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Photoshop Actions

As intuitive as the Photoshop interface is, it can be quite cumbersome for some. This is especially true when you need to do a certain task or even worse, a group of different tasks repeatedly. For instance, let’s say you have a group of 40 images and you need to resize them to a smaller size and then convert them to grayscale for your online photo album. Now, this isn’t really a complex task, but 40 images?! No matter how fast your fingers move, it’s going to take quite a bit of time and a few cups of coffee to get that done. The people over at Adobe knew this would happen and that’s why they packed a nifty little feature in Photoshop that unfortunately many of us don’t know about or simply overlook. I am talking about Photoshop Actions.

Go to Window, Actions to show the Action window. What is an action? An action is a series of recorded steps. You can record an action anytime while you are carrying out a series of operations in Photoshop. Why would you want to record your steps? Let’s take the above hypothetical example of converting 40 images to grayscale. Now, in scenario one, you could convert all 40 images manually by using the Image Mode, Grayscale choice and then resizing it. Or you could manually do this to the first image, record your actions and replay the action on all the other images. Suddenly it all makes sense, doesn’t it?!

Alright, so let’s get started. To create an action, click on the Create New Action button at the bottom of the actions palette. In the little window that pops up, give the action a name and save it in the specified set. By default, Photoshop will save all new actions into the Default actions set. It’s preferable that you create a new set and save your custom actions there. (Just in case you’re wondering, a set is nothing but a folder). To create a new set, click on the Create New Set button at the bottom of the actions palette.

Now, in this action, we are going to make the size of the image smaller and convert it to grayscale. Create a new action and give it a name. I named my new action “Grayscale Resize” so that later on, I’ll remember the purpose for which I recorded it. Now, open the image and perform the steps manually after switching the action recorder on. Click on the little circular Record button at the bottom of the palette. It will turn to a bright red color to indicate that recording has started. No performance anxiety yet? Good! Then let’s keep going!

Next, go to Image, Image Size and change the size of your image to a smaller size. Then, by using the desaturate feature, convert it to grayscale. This is where you’ll press the little square button to stop the recording of the action and bada bing! You’re done! All the steps we went through have been recorded in the action that we created.

Now, if you want to apply the same setting to another image or 39 others, all you have to do is open the images, go to the actions palette, highlight the grayscale resize action and press Play. It’s as simple as that! Now, you can sit back and watch as Photoshop executes all the steps of the action at turbo speed. This sure will save you quite a bit of time.

Here I have demonstrated a rather simple example, but as you incorporate more and more complex operations into actions, you will see the real magic of this. Now, if only we could have something like this in our real lives. I am scared to think what chaos that would entail! : )

~ Yogesh Bakshi