Photoshop actions allow you to record a series of steps that you might do numerous times on other images, and then play back that series automatically on a new image. Photoshop CS4 comes with dozens of actions already created for you. In this article, I’ll give a pictorial and descriptive run-down of Photoshop’s built-in Default actions.
See Related Posts at the end to click through to the other built-in action sets
To run a default action:
- Window > Actions
- Click the gray triangle to the left of the words “Default Actions” to open the list.
- Select an action, and click the Play selection button at the bottom of the Actions panel.
Vignette requires that you start with a selection on an image. When you play the action, it will ask you how many pixels you want the selection feathered by. The action creates a white layer above your image, and a duplicate of the image above that which show only the feathered selection. Unfortunately, it does not use a layer mask to hide the portions outside the selection, but deletes them.
Frame channel – 50 pixel
Start with an image at least 100 pixels by 100 pixels. This action will give you a warning about this; just click Continue. It will double the canvas size in each direction, and add 6 alpha channels. The alpha channels can be used to create various selections around your image. You can use these selections to create fills to be used for framing.
Wood frame – 50 pixel
Start with an image at least 100 pixels by 100 pixels. The action will give you a warning about this; just click Continue. This action starts by playing the Frame Channel action above. Then it puts a 50-pixel sort-of wood-looking frame around your image. This frame is on the top layer with a bevel applied, and a copy of your image is just below it with an inner shadow applied.
Cast Shadow (Type)
This effect is meant to be applied to text. It rasterizes your text and places a shadow below it which gives the illusion of a light source somewhere behind it.
Water Reflection (Type)
This effect is meant to be applied to text. It is similar to Cast Shadow in that it rasterizes the text and puts a copy of it underneath and upside-down. However, it retains the original text color and looks like it is being seen over water ripples.
Custom RGB to Grayscale
This action is fairly simple. Use a color (RGB Mode) image. It pops open the Channel Mixer with a suggested mix of Red, Green and Blue channels. You fiddle with it until you get a beautiful grayscale image, and it then converts the Image Mode to Grayscale.
This action renders an image of molten lead blobs on a new layer. It does this using a variety of filters, such as Clouds, Find Edges, and Plaster in particular.
Make Clip Path (selection)
Clipping paths are a type of selection that is created on images that you want to use in a page layout program. Areas outside the clipping path will be transparent when they are placed in the page. The outside areas will still be visible in Photoshop, and the path is editable via the paths panel and the Direct Selection tool. This action creates a clipping path around a selection you have created. It will ask you to name your new path. It will also ask you for the device flatness in pixels; this refers to how accurately the path will be followed by the printer or press.
Sepia Toning (layer)
This action will take the selected layer and apply a sepia monotone to it. It does this by making a duplicate layer and desaturating it. Then it creates a Hue/Adjustment layer at the top which colorizes the entire layer with a muted red-orange hue.
Quadrant Colors is pretty self-descriptive. It takes your image and breaks it up into four quadrants of monotone color: red, green, blue and yellow.
Save as Photoshop PDF
This action is just like choosing File > Save As and selecting Photoshop PDF as the format. It will ask you to name the file and tell it where to save it. Then you will see the Save Adobe PDF dialog box. It defaults to “High Quality Print” and a 300/450 downsample. Edit your compression settings here.
A gradient map uses a gradient of colors to replace the existing colors in an image, based on how light or dark they are. This action adds a Gradient Map adjustment layer above your image. The default gradient is blue-to-red-to-yellow (rainbow), but you can always edit the gradient in the Adjustments panel (CS3 users: double-click on the thumbnail for the Gradient Map adjustment layer to make the gradient editable).