How to Install & Use Photoshop Actions

By on Mar 11, 2019 in How To
How to Install & Use Photoshop Actions

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 FolderPin It

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 2Pin It

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 2Pin It

3. Hit the "play" button down at the bottom of the panel.

Action PlayPin It

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!

Products Seen In This Post:

Free lettering worksheets

Download now!


Download now!

Getting started with hand lettering?

Download these worksheets and start practicing with simple instructions and tracing exercises.


  1. I know the feeling @Lesley Yarbrough! I first started with actions that tweaked my photos, then found some 3D effects, and now there's ridiculously cool stuff like the Pixelator pack mentioned above.

  2. You guys always doing an awesome job providing useful articles for our customers. This is really helping us authors focus on designing more awesome products! Thank you Creative Market!

  3. I deleted my last comment, perhaps I should have read the article before posting, haha! Shout out to [@Design Panoply](user:73961) for his hard work and dedication, he's doing a great job with his Photoshop Video Academy, he puts a lot of pride into his work, which is what makes him successful. I wish @John Shaver the best of luck with his new venture!

  4. Really it's a great,useful and informative article.If we can apply this method in our processional life then it carry huge impact.

  5. Hey just downloaded an AquaType - Vector Watercolor Effects and the action files were in a .aia file format and photoshop won't let me open it. How to do I get around this?

  6. @anthony strong Thanks for the purchase. As I mention in the description for AquaType this product is only for Adobe Illustrator and not Photoshop. Please send me a message and I can give you a different product in its place or contact Creative Market for a full refund.

  7. Thanks for the amazing article! :) I just have one question (might be a dumb question, I'm sorry): do you have to install the action for the specific project you want, or once you install it is it saved to Photoshop's library?

You must be signed in to post a comment.

Made with Creative Market

Browse a gallery of inspiration made with design assets from Creative Market.

Explore the Gallery →

Meet the Creative Market Authors

Learn more about the talented writers behind the articles.

Meet the Authors →

Download Our FREE Branding eBook

Get a FREE, fun, and friendly guide to design your own brand.

Get your eBook →