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How to Install & Use Photoshop Actions

Aaron Epstein March 26, 2024 · 4 min read

If you’re a graphic designer or a photographer, Photoshop actions are one of the handiest time-saving tools you can have in your utility belt. Really they’re like magic, allowing you to transform your photos and designs with a single click. For those of you that have never ventured into the wonderful world of Photoshop actions, this guide is for you.
Together with help from one of our shops, Design Panoply, we’ve put together this introduction to actions. In this post we’ll talk about what an action is, why they’re useful, and how you can get started using Photoshop actions today.

What are Photoshop actions?

Photoshop actions come in the .ATN file format and put simply, actions are a series of steps that have been recorded by their creator. This sequence of steps can then be reapplied at any time, which allows you to recreate the end result without having to go through each individual step every time. Think of them as short cuts.

Why are Photoshop actions useful?

Actions are great because they not only save time, but they significantly speed up your workflow. When you install a professional action in Photoshop, you are essentially getting the expertise of the person that created the action right on your computer. You can bypass hours of frustration and instead have fun playing around with different looks at the click of a button. For the novice, the ease of use and instant gratification of actions can be an important step in learning to embrace Photoshop. And if you’re interested in learning more, you can always dig into the individual layers of the actions to see how the original creator did certain things.

Installing Actions

The only thing easier than using actions is installing them on your copy of Photoshop. There are a couple of different ways to do it, but both are just as swift. Just follow these simple steps:
1. First, you’ll need some actions to work with and we just so happen to have a great selection to choose from.
2. After you’ve downloaded the zip file containing your actions, you’ll need to unpack the contents of the file. This should reveal a new folder containing the .ATN file for your new actions.
Action Folder
3. You can either drag this file directly into your Photoshop window, or you can use the action panel dropdown in Photoshop to select your .ATN file and load your actions.

Load Actions 2

That’s it! Once your actions are loaded in Photoshop, you’re ready to go.

Using Actions

Now that your actions are available in Photoshop, using them is as easy as 1, 2, 3.
1. Select the layer you want to apply the action to.
2. Select the action you want to use from your action panel.

Action Panel 2

3. Hit the “play” button down at the bottom of the panel.

Action Play

And voila! Whatever layer you have selected will be transformed using that action. It happens so fast that if you blink, you could miss it.
To see this process in action, John Shaver of Design Panoply and Photoshop Video Academy was kind enough to put together a video tutorial showing how you can get started using actions. For those of you interested in following along, you can download the demo content here.

Really that’s all there is to it. With a few little clicks you can generate professional-looking results that take a fraction of the time. To get started playing around with actions, check out these great products from the marketplace.

Also keep an eye out for more How-To’s to come on our blog, including how to use Brushes, Layer Styles, and more. Cheers and happy creating!

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About the Author
Aaron Epstein

Creative Market cofounder. Jack of all trades, master of none. Designer/developer hybrid in a previous life. Powered by Cheerios and avocados.

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