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How To Use Photoshop Actions

How To Use Photoshop Actions

Some of the manipulation techniques in Adobe Photoshop can take many years of tuition and practice to learn, and even longer to properly master. Fortunately, this superior graphics editing package for Windows and OS X comes equipped with a feature called Actions, which allows users to save a series of edits into a single “macro” file, which can then be downloaded by another user and applied to any of their images.

This means that extremely complicated techniques for image manipulation, which would normally take time and expertise to devise, can be easily packaged up into a ZIP file and shared with users who do not have the time, inclination or knowledge to create such effects themselves.

There are thousands of Photoshop Actions available on the internet, which produce varying results – from creating vignettes, text effects, portrait effects, removing skin blemishes, to sepia tinting, and many more. Regardless of the end result of the individual effect, the process of executing an Action in Photoshop remains largely the same.

This guide will explore the use of the Pseudo HDR Action, from downloading the file archive, adding it to Adobe Photoshop, and applying the effect to a digital photo.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • 1

    With Adobe Photoshop installed on your system, download the Pseudo HDR Action from the URL provided. Photoshop Action files utilise the .atn extension. Because the files are different between OS X and Windows, Actions usually come in a ZIP archive with the Windows and OS X versions separated in different folders. Once downloaded, extract the relevant .atn Action file for your platform and place it on your desktop.

  • 2

    Launch Adobe Photoshop from your Start menu or desktop shortcut. After a few moments, the main application window is displayed.

  • 3

    Drag the Action file into the Adobe Photoshop window. The Action is now imported into the application.

  • 4

    Click File and Open then locate the image to be manipulated on your computer. The Action in this example produces an HDR-type effect (High Dynamic Range), so a good choice would be a photo taken outside, such as a landscape or city scene. If the image was taken on a low-end camera, so much the better).

    Double-click the image to open it in Adobe Photoshop.

  • 5

    Once the image is loaded, ensure it is flattened (Layer and Flatten Image) and select Window and Actions to display the required options for applying the imported Pseudo HDR effect.

  • 6

    In the Actions window, underneath Default Actions, you should see the Pseudo HDR Action folder. This contains each step required to produce the HDR effect. Expand the Pseudo HDR folder and click the first item within (also called Pseudo HDR).

  • 7

    The Play button along the bottom frame of the Actions window is now selectable. Click Play to begin running through each step in the Action. Click Continue in the first box, which states the name and author of the Action.

  • 8

    An introduction to the Action is displayed. Click Continue again. For the next two layer steps, simply click OK.

  • 9

    Each edit step in the Action is now individually presented, allowing you to make modifications to the pre-defined settings. This is optional, and if you are a novice Photoshop user and do not wish to make any changes, continue clicking OK.

  • 10

    When the sequence is finished, the image should look drastically different, and will hopefully resemble the kind of image produced by high-end photo imaging equipment.

Tips & Advice

  • Try restarting the process from scratch and making tweaks to each step as it is presented to you (e.g. play around with the colour levels and shadows). This will alter the end result, to a greater or lesser degree, and experimenting is a good way of learning how the process works.
  • Steps 1 -7 in the process are the same for applying all Photoshop Actions. Once the Play button is pressed, the effects that are unique to the individual Action start being applied, and from then onward, the process may vary.

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