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Actions in Adobe Photoshop

Lesson 1 of 7

Class Introduction: Create a Content Aware Fill Action

Ben Willmore

Actions in Adobe Photoshop

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

1. Class Introduction: Create a Content Aware Fill Action

Lesson Info

Class Introduction: Create a Content Aware Fill Action

Now we're gonna transition to actions in automation. Because there are some tasks in Photoshop that you need to do repetitively, and you either wanna speed them up because they're laborious multi-step processes, or you simply don't wanna remember all the steps involved. Because sometimes there are things where you might need to use a sheet of paper to write them down, why not just have Photoshop keep track of the steps? So, first I'm gonna try opening an image here, this is a raw file, and in camera raw, I ended up correcting for lens corrections. There is a choice in here under the lens tab, called enable profile corrections, and if I turn it off you'll see one part of the correction be changed, but this image was shot with a fish-eye lens if I remember correctly, and this is trying to straighten it. In the process of straightening it, we ended up with some empty space that I don't wanna crop out. So I'm gonna chose open image, and I would like Photoshop to fill those areas. Now the f...

eature I would usually use to fill those areas, is called Content Aware Fill, and the problem is I would like to fill those areas on an empty layer, so that the filled in information is contained in it's own layer. And, Photoshop doesn't like doing that, and to get around it there's a multi-step process, and I always hate going through the process, because it should be such a simple process, and it becomes more complicated, so I'm gonna create an action to keep it simple. So, to access the actions panel, go to the window menu, and chose actions, that should get these actions to show up. You probably don't have as many actions as I do, but that's fine. At the bottom, let's create a new folder. If you click on the folder icon, I'm gonna just call this one "Ultimate Guide Actions", I'll click okay, and now we have a place to store our actions, so we can organize them amongst the others. And then at the bottom of the actions panel, we have a bunch of icons, and I'm gonna click this one to create a brand new action. And I'm gonna call this, "Fill Empty Areas". I'm gonna ignore all the other settings that are here. We could add a color which would literally make it have a color in the actions panel, so you could organize your, so creative actions are red, and adjustment actions are blue, or something like that, I find I don't need to. Here, you could assign a function key, which would be the F keys that might be at the top of your keyboard, which would make it automatically apply this action, I don't need to do that. And up here the word "set", that's what they call the folder. So this just means, where are we gonna store it? And it's a list of all these folders. So in general all I'm doing is naming it, and I'm clicking record. When I click record, watch what happens at the bottom of the actions panel. You'll find three icons on the left side of the actions panel that are used when you're recording and playing back actions, and the round one will end up turning red. That indicates it is currently recording. Now when you're recording, you have to very careful at what you do in Photoshop. It's best if you practice ahead of time, so that you know you can perform something flawlessly, because any extra steps you put in, are gonna just slow down an action when it gets applied in the future, so you wanna be very efficient. But I think I can remember what needs to be done here, and so we'll see. What I'd like to do here is first, select the empty parts of this layer. And there's a trick that we've used a few times during the "Ultimate Guide", where we loaded everything except for the empty parts. What we did is we moved our mouse into the layers panel, and I ended up holding down the command key, which is control and windows, and I clicked on this thumbnail image. When you do that, it selects all the areas that don't look like a checkerboard. And therefore it selects the areas that are not transparent. I'll do that right now. When I do that, you'll find that in the actions panel, it just created a new step, and it's called "set selection". And therefore when this action gets applied, it should be able to create the same kind of selection. Now I want the exact opposite of that, because I want the areas that are empty. So I'll go to the select menu, and I'll chose inverse to get the opposite. Then, If I'm gonna use Content Aware Fill, the selection that I'm using needs to be overlapping the image itself, not just contained within that empty area. So I'm gonna go to the select menu, chose modify and chose expand. And, you can expand it just one pixel is fine. That just simply makes it so this selection will overlap the image itself by one pixel. Then, usually if I were to apply this to an empty layer, which is actually what I want to do, the Content Aware Fill command will give me an error message, and it just says there's not enough information in that layer for it to be able to handle things. So what I need to do is get a copy of this layer so that I'm working on a copy. And so there are many different ways I could copy something, I could drag this down to the new layer icon, and that would create a copy. Then at this point I'm gonna go to the edit menu and chose fill. And I'm gonna set the contents to Content Aware. I'll click okay, and that should be able to fill in those empty areas, but if you look at my layers panel, not only do we have those areas that are selected, that just got filled in, but we have the rest of the picture, and I didn't want the rest of the picture. So I'll go to the select menu and chose inverse to get the opposite of it. And then, I'm just gonna hit the delete key, to throw away this middle portion of the image that we don't need. So now in my layers panel, we have the original picture underneath, and above it we have just those areas that used to be empty that have been filled in. I'll then go to the select menu, and chose deselect to get rid of my selection. Now that's a process I hate going through every time, because it should be that I could just tell it to fill the empty parts, and it should do all that for me, but it can't. So in my layers panel it's still recording. I need to hit the stop button to get it to stop recording, and then I need to test my action. I'm gonna revert this image back to it's original by going to the file menu and choosing revert. I'm then gonna click on the name of this action, which is called "fill empty areas", and I'll hit the play button at the bottom of the actions panel, and it should go through all those steps for me and fill in the empty parts, and it seemed to work just fine. Now any time you create an action, you should look at the steps that were recorded to make sure that it's gonna be universally applicable, and the most common thing that happens with creating an action is that if you ever switch which layer is active, it will usually record the name of the layer within the action. It will say you know, make whatever the name of this layer is active, it's one of your steps. And if that's the case, the action will not usually be universally applicable because not every document will have a layer of that name. So let's see if we have anything within this action that looks like it might mess this up When I attempt to apply it to other images. Here is says "set selection transparency channel". I don't see the name of a layer within that, so I think that'll work fine. That simply means, select the areas that are not empty, in whatever layer is active. Then we inverse the selection, then we expand it by one pixel, and I don't see the name of a layer in there, so we're fine. Here it says "duplicate current layer". Great. If it said "duplicate" and then a specific layer name, that wouldn't be universally applicable. We then filled with content aware. Looks good. We inverted the selection, hit delete, and then we set the selection to none. It looks to me like all the steps, should be workable on any document. I don't see anything that's unique to this particular document. So I think we have a great first action.

Class Description


  • Automate a wide variety of multi-step techniques
  • Apply an Action to hundreds of images using the Batch command
  • Use subroutines to incorporate a set of steps into multiple actions
  • Utilize Conditionals to change the course of an action based on the unique characteristic of a layer
  • Troubleshoot existing actions


  • Beginner, intermediate, and advanced users of Adobe Photoshop.
  • Those who want to gain confidence in Adobe Photoshop and learn new features to help edit photos.
  • Students who’d like to take ordinary images and make them look extraordinary with some image editing or Photoshop fixes.


Adobe Photoshop 2020 (V21)

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Danna Chiasson

Good stuff ... learned some valuable tips ... thanks !