As an artist, one of the most useful tools in my digital arsenal is the Actions Palette in PhotoShop. An Action is a way to record a sequence of frequently used operations that you can save and play back on other images, or on an entire folder of images at once.
This one tool has saved me countless hours of time that I used to spend doing repetitive tasks to the digital images of my art — such as resizing them, making image adjustments, and creating thumbnails.
The following is a step by step example of recording an action on one typical image to resize it, add a watermark, and save it as both a PhotoShop file and for the web; then I’ll explain how, with a few clicks, you can use that action on entire folders of images.
Make sure that you have prepared all your source images: that they have been neatly cropped, color-corrected and saved with meaningful filenames. I find this whole process works best when I name my images by their title, and save them in folders named for the image size, type and purpose.
To be sure you do not write over your original high resolution images, before proceeding further, create destination folders for your various desired image sizes and types, such as “Website PSDs,” “Website JPGs,” and “Website Thumbs.”
Recording an Action
- Open one of your typical source images.
- On your Actions palette, click on the tiny down arrow and 3 horizontal lines at the upper right, then click on “New Action…”
- Give your action a meaningful name, then click “Start Recording.” PhotoShop will now record the whole set of commands you perform on your image, until you tell it to stop.
- Click on “Image,” “Image Size” in the top main menu, make sure “Constrain Proportions” is checked, and type your desired width in the width box; then click “OK.”
- To add a watermark, select the Type tool, set your desired color, font, font style, size and alignment. Click on your image where you want the text, then type your watermark text.
- You may then want to style your line of text, perhaps changing the opacity and adding a light drop shadow.
- Next, click on “File,” Save as…” and save the file in your desired folder. Do not change the filename, as that will cause problems for you when you run your actions on other images.
- Export using “Save for web.” I generally find the “JPG High” preset options to be a good trade-off between size and quality for web images of artwork or photographs.
- You could continue to resize and crop your image to create thumbnails or you can stop your action at this point. To stop it, click the square “Stop Recording” button on the bottom of the Actions palette.
You now have your first custom action.
Running an Action
As long as you included your destination folder(s) for your new smaller files when you recorded your action, you can just let the action run until it has processed your whole folder of images. And that’s it!
PhotoShop Actions are very powerful time-savers. Play with them a bit to discover the best sequence of useful steps for your images. It may not be long before you have created a whole library of your own actions.
There are also many preset actions that you may find very useful (or just fun to fool around with). Should you run into any problems using Actions, you can find out more detailed information in the PhotoShop Help files.
If you haven’t been using Actions for preparing your digital image files, I think you will find them to be really quite invaluable.
Did you find this tip useful?