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Automating a Multistep Task in Adobe Photoshop CS5

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This excerpt from Adobe Photoshop CS5 Classroom in a Book shows you how to use actions to color match, sharpen, and save the images you’ll combine in a panorama.

Note: This excerpt does not include the lesson files. The lesson files are available with purchase of the book.

From the book

An action is a set of one or more commands that you record and then play back to apply to a single file or a batch of files. In this exercise, you’ll use actions to color match, sharpen, and save the images you’ll combine in a panorama.

Using actions is one of several ways that you can automate tasks in Adobe Photoshop. To learn more about recording actions, see Photoshop Help.

You’ve already matched the color for one of the images. Now, you’ll sharpen one image using the Unsharp Mask filter, and save it to a new Ready For Panorama folder.

  1. With the IMG_1442.psd file active, choose Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask.
  2. In the Unsharp Mask dialog box, change the Radius to 1.2, leave the other settings unchanged, and click OK.
  3. Choose File > Save As. Choose TIFF for the Format, use the same name (IMG_1442), and save it to a new folder called Ready For Panorama. Then click Save.
  4. In the Image Compression area of the TIFF Options dialog box, select LZW, and click OK.
  5. Close the IMG_1442.tif file.

Preparing to record an action

You use the Actions panel to record, play, edit, and delete individual actions. You also use the Actions panel to save and load action files. First, you’ll open the Actions panel and open the additional files you’ll be using.

  1. Choose Window > Actions to open the Actions panel.
  2. In the Actions panel, click the Create New Set button (newset_butt.jpg). Name the new set My Actions, and click OK.
  3. Choose File > Open. In the Open dialog box, navigate to the Lesson10 folder. Shift-select the IMG_1443.psd, IMG_1444.psd, IMG_1445.psd, and IMG_1446.psd files. Then click Open.

    Now there are five tabs, representing five open files in Photoshop.

Recording actions

You’ll record the steps for matching colors, sharpening, and saving the images as an action.

  1. Select the IMG_1443.psd tab. Then, in the Actions panel, click the New Action button (new-layer-button.jpg).
  2. In the New Action dialog box, name the action color match and sharpen, and make sure that My Actions is selected in the Set menu. Then click Record.

    Don’t let the fact that you’re recording rush you. Take all the time you need to do this procedure accurately. The speed at which you work has no influence on the amount of time required to play a recorded action.

  3. Choose Image > Adjustments > Match Color.
  4. In the Match Color dialog box, select IMG_1441.psd from the Source menu, select Background from the Layer menu, and make any other changes that you made when you matched color for IMG_1442.psd. Click OK.
  5. Choose Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. The settings in the Unsharp Mask dialog box should be the settings you used for the IMG_1442.psd file. Click OK.

    Photoshop preserves your most recent settings in filter dialog boxes until you change them again.

  6. Choose File > Save As. In the Save As dialog box, choose TIFF for the Format, keep the same name (IMG_1443), and save the file to the Ready For Panorama folder. Click Save. In the TIFF Options dialog box, make sure LZW is selected, and click OK.
  7. Close the image.
  8. Click the Stop button (stop-button.jpg) at the bottom of the Actions panel to stop recording.

    The action you just recorded is now saved in the Actions panel. Click the arrows to expand different sets of steps. You can examine each recorded step and the specific selections you made.

Playing an action

You’ll apply the color match and sharpen action to one of the other three image files that you opened.

  1. Click the IMG_1444.psd tab to make that image active.
  2. In the Actions panel, select the color match and sharpen action in the My Actions set, and then click the Play button (play-button.jpg).

    The IMG_1444.psd image is automatically color matched, sharpened, and saved as a TIFF, and it now matches the IMG_1443.tif image for these properties. Because you recorded closing the file, the file has also been closed.

Batch-playing an action

Applying actions is a timesaving process for performing routine tasks on files, but you can streamline your work even further by applying actions to all open files. Two more files in this project need to be prepared for the panorama, so you’ll apply your automated action to them simultaneously.

  1. Make sure that the IMG_1445.psd and IMG_1446.psd files are open. Close the IMG_1441.psd file, and then open it again to ensure that it’s the third tab.
  2. Choose File > Automate > Batch.
  3. In the Play area of the Batch dialog box, choose My Actions from the Set menu, and choose color match and sharpen from the Action menu.
  4. Choose Opened Files from the Source menu. Leave Destination set to None, and click OK.

    The action is applied to both IMG_1445.psd and IMG_1446.psd, so the files have the same color matching and sharpening and are saved as TIFF files. The same action was applied to IMG_1441.psd, even though its color was matched with itself.

    In this exercise, you batch-processed three files instead of making all the same changes in each of them; this was a mild convenience. But creating and applying actions can save significant amounts of time and tedium when you have dozens or even hundreds of files that require any routine, repetitive work.

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