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Actions Best Practices

Lesson 7 from: Actions & Automation in Photoshop for Beginners

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

7. Actions Best Practices

Lesson Info

Actions Best Practices

So the process of making actions make you think, doesn't it? It's a matter of figuring out what would be the most ideal way to go through a set of steps. And if we look at this action, if we expand it, let's look at what happened when we changed layers. Just so you get a sense 'cause I only described it. I didn't show it to you. Do you see here where it says select layer and it has right there the name of the layer. Select layer "Low Frequency." And so the reason why we should name any layers that we create during our action is those names won't always be consistent. And I'll show you that right now. If I revert this picture, look at what's in my layers panel, notice it's called background. When I type command J, look at the name of the layer we get with that. Can you see that when you have a layered called background and you duplicated it, you get layer one. When I type command J again, we get one that's called layer one copy. Well, if I get rid of those two and I change the name of t...

he background layer, I just unlock it and I name it this layer here. Okay? Now if I duplicate it, this layer here copy. It's a completely different name than if it was the background, isn't it? And so that's why the moment you create a layer in your action, it'd be great if you named it, and when you named it, you came up with something unique that wouldn't commonly be found in a document because when you tell it to target various layers, it's just doing it by name. And so, therefore, why not help it out so that it can work regardless of what the name of the original was. Right? Now let me show you something else. There is a way to get around that if you hate naming layers. You're just like, "No, I rebel against that." There is something you could have done. Instead of clicking on the name of a layer to switch to it, there's a way to just say select the layer underneath or select the layer above. And if you do that, then it doesn't matter what they're named as long as... I mean you can still get messed up because if you open a multilayered document to begin with and you're working in the middle, and you apply an action, there's a chance you would end up with some weirdness. But let me just show you what it is. I'm going to duplicate these layers. And why don't I do it in an action so you can see how it's recorded. I'll make an action. I'll just call it layer test, and you can watch it in the actions panel. Command J, you see my new layer. Command J again. And watch if I click that middle layer, you see how it says select layer. I don't know if you can read it, but it says layer one. Now I want to select the layer that's above. Do you see how somehow I just did that. I didn't tell you how I did it, but you see how it says select forward layer? And I'm going to select the layer two down now. Do you see how it says select backward layer? Why do they use forward and backward? I don't know. Why didn't they say upper layer and lower layer? Wouldn't that be more useful? Well, what I'm doing here is I'm using keyboard shortcuts. The keyboard shortcut you can use to grab the layer that's above is, on a Mac it's, option and then the bracket keys. You know the squares? They look like half squares? If I use the right bracket, I go up, and if I use the left bracket, I go down. And, therefore, I can target those layers. Therefore, it wouldn't matter if I named those layers or not as long as I intelligently thought about, "I need to grab a layer that's underneath or the layer above." Want to get fancy about it? Add the shift key and you can add a layer to what's already selected, meaning I get two layers selected. If you have the middle layer, you do it with shift. It means instead of switching to the layer above, it means add the layer above to what's already selected. So you can get fancy with it. All right, then we got this layer... Not this layer, this action. In fact, let me stop recording the action. Otherwise, it'll be one of those days where I forget and wind up with a thousand step action. All right, let's take a look in here. My frequency separation. And this is an instance where this action is great if... It's an action that I might not use for six months because it's going to remind me what to do with that stop. Remember the stop? But what if this week I just shot a portrait session, and I'm going to be retouching all week long. I'm going to be using that action 30 times a day. Wouldn't it be annoying then to always get that stop that tells you what to do? It just slows you down. So that's when you might want to go in here and go next to the stop and just go over here and turn off its checkbox. The checkbox means skip this step, so why not just skip the step? And then at the end of the week turn that checkbox back on because you might not use the action again for six months. Then when you get back to using it, it would ask you again. Does that make any sense? So that's one of the reasons why you might end up turning off the checkbox. Another reason why you might end up using the checkboxes is I could go in here, and there I use gaussian blur. There are other ways to through away detail in a layer. There's a filter called median. That's in there. There's one that's called surface blur. There's all sorts of them, and what if I want variations on this action? Well right in this list I could have three filters listed in a row, and I simply turn off the checkboxes for all but one of them. And then I could always go in there. And if I want to fine tune my action, I switch which one is turned on, and therefore I'm switching which filter gets applied. So that's another reason why those checkboxes can be nice. Just know that any time you turn off a checkbox, the checkbox next to the name of your action will turn red. And that simply indicates that one or more checkboxes are turned off. Also, when you end up turning these little things on, then you'll find a symbol here shows up as well. And that means one or more of those little guys that ask you for settings is turned on. And I think the dash in the middle means not all of them. If I got all of them, that little dash might go away, but I don't recall to be sure 'cause I rarely have all of them turned on. So when you collapse your action down, you look at it. I can tell you this one here has got some steps turned off. Same with in these folders. And these are going to ask me for settings when I go through here. And what I do is when I make a complex action... Here's a complex action. I don't know if you can see how long that one was, but what I'll often do is if I'm going to sell that action, look at this, here's my stop. It's my copyright notice, so if somebody steals that action and starts selling it as part of their action pack, and they don't even look at the steps that are in it, and they're that kind of dumb, and they're like, "I'm just going to resell this guys' stuff." Well, I can prove it was my action because right in the action they're selling is my copyright. It's just in a stop that's never displayed because this little checkbox is turned off. Okay? So you could think of that as something where you could use this as notes. Put a stop in there on occasion. Make it so it doesn't display. And it's your note to tell you why are there three versions of this filter here with all the checkboxes turned off but one. Well, there, put a stop right above it that tells you, and just make it so the stop is never visible. Can we see a copy of the before and after on that action? Can you see a copy? Like a side by side view of what it looks like? Not really. I mean it's just a matter of can you get Photoshop to show you the image before and after. Sure you can duplicate the image and then on the original chose revert because that means go back to the original. But it's not something that is like built in. It's just like you're working around the features to get what you're looking for. Yeah, it's not like Lightroom where you can easily get before and after. This is Photoshop, where everything is manual and you know harder.

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

Very good course. I have learned many new concepts. Ben is a good teacher. He explained well and it was easy for me to follow.

Bhaven Jani

Precise, to-the-point and informative. Ben explains the process of creating actions in PS in a very simplified and step-by-step manner, easy to understand and follow. Definitely a great purchase.

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