Introduction to Actions in Photoshop
What is an action? Why do we use them? And some best practices. And this is gonna be a really wildly important one for you, especially if, I don't wanna sell myself outta the industry, but if you ever wanna sell actions, the best practices here are going to be gold for you. I just gave away my whole business. So what is an action? Actions in Photoshop will allow you to record yourself while you work so you can play them back later on any other image. I need you to think about the VCR, the VHS, the cassette player. So when I was a kid, there was this thing called TGIF, Thank God It's Friday, and they'd play all of our favorite television shows on Friday night. Now you don't dare show anything good on Friday night because nobody wants to sit there and watch TV. One of those shows, I believe, was Full House. So we would always rush, 'cause our parents would wanna go out to eat on Friday night, so we would rush to the VCR, we'd put a fresh blank tape in there, we would set the VCR to recor...
d itself so that we could record Full House and watch it when we got home. We could play it back whenever we wanted to over and over and over again. And it was always there for us. Probably did the same thing with Saved By The Bell. Maybe I'm dating myself a little bit. But Photoshop has the exact same capabilities. There's something going on in Photoshop, you can record it and you can play it back later. Why we use them, why would use them as photographers? Well, actions have changed the way I edit entirely. I rarely start any of my processing without them. I very rarely will start an image without putting it through some type of action, because there's some prerecorded workflow that's gonna help me out. So the whole thing here is this is workflow automation. They allow you to do things that you would commonly do, but do them faster and do them more efficiently. And not have to be doing the redundancy of constantly making those things. So what we've already talked about so far in this course, you've seen me make it a couple times. The dodge and burn layers, whether that's a dodge and burn 50% gray layer, or that's the curves layer, dodge and burn. If you make those all the time, it's redundant, and it becomes a pain in the butt. But you can go ahead and make an action of that, press play, and it's always there for you. We do this for efficiency. We do it for accuracy, so we can, accuracy so if we have a style that we have that's our own, we can replicate it without going outside of that style. We can do things deliberately, and definitely more predicatively. So we know, because we've record it, that it's done this on this image, it should do this on this image, I might just have to make a few minor tweaks. So here's some of your best practices when you're working with actions, because you would think, it's just like a smart object. Smart objects, you'd say, oh wow, we could do all this stuff with smart objects, why don't we always just use smart objects? Well because they have some downfalls and so do actions. With actions, you wanna experiment with what works. You can't be afraid of these things. When I first started working with actions, it was probably around 2006 or seven, when I pressed the record button, and I didn't know what I was doing, and I recorded like an entire day's worth of work. And I didn't know that you had to press stop. So tried to play this thing back on another thing and images are opening and closing and flying all over in front of me in Photoshop, and I was just, it was wild. But I learned a lot from that. I was like okay, well I recorded literally everything I just did in Photoshop, that was pretty cool. And then from there I started to deduce how actions worked. So you have to experiment with it. If you're, with anything with Photoshop, if you're playing around with a button, or you're playing around with something, do it on something that's like in your test folder, images that you don't really care about at that time and you wanna experiment. And don't be afraid to experiment. They don't bite. Anything that can be undone if you just press undo or go back to your history state to the very beginning. And if fails, just start over. It's not like the film days. So when I was younger and I was in high school working with black and white film in the analog days, I had made this print that I really loved, and I made it on this paper that had pockets and pits in it. That allowed me to paint onto that with these oil paints, special oil paints, for painting on images. Got all the way through this thing and made one little error and ruined the entire thing. I couldn't go back and repaint, because it was all manual painting done on this photograph. Here's the cool part. We're in Photoshop. If it fails, just start over. There are no harm, no foul, if you don't do this correctly. But I do annotate a lot things. As I'm doing this, as I'm experimenting, I write down what I'm doing with each one of those actions so that if it didn't record exactly the way I wanted it to, I can always go back and look at my annotations that I've made on my notebook, and it looks cool. It does look cool. It actually looks really cool. You open up my actions notebook and it looks like some type of wicked Photoshop code. Like I've got my wizard book of actions. So annotate everything. Not all steps are actionable. There are certain things that you're gonna do that just cannot be recorded into an action. Some of these things are masking with brushes. It can record masking with brushes, but I wouldn't do it. Just because you don't know what the image size is gonna be on another image. Here's just a little aside. A lot of things in Photoshop are pixel based based on the constraints of whatever that image is. If everything overnight, and maybe Adobe can listen to this, would turn everything into percentage based things, this would all change. So instead of looking at actual pixels, if we just looked at the percentage, there's certain filters in Photoshop that base things off of a percentage, and not off of the actual aspect ratio. Therefore, if it's an image that's this big, or an image that's this big, it's gonna do the same thing, because it's based on a percentage and not in the actual pixels or aspect ratio. So maybe we can all write to Adobe and get that fixed. (laughing) Anyway, masking with brushes can be very difficult. Sometimes they don't show up in the process of the action, or they might not show up with the exact same pen strokes or brush strokes. So my rule of thumb is to never put masking with brushes in my actions. Just don't do it. Selections are okay. So manual selections that are, well I should say, automatic selections, selections from things like luminosity masking, selections from the color range, the color range menu. Those are okay. But a selection made with the magic wand, just don't do it. 'Cause it's not gonna be predictable. What we're doing is we wanna get predictable results. Blend If is also okay. Blend If can be recorded into any of your actions as well, which is really awesome, because you make a really cool effect you like, you throw some Blend If in there, and it's going to be predictable. On the next image, it's going to protect the highlights, or going to protect the shadows, because you've got Blend If in there. I would avoid flattening your work without making a duplicate copy first. This is really important if you're making actions for other people. I can't stand it if I get someone's action and I press play on it, it takes all my work and flattens it down and then it runs. It's a lot easier to build an action on a flattened document, that's why a lot of these actions that you might even purchase online will flatten your image first. But what happens if you had 50 history states selected in your preferences, and this went through 99 things? Now you can't go back. All that work that you did in there, that layered work that you did that was beautiful, that you press play on that action, you can't go back in your history and fix it. So what I do is always make sure that if I'm making an action that needs me to flatten the work, I do it on another document, and that document will be a duplicate state from a history state, so you go into the history palette, make a duplicate state, and that fixes that problem. You gotta consider who you're making them for. If you're making them for yourself, you know how you operate, so you shouldn't have a problem. You don't have to make everything perfect. If you're making actions for yourself, they can be sloppy. There's nothing wrong with making 'em a little sloppy if they're just for you. And also this thing right here that says modal control stops may not be necessary. A modal control stop is where you stop an action from working so that you can give directions. And some of my actions will do that too. Because you might press the button and be like, "That's great, what did it do?" Well, a modal control can stop at any point between an action and say, "Hey, you're about to do something with the gaussian blur, "try anywhere between 40 and 60." You can be sloppy. If you're making them for other people though, you have to consider foreign language versions of Photoshop. This is something I never knew until I released my very first panel, and everyone who was in the Dutch version of Photoshop would press a button and it would just boom. How do you think I felt? 'Cause I didn't test it for foreign language versions of Photoshop. And I'll show you what to look for when you're working on your actions to ensure that things work in foreign languages. I'm really giving away the farm here. You can't cut corners. If you're doing these for other people, don't cut any corners, don't be sloppy. Make actions that are gonna work and be predictable for others. And if you are making them for others, you should consider adding modal controls, stops. And I'll show you what stops are in this course.