Actions in Photoshop and Illustrator CS5

An action in Photoshop and Illustrator is a sequence of commands or actions you do in using the program, that are recorded and played on a single or batch of files. This way designers can save a lot of time and efforts in doing repetitive tasks. Photoshop and Illustrator come with a set of predefined actions which you can use or modify to suit your needs. You can also find plenty of actions freely available on various design websites.

NOTE: The process of recording and playing an action is same in Photoshop and Illustrator. However in this tutorial, my screenshots are taken from Photoshop.

To record an action follow these steps;

1. Open out the Actions palette, either from Window > Actions or key in the shortcut Ctrl + F9.


What we see in the picture are the Default actions that come with Photoshop. You can collapse these by clicking on the down arrow next to Default Actions title.

2. Click on the Create New Set button (Folder icon) in the bottom of the Actions Palette. In the ‘New Set’ dialog box, enter a name for the set of actions you are about to record. For example I am going to record actions for resizing images. So I entered ‘Resize images’ in the box.


The Resize images action set can contain multiple actions.

3. Next click on the Create new action icon (next to the New Folder icon) in the palette to create a new action. In the New Action dialog box, enter a name for the action. I am recording an action for creating thumbnails, so I enter ‘Thumbnail’. Set is Resize images, that we created in step 2. You create a Function Key for the action using the Function Key box. Click on ‘Record’ to begin recording.


4. Once you click this button, every action you perform will be recorded. There is no need to hurry while recording since it only remembers the actions and not how much time you took to complete them. After performing all the actions, click on the Stop button.

NOTE: Alternatively to record an action, click on the ‘Begin recording’ (green circle icon). The icon becomes red indicating the action is being recorded.

5. To play the action, select the action in the palette, click on ‘Play Selection’ button (Play icon).

For demo, I will record the action of creating thumbnail. Here are the steps.

a. Open an image and begin recording with the ‘Begin recording’ (green circle icon).

b. Image > Image Size… > enter thumbnail values as Width: 300 px and Height: 225 px.

c. Stop recording using the ‘Stop Playing/Recording’ button (square icon). The action has been recorded and listed as shown below. Photoshop/Illustrator give a name to the action.


d. To apply the action on another image, open the new image, choose the action ‘Thumbnail’ in the Actions palette and click Play. The new image will be converted into a thumbnail within no time.

Wasn’t that simple? So go ahead and use actions to make your life easy. I hope you had fun reading this tutorial as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Filed Under: Adobe IllustratorAdobe Photoshop


About the Author: Minal is a freelance web and graphics designer. She specializes in designing Logos, Stationery, Graphics and Icons as well as website templates using graphical tools like Photoshop, Illustrator and Expression Web. Twitter @saffronstroke

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