Speed up Your Editing Workflow with Photoshop Actions


Actions are one of those little features within Photoshop that don’t jump out at you right away, but for photographers and artists who repeat the same steps over several images, they can be a blessing like no other. Like many of Photoshop’s customizable features, actions are loved by those who know them and basically overlooked by those who don’t. However, automating some of the actions that you perform again and again can save you a lot of editing time, which is especially beneficial if you’re running on a tight publication schedule.

In this tutorial, we are going to take a beginner’s look at using actions in the simplest way possible: to rotate a vertical image. This basic introduction will help you understand how actions work and how to set them up. First, we will go over how to create the actions that will allow you to rotate your image with a single click. Next, we will show you how to use those actions in conjunction with Batch, Photoshop’s editing command, to watermark an entire folder of files with just a few clicks.

An action, in simple terms, is just a set of memorized steps that you teach Photoshop. Actions can be as simple as a single rotation, or multi-level—comprised of several steps performed in sequence—such as resize > place watermark > save for web > close. Teaching Photoshop to remember the steps you take is as simple as pressing Record in the Actions window, going through the steps you want the program to remember and then stopping the recording.

Creating an Action

1. So let’s say you want to create an action for rotation. Once you have opened your image up in Photoshop, locate the Actions window, which is minimized as a Play button and looks like this:


Some users will not have the Actions window open by default. If your Actions window is not already loaded, load it by going to Window > Actions.

2. Once your Actions window is open, click on the New Action button and name the action in the dialog window that appears. Here you will also have the option of placing the action into a set, aka a folder (see protip below); assign a function key for quick access and even color-code the action. For our purposes, you need only name the action and then click Record.

Protip: Once you begin to really use actions, your Actions window may become confusingly packed. Organizing your actions into folders by type makes finding your actions easier once you have built up a collection. In the image above, you can see that there are several folders in my Actions window—Default Actions, MA, SFC and Basic Operations—each containing information particular to the publication the action set references, such as header image cropping or watermarking actions. Create a folder by clicking the Folder icon next to the New Action button.

3. Hit the Record button in the Actions’ palette and go through the motions of your action. The Record button will be red, which means Photoshop is recording your steps. For our purposes, we are going to rotate our image by going to Image > Image Rotation > 90° CCW.

recording action

The image will rotate and you will notice that “Rotate first document 90° CCW” is now listed as an action. Since our tutorial is focused only on rotation, we can stop our action recording by clicking on the Stop button in the Actions’ palette. However, if your action has more steps, you simply continue going through the motions until you have completed all the steps in your action and then hit stop.

Protip: Assigning a function key to basic functions such as rotation can make editing even faster, omitting the need to open the Actions window to trigger the function.

Batch Processing

Batch processing applies the steps within an action one by one to multiple images. This is especially useful if you have an entire set of images to rotate or watermark. Of course, in order to allow this feature to work, you need to have created some actions, or have loaded some that you downloaded. Keeping with our rotation theme, we will cover how to rotate an entire folder of images at once.

First, open the Batch window, which can be opened by going to Photoshop’s menu bar > File > Automate > Batch.

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 12.52.58 PM

Under Play: Set, you will look for the folder into which you placed your newly created rotation action.

Under Play: Action, look for the actual rotation action.

Source: Folder will allow you to select entire folders at a time. Keep in mind that this is a batch process, so you will not be able to select individual files.

Destination: None will keep your images open in Photoshop after they have been rotated. This will allow you to continue to edit them as you see fit. If there is no additional editing, then select OK.

Destination: Save and Close will save the rotation to the original file and close the image within Photoshop. You can also choose to keep the original image as a backup.

Destination: Folder will allow you to create a new folder and even give the saved images created during the batch process a new name if needed.

You can leave the box for Override unchecked until you get comfortable enough with actions to create your own save-commands, which are useful when saving for the Web. Also, we recommend you leave Errors: Stop for Errors the way it is since it will only stop the action if, for some reason, there is a step in the action it cannot find.

Once the OK button is clicked, you can sit back and watch as Photoshop opens your images and rotates them one after the other, or take these few minutes of newly acquired “me time” to sip your coffee by your window. Vitamin D does a body good.

Protip: You don’t have to create all your own actions yourself. Check out this list of 100 free actions that you can load into your Photoshop for fun photo effects, such as filters and color corrections.






Category: Tutorials