While Adobe Photoshop offers many ways to accomplish a single task, efficient practices often include using key commands and, when appropriate, the Actions panel. You create Photoshop macros (called actions) by using the Actions panel to record a set of file manipulations on an open document. Then you can apply this set of actions to an individual file or multiple files selected in Adobe Bridge.
The Actions panel is an important tool for production artists, who often need to apply a set of commands repeatedly to a group of files. For example, suppose you saved a group of images as high-resolution TIFF files in CMYK color mode. With the help of an action, you could modify each file to low resolution for screen viewing: changing from CMYK color mode to RGB, resizing the file to a lower resolution, and saving the file in JPEG format. After recording and saving the action in one of the files, you can apply it to the group of imageswhile you take a coffee break, perhaps.
In this article, I'll show you how to use the Actions panel to duplicate and save copies of a single file. We'll also use Adobe Bridge to rename, view, and collect files for printing.
Photoshop Actions and Artificial Intelligence
Some aspects of image production can be automated with actions, but other commands require human decision-making. The Actions panel in Photoshop is akin to artificial intelligence (AI) in that the Photoshop user can program the application to complete a set of steps. This programming effort demonstrates the complexity of artificial intelligenceif only Photoshop were "smart" enough to edit our images without our involvement, we might be on perpetual holiday!
The following exercises show you how to use the Photoshop Actions panel in concert with Adobe Bridge. Some of the exercises demonstrate that certain tasks cannot be automated, but your final result will be a short flipbook or faux stop-motion animation. I wrote these exercises as part of a chapter for a book on digital imaging and collage using Adobe CS4. (Not surprisingly, I only needed to make minimal changes to the text to accommodate CS5.)