6 Photoshop Actions to Cut Your Editing Time (and How to Use Them)

Christian Bonilla 12-10-2016

Using Photoshop is difficult. It can take years to master. Luckily, Photoshop is also equipped with useful tools Learn Photo Editing in Photoshop: Get the Basics Down in 1 Hour Photoshop is an intimidating program—but with just one hour, you can learn all of the basics. Grab a photo you want to edit, and let's get started! Read More that any beginner can learn to use. Photoshop’s Action feature is one such tool.


Here are some of the best, free Photoshop actions I could find to suit your image editing needs.

What Is the Action Tool?

The Action tool records How to Automate What You Do in Photoshop with Actions Read More and replicates Photoshop processes on an image. Image manipulation in Photoshop can be tedious, especially for beginners. The action tool is most beneficial when multiple images require the same effect. The best aspect of the action tool is, you can save it in a compact ATN file. The ATN file can then be downloaded, installed, and enacted with a few clicks of your mouse.

How to Use Photoshop Actions

To use Photoshop actions, ensure that your Actions button is enabled. From the Photoshop panel, select Window, and check the Actions option. You should now be able to access the Actions button, which resembles a triangular play icon.

Photoshops Actions Menu Option

The Actions window is loaded with an assortment of folders and files. To access an action, click the drop-down menu and select a file within a folder. A play button will appear on the bottom of the window. Click on the button, and the Action will be committed automatically.


Set Up an Action in Photoshop

Action files are registered under the ATN extension. To install ATN files to Photoshop, simply double click them as you would an executable (EXE) file. Photoshop will automatically recognize and install these files. You can also load actions manually by opening your Actions panel, clicking on the setting icon, and selecting Load Action.

Load Actions in Photoshops

If you’d like to revert any of these actions, you can do so in the History panel. First, head to Window and ensure History is checked. Then, click on the History button and scroll up until you see your image. Click on the image, and you will undo all the effects.


Undo Actions in Photoshop

Action List

Here’s a list of essential Photoshop actions which are available online for free.

Long Shadow

The long shadow effect is popular among graphic designers for its sleek shadow design. It creates a flat, elongated shadows that contours to your shape or text’s edges. There are two general long shadow effects. Long Shadow Version One is a flat shadow while Long Shadow Version Two simulates real-world shadow using different shades of shadow to match the contours of the shape.

Photoshop Action Shadow MakeUseOf Text


This effect works with both text and images, which allows users to create modern icons with a simple mouse click.

Photoshop Action Shadow Icon

HDR Effect

An HDR (High Dynamic Range) effect gives a sharper, higher quality to your image, and is a go-to for low-quality photo manipulation. This effect is achieved through tweaking the hue, saturation, and layering of the image. HDR Tools is a prime example of this technique, and offers several HDR levels to enhance your image.

Photoshop Action HDR Tool


3D Effect

As a fan of everything tech, I have a strange fascination with the RGB effect. This effect shifts color channels so images seem glitched or digitally corrupted. Action 3D enacts just this effect.

Photoshop Action 3D Glitch Effect

White Background / Black Background Removal

One of the most annoying Photoshop tasks is separating an object from its background 5 Easy Ways to Remove the Background From a Picture If you want to remove a background from an image, you don't exactly need Adobe Photoshop. Here are five alternative ways to do it! Read More , whether white or black. Luckily, Photoshop users have created actions to combat this task. Transparent Channels provides easy to use actions for this purpose.

To use Transparent Channels, load your image into Photoshop. Then, for white backgrounds, head to Image > Mode, and select CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key) Color. CMYK Color is a color mode mainly used for screen and media printing. Once you’ve selected CMYK Color, the color of your image will change slightly. Then, activate the CMYK > Trans action to separate your object from its background. For black background, the process is the same except for the color mode which is to remain in the default RGB (Red, Green, Blue) Color.

Photoshop Action CMYK Window

Here is an example of the process using a white background.

Photoshop Action White Removal

Here’s a similar example, using a black background.

Photoshop Action Black Removal

You may run into problems with this action, especially if your cropped image also contains white. Yet, when it comes to removing images from a white background, it doesn’t get any easier.

Light Leaks

Light leaks are a staple in image tweaking and graphic manipulation. Many Instagram and Snapchat filters attempt to emulate light leaks — visual artifacts created by leaking light into the body of a camera. These effects often give the photo a retro style, as light leaks are more prevalent in antique cameras. Light Leaks by Sivioco provide great versions of this effect.

Photoshop Action Light Leak Effect

Clear Tape / Sticker Creator

Panos FX Stickers kills two birds with one stone. Its Clear Tape feature creates a simple, elegant photo effect for your image. Sticker creates a similar effect but enhances the image with a peeling effect.

Photoshop Action Clear Tape

Become a One-Click Professional!

Alright, it takes more than one click to become a Photoshop professional How to Make Someone Float Using Photoshop Everyone dreams of flying and, with Photoshop, you can make it happen. Creating a levitation image is almost a rite of passage for anyone learning to use Photoshop's powerful tools. Read More . Photoshop actions, however, are definitely a great help in the craft of image editing. Don’t let Actions become just another tool in the Photoshop box, use it to your advantage!

Do you use the Actions feature of Photoshop? What for? Let us know in the comments below!

Image Credit: mimagephotography via Shutterstock

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