Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Making an action, part of Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Mastery.
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In this exercise, I am going to show you how to create a first action that flattens an image, changes a resolution value without re-sampling the image - note that, and it goes ahead and converts the image from RGB to CMYK. So I have a couple things open - note that. First of all, I have got this image open, called Pont Saint-Benezet.psd, found inside the Original wide format subfolder. I also have open the Actions panel, and I have gone ahead twirled closed the Default Actions that ship with Photoshop. For all I care, you can delete those by dragging them to the trashcan; they are about that useful.
Then we have a new action Set that we have created, called Productivity, that's twirled open and right ready to go. Now before you begin recording an action, I suggest that you make sure that your image file is up to date, meaning that you go ahead and save any changes that you have applied since last saving the image. Now, if I go over to my History panel, there is a bunch of messy junk going on here, but I haven't really done anything to the image, because I went ahead and reverted to that snapshot. But you know what? It's better to be safe than sorry.
So I am going to go up to the File menu, and I am going to choose the Revert command or press the F12 key. And now I will go ahead and revert this guy to his original saved appearance. I am also going to get rid of that Snapshot by just dragging it to the trashcan, just so that I don't have any extra garbage sitting around. That doesn't have any effect on my action, but I want to be able to keep strict track of what's going on here in the History panel. So I will switch back to Actions. We are not recording an action yet. We have to first create an action. So you go down to this little Page icon and you click on it, and up comes the New Action dialog box.
I am just going to call this guy Convert to CMYK, which is a fairly generic description because we are going to be doing a few other things, but it fairly cuts to the chase. Now you can place your new action in any set that you have going inside the Actions panel. So I could either place inside of Productivity, a good thing to do, or Default Actions, bad thing to do. We will stick with Productivity. You can assign a color. That color will appear in the Button mode, which can prove to be useful; however, the default actions already have colored buttons associated with them.
So let's go ahead and leave ours set to None. And then finally, you can assign a keyboard shortcut in the form of a function key. On a PC, you can select F2 through F12 so a pretty limited range. On the Mac, I believe you can select from F1 to F15, depending on your keyboard. You can also add a couple of modifier keys, not Alt or Option. Don't know why, but you can do Shift and/or Ctrl here on a PC and that Shift and/or Command on the Mac. Bear in mind though, if you assign something like, let's say Shift+F6, then you are going to override my dekeKey, for example, in this case, which is a shortcut assigned to the Smart Sharpen Filter.
So if you like those keyboard shortcuts, then you don't want to override them; if you don't care about my keyboard shortcuts, then go for it. Anyway, I typically just play back the actions directly from the Actions panel, with the occasional exception here and there. If there is one I just use habitually, I might give it a function key. Just so you know, incidentally, I did not assign, in my dekeKeys, I did not assign any function keys before F5. So F1 on the Mac, then F2, F3 and F4 are open, if you can get them to work, because every so often there is a system conflict that won't allow you to apply them.
Anyway I am going to go ahead and click on the Record button, in order to begin recording the action. Notice that the Record button is now live. It appears red, showing me that Photoshop is going to record anything I do, that is any saying significant. If I zoom out, it doesn't record that. If I zoom in, it doesn't record that. If I pan the image around by Spacebar+ Dragging it, that doesn't get recorded. So nothing in the way of navigation gets recorded. However, the use of tools gets recorded, which is a little tricky, frankly, and the application of commands, which is a lot safer, that gets recorded.
The switching of layers gets recorded. Anything that is a truly significant operation is tracked by this panel. Also, another thing to bear in mind is time is not important. So if you decide now is the time to go make that sandwich or take that nap, why then go for it, because you can come back 15 minutes, or half an hour, three days later, as long as nobody is messing around with your copy of Photoshop, and Photoshop will just be sitting here, waiting for you to start recording. It doesn't care about the passage of time when it goes to play back the actions; it's just going to play the operations sequentially.
So feel free to take your time and figure out what it is you are doing. Now, for example, I know I want to convert this image to CMYK. So I could go up to the Image menu, choose mode, and choose CMYK color. This is a layered document, however, so Photoshop is going to say, hey! When you are converting RGB to CMYK, you probably don't want to convert each and every layer independently because you have all those blend modes and other transitions that might not work out properly. It's a good idea to go ahead and flatten the image. So you might think, all right, I will flatten, because some of my images are layered and some of the images are flattened in the first place. Might as well make them all flat for CMYK output.
However, if you are going to do that, if you think that's a good idea, why don't you do it as a separate operation? That way it's not clumped together in a single operation, which is basically a more tenuous way to work. It's not the most disciplined approach. Things can go wrong. You are always better off, when you are recording an action, trying to keep each and every operation as independent as possible. So I am going to cancel out. Notice canceling an operation is not recorded, so in other words Photoshop didn't pay attention to what I did at all because there was no completion associated with it.
Instead, I am going to go up to the Image menu - actually that's the wrong menu. I mean to go to the Layer menu in order to flatten the image. Again, Photoshop doesn't care if I get mixed up; it's just waiting for me to do something. Then I will drop down here to the Flatten Image command, which also has a keyboard shortcut, if you loaded dekeKeys I have got a keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+Alt+F, Command+Shift+Option+ F on the Mac. The reason I mention that is you are perfectly welcome to press a keyboard shortcut instead, if you want to, even though that shortcut exists on your machine, potentially, but not anybody else's machine.
Well again, Photoshop is just recording the operations; it doesn't care how you apply the operations. So, for example, I will click off of the menu for a moment. I am still recording. Even though I clicked off of the action, it's still recording away. I will just press that keyboard shortcut, mash your fist F, and there we go, Flatten Image. It didn't pay any attention to the keystroke I applied. All the Actions panel recorded was the flattening of my composition, which you can also see happen over here in the Layers panel. All right, so thus far we have only gotten through one operation in our action, but I am still going to pause the movie because I want to demonstrate to you here that even if we take a break in recording and then I come back, because I will have to save off the movie, give it a file name, do a couple of other little housekeeping chores and then come back into Photoshop and restart the movie, I can do that in the middle of recording an action, and it will cause no problems whatsoever.
Recommended prerequisites: Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals and Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Advanced.
- Using masks and blend modes in radically new ways
- Mastering the Pen tool and Paths panel
- Transforming and maximizing Smart Objects
- Employing Smart Filters to create complex effects
- Exploring the capabilities of Bristle brushes and the Mixer Brush
- Merging multiple images into seamless panoramas
- Exploring the full range of luminance with HDR Pro
- Recording actions and batching-processing images