How To Install & Use Photoshop Actions (Complete Guide)

Photoshop actions aren’t much help if you don’t know how to get them in the program. Luckily, it’s a quick and easy process to install Photoshop actions, no matter what corner of the internet you found them from. And the beauty is, once you have your favorite actions imported, they will be there until you uninstall or reset the program.

So let’s take a look at how to install any set of Photoshop actions, along with some useful tips to get the most out of the process.

How To Install Photoshop Actions

Actions are a sequence of recorded steps that make up an effect and can be applied to one or more images. Using actions saves you the effort of creating an effect from scratch and allows you to have the formula of your favorite effect recorded and available at any time. 

Step 1: Download The Action (If You Haven’t Already)

Before installing an action in Photoshop, you must have it stored on your computer.

If you don’t have any actions yet, I have several available in my store here.

In addition, I recommend you look for more actions from Envato Elements or Creative Market.

These websites offer you actions that produce incredible effects. On the Envato website, you can find actions for various effects for images and text.

The Creative Market website also offers thousands of actions you can use for various projects.

Step 2: Open The Action Panel In Photoshop

Once you have an action on your computer, open Photoshop to install it. Typically, the Action Panel appears on the right side of the Photoshop workspace, represented by a play button icon.

Click on the icon to view the Action Panel.

If you can’t see the Action Panel in your workspace, go to Window > Actions. Alternatively, press Alt + F9 (Win) or Option + F9 (Mac).

The Actions Panel will appear, containing default actions that come with Photoshop and actions you have created if you have any.

Step 3: Open The Menu In The Actions Panel

To install an action saved on your computer, click the Options Menu within the Actions panel.

Step 4: Select Load Actions From The Menu

Scroll down the menu and click on Load Actions.

Step 5: Locate The Action On Your Device

When your Explorer or Finder window opens, you must look for an .ATN file in the folder you saved the action. Once you find it, click Load to import it into Photoshop.

The action or set of actions you loaded will appear under other existing actions.

How To Use Photoshop Actions

Using actions is fast and easy, as you will see next.

Step 1: Locate The Action In The Actions Panel

First, open the image you want to apply an action to. Then open the Actions Panel and locate the action set of your choice.

Click the arrow beside the folder to reveal the list of actions within the action set.

Step 2: Click The Play Button To Run The Action

To run an action, click on it and then click the Play button in the Actions Panel.

The action will be instantly applied to your photo.

Several layers appear in the Layers Panel when the process is completed. These layers correspond to each step of the action. These layers will be grouped together, as in the example below.

Step 3: Modify The Action (Optional)

Modifying an action is very simple, and you can do it in many ways.

To delete a step from an action or an entire action, click it and press Delete. Alternatively, click the trash bin icon at the bottom of the Actions Panel.

Click the arrow next to an action or step to see which effects have been applied to it. 

Double-click the applied effect to adjust its values within the action, so any time you use it, the new settings are applied. For example, Photoshop opened the black-and-white adjustment panel when I double-clicked the corresponding effect.

You can also modify an effect applied by an action in the Layers Panel, such as adjusting a layer opacity. These changes will only affect your image in the workspace and won’t alter the action.

For example, I found the color mask effect too harsh, so I lowered its opacity to 85%.

How To Apply A Photoshop Action To Multiple Images

When you need to apply the same effects to multiple images, you can automate the process by batch-applying the effect. 

Step 1: Open The Batch Automation Panel

To do this, go to File > Automate > Batch.

A dialog box will pop up with some options for you to choose from.

Step 2: Select The Action

In Set, choose a set of actions you want to draw an action from.

Choose the action you wish to run in the Action drop-down menu.

Step 3: Select The Source Folder Or Files

In Source, you can choose between Folder and Opened Files. Choose Folder if you want to apply the effects to a folder created on your computer or Opened Files to apply to images opened in the Photoshop workspace.

In my case, I chose Folder and then clicked Choose to open the files on my computer so I could look for the folder I wanted. Click Select Folder in your Explorer or Finder.

Step 4: Set The Save Location

After choosing the images you want to apply the effect to, it’s time to select the Destination where the resulting photos will be stored. You should save the resulting images in the same image source folder for better organization. Click on Save and Close to save over the original images.

Step 5: Click OK To Run The Processor

Finally, hit OK to apply the effect to all the selected images.

As you saw here, using Actions is a great way to streamline your workflow. With Actions, I don’t waste time on repetitive processes that I’m already familiar with and can instead focus on developing new ones. Once you find the right ones to use in your projects, they are a super valuable addition to Photoshop!

Article By

Brendan Williams

Hey, I'm Brendan! I'm a professional photographer and photo retoucher who has spent the majority of his career shooting or retouching outdoor lifestyle and social media campaigns for brands like G-Adventures, xoxo Bella, P&G, Fitbit, Chevy, Tourism California, and more. These days I primarily focus my efforts on this site, creating guides and tutorials that I wish I had earlier in my career. Each week I publish new tutorials on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Canva to help you unlock new skills and bring your creativity to new levels! Everything you learn here is backed by real experience, so you can finally skip the fluff and focus only on what matters.

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