by Weston Maggio

How to Use Photoshop Actions with a Wacom Tablet

An Action is a recording of a series of steps performed in Photoshop. The use of Actions can be extremely beneficial as this series of steps can be “played” to automate tasks. For example, you could use an action to resize images or convert an image’s color mode. Better yet, you can unleash it on a folder full of images. Any recurring task is a prime candidate for Actions! 

Actions can be relatively simple such involving a single step. i.e. Duplicate Layer (Cmd/Ctrl + J) Or, they can get pretty complex, involving dozens of steps and even interaction from the user throughout the playback process.

In either case, you need not be an expert on Actions to benefit from them. Actions can be created by one user and shared with others. In fact, the number of Action users far outweighs the number of Action creators!

For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll discuss the sharing and obtaining of , installation and actual use of Photoshop Actions. (While the process of creating Actions is not entirely complex, it is outside the scope of this tutorial.) 

Sharing Actions

Once an Action is created, it can be shared by exporting it from Photoshop. Actions can be shared one-by-one or in sets. Actions and sets of Actions are saved in the Photoshop file format, ATN. For example, a saved action might look like Action-from-Wes.ATN. This file can then be shared with another user via email, download, etc.

Once obtained, the new user “loads” the Action file for playback in Photoshop.

Tip: Before loading an Action, consider moving the file someplace for safe keeping, such as the preset folder within the Photoshop application folder. I made a folder within my Presets folder called “My Actions”. This enables me to organize Actions that I have created or collected,

How to Install or “Load” an Action:

Like a lot of things in Photoshop, there are multiple ways to accomplish a goal. To load an Action in Photoshop, do one of the following:

Method One – Double Click

Locate the Action file (.ATN) that you wish to load, and simply double click it. This process will launch Photoshop if it is not already open, and load the Action. Once loaded, you will find it in the Actions panel. Note: Double-clicking an ATN file may load it in Photoshop Elements (if you have it). If that is the case, install the Action using an alternate method.

Method Two – Load via Actions Panel

Open Photoshop, and navigate to the Actions panel. (Window > Actions) From the dropdown menu, select “Load Actions…”. Navigate to your new Action and select it. Once loaded, you will find it in the Actions panel.

Method Three – Drag and Drop (Mac)

Similar to the Double Click method, dragging the Action file (.ATN) and dropping on your Photoshop Application icon will load the Action. Once loaded, you will find it in the Actions panel.

Using Actions

Once you have an Action loaded into Photoshop, it remains there for use on any image. With the image open, make the Actions panel visible (Window > Actions), select the Action that you wish to “run” and click the play button in the bottom of the panel. That's it!

Watch closely: Actions can be fast depending on the number of steps involved and the speed of our computer.

With a little thought about your workflow, I bet that you can come up with a variety of Actions that will be extremely helpful to you. A search for "Photoshop Actions" will return countless results on your search engine of choice. Play with a few to get a feel for how they work. Then, consider trying your hand at creating the action of your dreams. It’s actually kind of fun!

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