Actions! {The Basics}

If you are a photographer, you have undoubtedly heard people refer to “actions” when they talk about editing. Actions are just a series of recorded steps that are created to save you time when editing. You can find tons of free actions, you can purchase actions, and you can even create your own!

Let’s start with a few free ones, shall we?

Pioneer Woman has two sets of free actions that you should definitely download. Great place to start learning actions! You can download Set 1 and Set 2 on THIS page. Click the name of the action to download it and save it to your computer. (Remember where you saved it too! Maybe created a folder specifically for actions!). Once it is saved to your computer, go find it in the folder.

Right click on the icon and click Extract Files. Your computer will pop up asking if you want to extract, just click yes. The computer will do all the extracting for you. 
Next you will go to the extracted folder and look for the ATN file. It will look like this.
Go open Photoshop, it is now time to add the action to you Action Palette! You will go up to Window>Click Actions so it is selected.

Once you click that a window should pop up on your screen. PS does come with some default actions so the actions palette will not be empty. You are going to click on the little icon with an arrow and lines in the right hand side of the Actions Palette and then scroll down to Load Actions.
Once you click Load Actions it is going to go to the menu, you will need to scroll for your action and look for the atn file you extracted.
After you highlight the action you are wanting to load, click the Load button. Photoshop will automatically upload it for you into your Action Palette.
Now we are going to run the action…..
Pull an image into Photoshop that you want to work on using File>Open and then go select whatever image you want to bring in and work on.
Here is how my screen now looks.
If your screen is not displaying the layers (the box on the right side of the screen), just go up to Window>Layers and then your Layers palette will pop up.
We are going to scroll through our actions and find the Pioneer Woman Set 1 we just downloaded. Yours should be at the bottom of your layers palette. (Mine is up farther since I have already downloaded it a long time ago! ☺)
Just find the action and click on the arrow to left of the name of the action. It will then display all the actions within the set. To run the action you want, simple click the name of the action and then click the play button at the bottom.
PS will automatically play the action for you. Your screen will now look like this…..
As you can see now, the action has played and has become a layer on the image. I am not completely liking the result, so I am going to open up the layers within the action to tweak it. So click that little arrow right by the folder and the action name.
I can turn off the entire layer by clicking the little eyeball icon at the very left of the layer.
If you click on a layer and it highlights in blue, you can now tweak that layer however you want. You can change the opacity of just that one layer by highlighting the layer and clicking opacity in the right corner of the layers palette.
If I want to just decrease the overall effect of the entire action and not just bits and pieces, I can do that as well.
Just click the arrow to the left of the name of the action to close it and then click the opacity button just like you were doing on the individual layers. Doing it this way changes the WHOLE action.
If you edit and you love what you have done, just flatten your layers. You can go up to Layer>Flatten Image. If you don’t like what you did and have decided that you don’t like that action….you can trash the whole action from that image. (It still stays in your actions palette, just not on that image!)
You can highlight the layer and drag it down to the trashcan icon in the bottom right of the layers palette. Or while it is highlighted you can just click the trashcan icon. It will ask if you are wanting to deleted the group and contents. If I am trashing an entire action, I have it delete the group and contents.
You can run actions and then run another action over it. Sometimes the actions do not like to play well with one another, so if you are happy with what you have done you can do one of two things at this point before you run the other action on top of it.
  1. You can merge your layers so you are starting fresh.
  2. You can click on Window>History to make sure your history folder is up. Then once it is go to the little camera icon at the bottom and click that. It will save a snapshot of what you have done so far so that you can refer back to it while you are editing. When you save the image all of that disappears so don’t save until you are absolutely sure you are done.

Once everything is the way you like it, it is time to sharpen and save.
Go to Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask and change the numbers to
Amount: 50%
Radius: 4.3
Threshold: 7
Then click File>Save as> and add the new name for your final image.

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