Working in Photoshop can be both pleasure and pain. While we strive to play with the images that we make, there is also a multitude of things we need to take care of in Photoshop that take all of that pleasure away. Photoshop is as much a production tool as it is a creative tool.
While this may be the case, there are many instances where we can rely on Photoshop to take care of the heavy lifting for us and make our workflow quite efficient. This help comes in the form of Actions and Droplets. Photoshop can even take things into a more a programmatic level with Scripting. With a little bit of experience, a little bit code, and a little bit of planning, we can set Photoshop up to automate a lot of these processes and allow us to work on the fun .
How Actions Work
When you start a file in Photoshop, the History palette begins to record the actions that you take onto the image. The History palette can only record a specific amount of steps that you take in the file; these are specified in the program’s preferences (see Figure 1). It’s as if Photoshop has a built-in recorder, taking notes of all of these steps.
This recorder can be best controlled in the Actions palette. In the palette, you can create a new action by clicking on the Create New Action icon on the lower right (see Figure 2). From here, give the action a name. Should you decide to make it a keyboard shortcut, you can assign it one of the function keys in the drop down list. Keep in mind that this assignment may override some of the things you have the keys assigned to. To counter that, you can always add the command (PC: Control) or option modifiers.
As soon as you press Record, you’re off. Photoshop starts keeping a tab of your actions, recording each of them in their own step. You’ll notice that as you work on each of the steps in your document, not only will the history record the step, but a drop-down will appear showing you the specific changes that you made in that step. At any point you can click on the Stop button and your action is ready to be replayed (see Figure 3).
While recording an action is a good thing to repeat against a single file, what makes their use more powerful is its ability to be used with multiple files by Batch. In the File > Automate menu, you can select Batch from the list and run your specific action against a single image or a folder of images. You even have the option to take the results of the image and have them saved into a new folder, letting you use Photoshop for many of the repetitive tasks that you’d rather not do.