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Actions in Adobe Photoshop

Lesson 3 of 7

Create an Antique Color Action

Ben Willmore

Actions in Adobe Photoshop

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

3. Create an Antique Color Action

Lesson Info

Create an Antique Color Action

In this image I would like to give it a effect where I don't like having to go through all the steps all the time. I wanna simplify a effect and make it so it's just much more friendly by using actions. It's an effect I think I did when we talked in a previous lesson on blending modes I believe. Although there's a chance it was in the one on filters. Anyway, let's create one. I'm gonna come in here and create a brand new action and I'm gonna call this Antique Color. I'm gonna click record. And now here are the steps I'd like to do. First, I wanna pull all the color out of this image and I'm gonna do that using an adjustment layer called Black and White. Then I would like to take a copy of the original image and put it on top. So I'm gonna click on the layer that's underneath to select it and I'm gonna move it, well, I'm not gonna move it, I'm gonna duplicate it. So, one method for duplicating a layer is to type Command + J to jump it to its own layer, Control + J on Windows, so I'll ty...

pe that. And then I'm gonna move that layer up in my layer stack. Then I want to apply the color that is found in that layer to the black and white version of the picture that's underneath using a blending mode that's called Overlay, and that will give it this kind of antique-y look. But then the problem is there's not enough shadow detail. The dark portions of the image became much darker so I wanna do something to bring the original shadow detail back. Well, I would like to hide the dark portion of the image from both of these layers that are here, both the black and white, and this layer that's on top. So I'm gonna select both layers. I'll hold down the shift key and click on that layer and then I'm gonna put it in a folder because when I put it on a folder, anything I do to the folder itself will apply to all the layers that are contained within. So, I'll come in here and I will then choose, not there, fx, blending options. And we had a lesson about advanced layers as part of the complete guide and it showed you that you could hide the dark portions of a layer by pulling in a slider, either one of these in this case, and split this apart to make it blend in. Just trying to bring back some of the darker areas. Then to finish it off I might as well name that folder so I'll just double click on its name and I'm gonna call this Antique Color. And now I'm done recording my action so let's hit the stop button. And we might as well just test it, let's revert the image to its original. Click on the name of our action, hit play and see if it works. Certainly looks to. But then let's analyze our action and decide if it's gonna be universally applicable. Well, let's see what we did. We ended up making an adjustment layer. It's a black and white adjustment, that should be universal. Whoa, here we go, look at what it says. It selects a layer and it's called Background and that's because when we started this action, the only thing the document contained was a layer called background. Well, what if in the future when I attempt to apply this there is no layer called background? Like if I revert this image right now. Into my layers panel I double click and I call this Car. Now it doesn't have a layer called background so if I grab that action and I hit play, it's gonna give me an error and it just says sorry, you told me to do something. That command simply is not available. So I'm gonna stop. Well, we'll revert this image again 'cause some of it has applied. And so, let's figure out how can we change what layer is active without it recording the name of the layer as part of it? Well, the problem is our steps and our action ended up going in here and creating a black and white adjustment layer, and then I moved my mouse right down here to the layer below and I clicked on it. Well, anytime you click on a layer like that it's gonna record the name of the layer. So let's figure out if there's a way to make the layer that's underneath active without actually having to click on it, and there is. There's a keyboard shortcut for it. If you look right now I'm using my keyboard to switch between these two layers. The keyboard shortcut that I'm using to do so is holding down the option key, that's alt in Windows, and then using the square bracket keys on my keyboard that's right above my return key. And one of those bracket keys, the left one will end up getting the layer above and the opposite one will grab the layer that's below. So let's see if I can replace one of the steps of my action. Let's take a look here and right here it made an adjustment layer and right there is where it switched layers, and it has the name of the layer. So I'm gonna click on that particular step and I'll make sure over here in my layers panel it looks like it did at the time the action was being made at this stage. This was right when I was about to click on the layer below. I'll hit the record button and then I'm gonna hold down option and hit the left bracket key. That switch which layer is active. I'll hit the stop button so we no longer record any more steps and let's see what we ended up with. It now says select backward layer. I wish it said select underlying layer 'cause backward doesn't make any sense to me. But anyway, that will do it without having the name of the layer in the action. So let's throw that step, previous step away. All right, the layer via copy can work with any layer. Move current layer, as long as it says current layer and doesn't say move background layer then that should be fine. It says to layer three. Not sure there but I'm assuming that means a certain number of layers above. We'll have to test it to be sure there. But there is a keyboard shortcut for moving a layer. Let me show you what it is. Before I showed you, I'll have to unlock this layer to be able to move it though. I mentioned that option in those bracket keys changes which layer is active. If instead you do command and the same bracket keys, it would move a layer up and down. So, one way I could have moved a layer instead of using my mouse clicking on it and dragging it up, is to hold down the command key, control on Windows, and then use those square brackets to either move it up or down. I did that too many times with the keyboard, I was trying to get back to the same stage we had before. All right, so, I'm assuming this will work, it says move to layer three. I think that means layer position three, like the third slot in the layers panel but we'll find out when we test the action. The problem that could be with that is what if the document had four layers to begin with then there's a chance that might not work. Okay, set current layer to overlay. As long as this says current layer and not background layer, we're fine. Then here it says select the layer called black and white one. Well, what if there was already a black and white adjustment layer contained within the document? What this is doing is switching to this layer and so, that's something where if it was switching layers is something that might not work. And so, we could record that different so it would not contain the name of the layer that's in there. I'd have to apply part of this action to get to that point though to figure out exactly what layer was active. You can do that, I'm gonna revert this image to the original and I want it to just play down to right before that step. You see these little check boxes on the left? That means should I play or should I skip this step? I could tell it to skip those last few steps then if I just play this action it's gonna end right there. There it's made it through. So the top most layer was active. Oh, I know what I needed to do at that point. What I was doing was selecting both of those layers so I could put them in a folder. Well, just in case that layer wasn't called black and white one, what I can do is that same keyboard shortcut we used to switch layers which is option in the bracket keys, just add the shift key to it and that means don't switch layers but add the layer that was underneath. And therefore, that's what could be used. So let's replace that step. I'll click on the name of the step, I'll hit the record button and I'm gonna do Shift + Option + Left Bracket. That would be Shift + Alt + Left Bracket in Windows and then I'll hit stop. Let's see what the difference is. So here it was saying to select the name of a very specific layer which might not always be in a document and to add it. Down here it's saying select the backward layer, meaning the layer underneath and add it. So that's more universably applicable. Okay then let's see, make group. Current layer we're gonna call it group one, that's fine. We could have named it but that'll still work. Set the layer. These are the blending sliders and then set the layer to a name of antique color. That looks fine. Let's turn those check boxes back on so we'll apply those steps and let's test our action. Make sure we didn't break it in some way. Yeah, it ended up with that perfect. Now, we could improve on this because this is the process I usually go through but the best thing to do with that duplicate layer is to blur it. And so, what I could have done is when it was created, I could have turned it into a smart object and then at some point I can blur it 'cause then it gives it more of an antique look. But we already have our action made so sometimes you need to modify actions to improve them. And so, let's just see if we can figure out at what point in here were various things created and moved? Well, here's where we moved current layer to position three which I think meant up here. And I think that right after that that would be selected and I could turn it into a smart object. So, right at this point that's where I wanna deviate and I'm gonna come down here, just hit record. And what I really wanna do is go layer. Where is smart objects? Convert a smart object. And so, that's going to end up being a smart object. I think I wanna wait until it's already changed its blending mode and that was the next step I believe. So let's hit stop. And let's see here, yeah, changed it to overlay. And then right after it gets changed to overlay mode is when I wanna blur it because when it's already in overlay mode I'm gonna get a preview. And in fact I think it's gonna be even better if we do it after we make a group and we add the blending sliders. So, it's down here at the very end, I can see what the end step is. Okay, we're just naming it, might as well just add it at the very end of our action. So the end of our action what I'm gonna do is it will have just named this group at the top so most likely that will be selected. I'm gonna hit record. I want it to select the layer that's underneath and I'll do that using my keyboard, Option + Left Bracket. And then I'm gonna go to the Filter menu and choose Blur. I'll click OK and then we'll stop the action and the very last thing I wanna do is be able to choose the amount of blurring applied. So, I turn on that. So you notice that when I'm going through and trying to add functionality to an action after it's been created, it's much harder to think about it. It's much easier to get confused about what you're doing. So, for me, it's best to think through an action and practice the steps first. And when you're done practicing the steps just ask yourself is there any more intelligent way I would want this done 'cause it only takes time to create the action once, you might as well spend the time to make a really good action. And that means what should these layers be named? You might wanna think about that so you don't just end up with default names. And is there any extra functionality that might be useful to incorporate? If so, work it right into the action. And if you do it the first time it's much easier to think of than having to go back and modify. So, now I'm gonna come over here and revert and let's just double check that the modifications I made work. So it just ends up with this blur screen and I can bring it down and not blur at all or bring it up to get that soft kinda glowy feel. And it worked fine. It's best to try it on a couple different documents but I think we're doing all right here.

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)


Danna Chiasson

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