Photoshop Actions: A Quick Overview

One of the most valuable features of Photoshop is the ability to create and use actions. Photoshop actions provide a way to automate repetitive tasks and apply a series of predefined edits and adjustments to images with a single click. This saves time and effort, especially when working with multiple images or when trying to achieve consistent results across a set of photos.

Photoshop actions are sequences of automated tasks or commands that can be recorded, edited, and played back in Adobe Photoshop. They allow users to streamline their workflow and apply a series of preconfigured steps to images, achieving consistent and desired results with minimal effort.

Actions can encompass a wide range of operations, such as applying filters, adjusting color and tonal settings, resizing and cropping images, adding text or watermarks, creating special effects, and much more.

Use Cases of Photoshop Actions

Photoshop actions offer a wide range of applications and can be beneficial in various creative and professional scenarios. Here are some common use cases where Photoshop actions can be particularly useful:

1. Batch Processing

When you have a large number of images that require similar edits or adjustments, Photoshop actions can save you significant time and effort. You can create an action with the desired edits and apply it to a whole batch of images, automatically processing them in a consistent manner.

2. Photo Retouching

Photoshop actions can be used for retouching and enhancing photographs. Actions can include tasks like skin smoothing, blemish removal, teeth whitening, eye enhancement, and overall tonal adjustments. With a single click, you can apply a series of retouching steps to achieve a polished and professional look.

3. Special Effects

Actions are great for creating unique and artistic effects in images. They can automate processes like applying vintage filters, creating dramatic black and white conversions, adding light leaks, or simulating film grain. These effects can help enhance the mood and visual impact of your images.

4. Graphic Design

Photoshop actions are valuable for graphic designers working on projects like posters, flyers, or social media graphics. Actions can automate tasks like creating text effects, generating consistent color schemes, applying design templates, and resizing images to different dimensions.

5. Product Photography

Actions can streamline the editing process for product photographers. They can be used to apply consistent background removal, adjust colors to match branding, add drop shadows or reflections, and resize images for different platforms.

6. Photo Restoration

These can be helpful for restoring old or damaged photographs. Actions can automate tasks such as repairing scratches, removing dust and stains, adjusting contrast and color, and enhancing details to breathe new life into vintage images.

7. Workflow Optimization

Actions can be tailored to individual workflows, allowing users to automate repetitive steps and increase efficiency. Whether it’s organizing layers, applying specific layer styles, or creating custom templates, actions can help streamline and standardize your Photoshop workflow.

What is the difference between actions and presets?

Actions and presets are both features in Adobe Photoshop, but they serve different purposes and have distinct functionalities:

Actions Presets
Purpose Automate tasks and apply a sequence of predefined edits and adjustments to images Apply preconfigured settings to achieve a specific look or effect
Creation Recorded manually or imported pre-made actions created by other users Adjusting settings of specific Photoshop tools and saving those settings as a preset
Operations Encompass a wide range of tasks such as filters, color adjustments, resizing, etc. Primarily associated with specific tools or adjustments, e.g., filters, color adjustments, layer styles, etc.
Usage Automating repetitive tasks, batch processing, achieving consistent results across multiple images Quickly applying a desired style or aesthetic to an image
Storage Saved as .atn files Stored within Photoshop
Application Can be loaded and applied to any Photoshop document Applied through respective tools or adjustment panels within Photoshop

How to create your own Photoshop Actions?

Creating your own Photoshop actions allows you to automate repetitive tasks and apply a series of predefined edits and adjustments to images. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create your own Photoshop actions:

Open Adobe Photoshop:

Launch Adobe Photoshop on your computer.

Open the Actions Panel:

Go to the “Window” menu and select “Actions” to open the Actions Panel. Alternatively, you can use the shortcut key “Alt + F9” (Windows) or “Option + F9” (Mac).

Create a New Action Set (Optional)

If you want to organize your actions into sets, click on the folder icon at the bottom of the Actions panel to create a new action set. Enter a name for the set and click “OK.”

Create a New Action

With the Actions panel open, click on the “New Action” button (the square icon) at the bottom of the panel. A dialog box will appear where you can name your action, choose the action set (if applicable), and assign a function key or color to the action (optional). Click “Record” to start recording the actions.

Perform the Desired Actions

Once you click “Record,” Photoshop will begin recording your actions. Perform the edits and adjustments on the image that you want to include in the action. This can include tasks like applying filters, adjusting colors, resizing, cropping, adding text, and more.

Stop Recording

After you’ve completed the desired edits and adjustments, click the “Stop” button (the square icon) at the bottom of the Actions panel to stop recording.

Edit and Refine the Action (Optional)

You can fine-tune the recorded action by modifying individual steps, rearranging or deleting steps, or adding new steps. Simply select the specific step in the Actions panel and make the desired changes.

Save the Action

To save the action, click on the small arrow in the top right corner of the Actions panel and choose “Save Actions.” Save the action with a suitable name and location on your computer. The action will be saved with the .atn file extension.


Photoshop actions provide a powerful way to automate repetitive tasks and streamline your image editing workflow in Adobe Photoshop. Whether you’re a photographer, graphic designer, or digital artist, creating your own actions can save you significant time and effort, allowing you to achieve consistent results across multiple images.

Remember, actions can be further edited and refined, giving you full control and flexibility over the automated process. You can modify individual steps, rearrange their order, or add new ones to customize the action according to your preferences.

So, if you find yourself performing repetitive tasks in Photoshop, consider creating your own actions. With a little time investment upfront, you can unlock the power of automation and significantly enhance your efficiency and productivity in Adobe Photoshop.