ve created a few sets, then the option is there to add it to one of those sets.

create new photoshop action

Function key
We’re aiming to save some time with our actions, so this part is crucial. Basically, you can set which keys trigger the action you are about to create.

Choose either Shift or Command and any of the F keys from the dropdown box. Once set, you can trigger all the tasks and functions you have recorded in your action by simply pressing (for example) ‘cmd’ plus ‘F10’. If you’re really new to Apple, the ‘command’ button is the one either side of the standard wireless Apple keyboard with the apple on it).

Next, hit ‘Record‘ and you will see a little red circle light up on the Actions palette to show you that you are in record mode – just like an old tape recorder or any other recording device. No smoothly go through your chosen functions / tasks that you want to record, once you are done, click the little square on the left of the red record circle to stop recording your action.

If you make a mistake, the bin icon on the far right of the icons will remove your action. Now you have a Photoshop action set up forever more that will speed up those mundane tasks that you have to do over and over again. They will soon become second nature and you will wonder why you hadn’t heard of, or used,  Photoshop actions before!

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