Photoshop Actions

I’d like to share some of my Photoshop actions with you. I use these when I want to “touch up” photographs and add some extra effects.

I’d like to share some of my Photoshop actions with you. I use these when I want to “touch up” photographs and add some extra effects.

You can download a set of these actions.

For each of the actions, I’m going to use a photograph that started life as a 1600 x 1200 photograph shot on a Fuji Finexpix A201. I’ve reduced this down to 960 x 720 pixels to make it a more manageable download.

If you’d like to walk through all the steps of the actions described in this article, you can download this photograph and compare your results on a step by step basis.

A photograph of Jessica

To illustrate each action, I’ll be using 320 x 240 sized snapshots like this.

The first action is a straightforward “soft focus”.

Soft Focus

This action involves duplicating the original layer, making adjustments to that duplicate and then merging it back down. It works best on close-up portraits rather than distant landscapes.

Here’s the original picture.

The original photograph of Jessica.

The first step is duplicating this original layer.

Layer > Duplicate Layer

I’m going to blur this duplicated layer using the Gaussian Blur filter. I use a radius of about 7 pixels for a medium sized image.

The photograph of Jessica with gaussian blur applied.

The blur effect by itself is obviously too extreme so I’m going to change the style of the layer.

Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options

I set the Blend Mode to Lighten. I can then merge the duplicated layer back down with its original.

Layer > Merge Down

The photograph of Jessica with blending set to lighten.

I now have a “soft focus” version of the original photograph. If you find the effect too extreme or not extreme enough, try using lesser or greater values for the Gaussian Blur filter.

Varying the blending options can also produce some interesting effects. I want to show you just one of those variations. I use it to create a “drawing" effect on pictures.

Drawing

The first few steps of this are identical to the “soft focus” action.

Here’s the original picture again.

The original photograph of Jessica.

Again, I duplicate this original layer.

Layer > Duplicate Layer

Now I apply the Gaussian Blur filter with a radius of about 7 pixels.

The photograph of Jessica with gaussian blur applied.

Now I change the blending options on the layer.

Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options

This time, I set the Blend Mode to Darken. I merge the duplicated layer back down with its original.

Layer > Merge Down

The photograph of Jessica with blending set to lighten.

This action has the effect of making the lines in the photograph look hand-drawn while the areas of colour look inked-in. This pen and ink feel is reminiscent of some comics and graphic novels.

The next action is also a variation on the “soft focus”. I like to call it the “moody" action.

Moody

The idea with this action is to make a picture look more atmospheric.

I’m going to start with the same photograph. It has some strong colours like the red of the hair and the green of the jumper.

The original photograph of Jessica.

The first thing I do is reduce the saturation.

Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation

I put a figure of -70 in the Saturation field.

The photograph of Jessica with reduced saturation.

It’s already starting to look moodier although it’s quite flat. I increase the effect of the desaturation by increasing the brightness and decreasing the contrast.

Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast

I put a figure of 15 into the Brightness field and -15 into the Contrast field.

Now I’m going to duplicate this layer. I do this because I want to mess with the settings of the duplicated layer and blend both layers together.

Layer > Duplicate Layer

From here, it’s quite similar to the “soft focus” action. Once again, I’m going to blur this duplicated layer using the Gaussian Blur filter with a radius of about 7 pixels.

The photograph of Jessica with gaussian blur applied.

Now I’m going to blend it with the layer below.

Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options

This time, I set the Blend Mode to Overlay. I then merge the duplicated layer back down with the original.

Layer > Merge Down

The photograph of Jessica with blending set to overlay.

That’s it. I now have a “moody" version of the original photograph.

There’s one last effect I want to show you.

Lomo

This action attempts to reproduce the kind of pictures you get from a Lomo camera. Unfortunately, part of this action is specific to the size of the picture (in this case, 960 x 720) so you’ll have to adjust it for different sizes.

I begin with the same photograph.

The original photograph of Jessica.

In many ways, this action is the opposite to the “moody" action because I want to increase the vividness of the colours. The first thing I do is up the brightness and contrast.

Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast

I put a figure of 10 into both the Brightness and the Contrast fields.

The photograph of Jessica with increased brightness and contrast.

Next, I increase the saturation.

Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation

I put a figure of 15 in the Saturation field.

The photograph of Jessica with increased saturation.

Now I create a new, blank layer with the Blend Mode set to Soft Light.

Layer > New Layer

I’m going to fill this layer with a gradient. I set the foreground colour to white and the background colour to black. I then choose the Gradient tool and select a blend of the white going to black (the first option) and the radial pattern (the second pattern option). I drag the cursor from the centre of the image to one of the corners.

This is the part of the action that will have to vary depending on the size of the image because the centre will be in a different pixel position.

The photograph of Jessica with a gradient applied.

Now I merge this layer down.

Layer > Merge Down

It’s not quite the same as using a real Lomo camera but it’s a nice effect anyway.

So there you go: one photograph with four different effects.

The photograph of Jessica with the soft focus action applied. The photograph of Jessica with the drawing action applied. The photograph of Jessica with the moody action applied. The photograph of Jessica with the lomo action applied.

I hope you’ll find these actions useful. You can turn any of them into droplets by using Photoshop’s Automate option.

Automate > Create Droplet...

Have fun and don’t be afraid to play around with the settings I’ve given. You’ll be surprised at some of the great results you can get just by messing around.

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