Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Hello ;o) Beckie here again, bringing you another installment of Shoppe Tips & Tricks!
As I was preparing a list of topics for this series, one of the things I was most eager to share with everyone is how to use actions to speed up your workflow. What we’re going to explore today is how YOU can create your own custom actions to help you automate those functions you repeat with every layout!
NOTE: You cannot create actions in Photoshop Elements. You can, however, install some types of actions created in Photoshop and successfully run them in Elements. So if you’re an Elements user, keep your eyes open for actions you can obtain to work for you!
What is an action?
An action is simply a way to “record” a series of steps to have them accessible to play back with the simple click of a button! I’ve created many of my own personal actions that I use ALL THE TIME. By automating the mechanics of many activities you execute with each layout, you’ll be amazed at the time you save! More time creating – less time clicking!
Why would you use actions?
We introduced you to actions last week when we brought you the interview with Sarah and encouraged you to download her free photo enhancing actions. Photo editing is just one of MANY uses for actions, and is one example of the type of actions available for sale (or as freebies) around the digi world. But there are other activities, like file management (a boring, necessary evil for digi scrappers!) and shadow work (often a matter of personal preference/style) that may be better to create yourself. Below are the actions I’ve created for my personal use:
- Save layout for Web & Print. Once I complete a layout, I need to create a small version of the file that I can upload to on-line galleries to share with family and friends. At the same time, I like to create the high-quality .jpg that I will later upload to an on-line print service. I have one folder where I put all “web” copies, and a separate folder where I place all “to be printed” copies.
- Shadows. As with many of you, I’ve developed my own preferences for applying shadows to the elements on my layouts. Some methods of applying shadows have 5-6 steps, and considering the number of elements on one layout, it’s easy to see how the time adds up! Also, since realistic shadows look different depending on the element on the page, I use a combination of two different actions: one for “deep” shadows (thick things, or things farther away from the page) and one for “simple” shadows (primarily paper elements that just need a little definition). I won’t be getting into the details of creating shadows this time – but I’ll be back in TWO WEEKS with a detailed tutorial! so stay tuned if you’re interested! (I’m in the process of learning PSE8 so I can explain it for both Photoshop AND Elements!)
- Save photo for web and print. I take a LOT of photos, and sometimes *gasp* – I print a photo. Without a scrapbook page. I know, I know – it’s blasphemy :o). I also save copies to share with family and friends on places like Facebook and Flickr. Once I’ve cropped and edited the photo, it’s really helpful to just click ONE button to save it at the right sizes and the right locations automatically!
- Add borders to photos. Remember that Edit/Stroke trick we learned in the first Shoppe Tips & Tricks post? The exact same technique can be used to add a border to a photo! Sometimes I go with the clean/simple white-ish border approach, other times I’ll distress/age up the border that I add. But just clicking one button to create the basic border is super helpful!
So how do you create them?
The best thing to do is to take a moment to create an action the next time you’re creating a layout. When you reach an activity that you’d like to automate (shadows or file saving, etc) – just follow these steps! Let’s say you want to create an action to save a scrapbook layout to print at a later date. Once you’re all done with your layout and everything is how you want it, you’re ready to follow these steps:
1. Open the Action Pallette in Photoshop. If you can’t find it, go to “Window–>Workspace” and select “Default Workspace” to make your setup look like mine (but don’t be mad at me if everything moves around on you, LOL!)
2. Next you’ll need to create a new “set”, or “folder” to house your own custom actions. I created one called “My Custom Actions” (I wasn’t feeling overly creative that day, LOL!). Click on the little file folder at the bottom, type the heading name you want for your group of actions, then click “OK”. Now is probably a good time to move your mouse over the rest of the buttons at the bottom to see what they do, too!
3. Now we need to create a new action. It is very important to create the action at the right place, so be sure to click on the line you just created (Mine is called “My Custom Actions” and has the little file folder icon next to the name). Now click the Create New Action button at the bottom (the little piece of paper with the lifted up corner). Use the dialog box to give your new action a name – I use “Save for Print”. Confirm that “Set” contains the name of the action set you created in the last step (“My Custom Actions” or something else). You can even assign a function key to your action if you’d like! When you’re all done, click “Record”.
You’ve just told Photoshop to record the steps you’re about to perform!
4. Go through the steps just like you normally would to save your layout to be printed later! For me, it’s the following:
- File –> Save As
- Browse to the folder where you wish to save the finished layout
- Confirm the filename is what you want. I use a year, month, description format for my titles: “2010 05 Lawson playing DS” as an example, where the year/month represents the date of the activity. This way, even when I don’t scrap chronologically, it’s easy to get all the pages in order later!
- Under “Format” – use the drop down menu to select .jpg
- Click “Save”
- In the JPEG Options box that pops up, set the quality to 10 (I read somewhere that this is “good enough”, and I’ve printed hundreds of layouts this way and they all look beautiful!). Click “OK”.
I go ahead and close the .psd file also before I stop recording the macro. If you prefer to leave the .psd open, that’s fine too!
5. Once you’ve completed all of your steps, just click “Stop” (the square button). And you’re DONE!
6. To run your action, just click on the play button (triangle). Or, if you assigned a function key at the time you created the action, you can simply hit the corresponding function key!
A few additional notes:
- If you want to save for web and save for print all in one action like I have mine set up at home, just finish one save function, leave the .psd file open, then do the other save function, and close the .psd file. That way – with one click of the button – you’ve saved the file two ways and closed up the .psd file!
- You have the option to have dialog boxes on or off. Dialog boxes are the prompts for input (in the example above, the prompts to specify the file name, to set the quality of the JPEG, etc). I generally leave them OFF because it all runs as one smooth step. This works well because I always give my file its custom name at the time I create the .psd file. If not, I’d have to leave the dialog boxes on so I could type in the custom name during the execution of the macro. The default is to have them on…but you can easily turn them off! See those check marks along the left edge of the Action Pallette in the image above? Just un-check them to turn off the prompts!
- If you want to learn more about actions, Google “photoshop action tutorial” and you’ll see a ton of sites pop up! I’m sure there’s much more that can be done if you’re interested in reading more! :)
I also feel like now is a really great time to say – I am by NO MEANS an expert in this stuff! I just like to play around and hope that you’ll find these tips helpful. I’m ALWAYS looking to learn new things, so please feel free to leave comments below! Tell me what YOU’VE automated as an action, any other new tips you’ve learned related to creating Actions, or even any questions you have. I’ll do my best to answer them :)
Oh – and we’re always open to suggestions for future Shoppe Tips & Tricks! Next up will be creating custom shadows! :o)
I hope everyone has a great day!! Thanks again for stopping by!