Photoshop Actions are a great starting point for graphic designers looking to become more efficient in their workflow. With the help of this computer automation technique, designers can quickly accomplish tasks that would otherwise take countless manual hours.

We’ve already walked you through the basics of Photoshop Actions, so now it’s time to teach you some of the effective ways to use Photoshop Actions, as well as introduce some techniques for more advanced use! Enjoy.

1. Processing found illustrations

Tutorial: How to use Photoshop actions

In this first example, Photoshop Actions will be used to execute a series of processes upon three illustrations. The goal will be to prepare them for a custom animal pattern. Take a look at the Actions window to the right.

As you can see, a new folder was created within the action window called “My Actions”. Within “My Actions”, an action was created called “Threshold & Colorize” (the two main processes we will be applying).

Note that the red record circle is selected at the bottom of the window. This means that any functions that are executed in Photoshop will be recorded in sequence to the action “Threshold & Colorize”.

Tutorial: How to use Photoshop actions

With the record button activated and the fish illustration file selected, we can record the threshold process. Threshold is found under Image>Adjustments>Threshold. Keep in mind that the specific threshold level will also be recorded in the action.

Tutorial: How to use Photoshop actions

Next, the colorization can be recorded using Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation. Again, the exact level of the Hue, Saturation and Lightness will be recorded into the action. In this example we will use an aqua blue color.

Tutorial: How to use Photoshop actions

After hitting the square “Stop Recording” button in the bottom of the Action panel, we are ready to start automation! The screenshot above shows the end result of “playing” the “Threshold & Colorize” action to the remaining two files.

The exact same series of processes and settings have now been applied to three separate files. This saves a lot of time, especially if you are working with three or more images at once. It also pays off with long action lists.

Tutorial: How to use Photoshop actions

The three images are now perfectly prepared to exacting settings, and ready to be put together into the animal pattern. Note that the “Threshold & Colorize” action stays in the action window. This would be especially helpful if we decided to bring another animal illustration into the pattern. In this case we could simply play the action into the new illustration file, then paste it into the pattern file featured above.

2. Photo processing

how to use photoshop actions for photo processing

Photoshop Actions are also great for processing multiple photos at once. Here we have five photos taken from an event photoshoot. We want to make them all black and white, darken the edges and blur the edges. With all these settings taken into account, that’s a fairly long action! Photoshop Actions will save us a lot of time by automating these processes.

how to use photoshop actions for photo processing

In the screenshot above, the record button is activated and an action called “Photo Process” is selected. We can now create the action list using the first image. The screenshot above was taken after converting the file to greyscale, selecting the outer edge of the photo, feathering the selection, adding a blur to that selection, then finally darkening the selection with Image>Adjustments>Brightness/Contrast. All of these processes can be seen in the action window.

how to use photoshop actions for photo processing

After hitting the “Stop Recording” button, we can jump to the fun part, which is playing the “Photo Process” action into the remaining four files. Because the settings are all recorded into the action, each photo comes out exactly the same, which is great for continuity.

3. Saving files

how to use photoshop actions to save files

Actions can record almost everything Photoshop has to offer. This even includes saving files and their settings! In the example above we need to save five poster proofs for print. As you can see in the action window, I’ve recorded the action of saving the first file with exacting settings. This action has then been played into the remaining four files. Again, actions have quickly accomplished our goal.


Photoshop Actions are a great entry point into computer automation for graphic designers. It can be used for illustration processing, photo processing and even saving files. With that said, don’t let this tutorial limit you. Photoshop actions are only as powerful as your own imagination. How can you use actions to speed up your workflow?

Loved learning about Photoshop Actions? Here’s 10 more Photoshop tips for a more productive workflow.