Creating an action – Photoshop Tutorial

Lately I’ve been asked quite a few times how I create my actions in Photoshop and why I feel they’re beneficial to my workflow.  I guess that means it’s Photoshop Tutorial time!

Over the past 10+ years as I’ve started shooting more frequently than I can keep up on editing, I have been forced to learn a few tricks to speed up my workflow.  For me this meant getting a computer that can keep up with what I need it to do.  I enlisted the help of a friend and associate who is quite intelligent in the world of creating computers and we customized me a system that fits the needs that I have with large files and high volume.  That alone more than cut my editing time in half.

Although that took care of half the battle, I was still spending more time in the office just to keep my head above water.

I noticed as I edited that each photo had about 4 steps that I use on almost every photo.  There had to be a way to make these steps easier and more efficient.  I put each of these workflow type steps on paper and created a custom action for each of them, assigned a quick key to them, and BOOM my editing was chiseled down to the fine-tuned, speed demon that it is today!  (I think I heard my husband in the back laughing hysterically!)

How to create an action in Photoshop CC 2014:
(the steps are the same for Photoshop as far back as I can remember PS 3.0)

Open a document in PS
I’m going to be using this lovely gal from a session the other night:


2.  Open your “Actions” palette – this is found under your “Window” pull down menu.
3.  Make sure in your Actions palette that “Button Mode” is NOT selected.


4.  At the bottom of your Actions Panel is a row of buttons.  Select the “New Action” button, it is right next to the garbage can.


It will pull up a dialog box with the options for your new layer.


Give your action a name that your will remember – For this example I named my action Portraiture 2 (I already have my portraiture action set up on my computer, this one is just for teaching purposes, I will delete it after I’m done).

Then you can place your action in a Set.  I usually leave this one alone at this point because I can rearrange it later.

Function Key is so important to my workflow.  If you give your action a Function key, all you have to do to run this action is push the key associated with it.  My original Portraiture action is associated with F6.  All I do when I want to run portraiture on a photo is to hit F6 on my keyboard.  The “Shift” box and “Control” box give you twice and three times as many function keys to use.

Color I always leave alone.  You can give different actions a color which I suppose guides your eye to them quicker and helps organize the actions.

5.  Push “record” on the row of buttons at the bottom of your Actions panel


Now you just start walking through the steps you would traditionally go through and let PS record them.  In my Portraiture instance, I first create a duplicate layer.



I then open portraiture and run it like I usually would.  PS has now recorded all the settings I use in Portraiture.



Then I add a layer mask on the new layer that now has Portraiture ran ON it.


See how PS has been recording all our moves?  Now is the important step …. PRESS STOP.  If you don’t press the stop button, PS will continue recording EVER single step you make through your editing process!


Your action is now ready to use!  The cool thing about these actions, is they are completely editable.  After you’ve created it, you can go into the steps you’ve created and modify them.  Select some of the arrows on actions you’ve already bought, and it will teach you little tips about what’s going on behind the editing.

On this specific picture, I’m going to now take a black brush and mask out anything I DON’T want smoothed (eyes, hair, teeth).  I can also decrease the opacity so that she still looks like a young teenager not a ceramic doll.

Any questions on this Photoshop Tutorial or suggestions you would like to see, let me know in the comments below, and I’ll go in and edit and rework this until it’s perfect!

Good luck, and welcome to the world of creating your own actions and getting your time back!

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