How to use Photoshop operations

In this series of lessons, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Photoshop operations in order to work successfully with them. We will introduce the concept of “Operation” (Action) and determine the difference between a single operation and a set of operations. We will also study some operations presented in the program by default, and additional sets of operations that were originally installed in Photoshop.

We will examine the contents of the Operations panel in detail, consider how to start an operation, how to edit it, how to view the details of an operation, how to analyze the operation, break it into separate steps, how to load, save and delete operations and, of course, how to create our own operations . There is a lot of material to study, so let’s get started!

Links to individual lessons …

If you want to learn all the material about operations in Photoshop, I strongly recommend that you read all the lessons from beginning to end, since each new topic of the lesson is based on previous topics. Thus, if you go, for example, immediately to the lesson on recording operations, then skip a lot of useful information. However, if you still do not want to study all the material, then for convenience, here are links to individual topics:

  1. Consideration of operations that are automatically loaded into Photoshop
  2. Even more free sets of operations that were originally installed in the program
  3. Detailed analysis of the operation by splitting it into separate steps
  4. All you need to know about editing operations!
  5. How to record your own operation from scratch!
  6. All about saving and loading operations!

Why are Photoshop operations necessary?

Let’s pretend that you are a lazy person. No, no, do not worry, except for us with you no one else will know! Admit that you love to take time off from work, at least when it’s pretty boring. Of course, when the task is interesting and requires ingenuity and resourcefulness, you cannot be distracted from the work. Everyone loves to boast achievements. But when we are faced with monotonous, boring, monotonous work (known as “rough work”), it immediately seems to us that it takes up too much of our time, and we desperately want to shift this work to another, and rest a little while drinking a well-deserved cup coffee.

And what if you could shift some of these routine tasks to Photoshop? And what if there was a way to do something else while the program carefully monitors every step of the monotonous operation and performs it for you? Good news! Photoshop is really able to free you from boring repetitive actions! And as usual, the good news is bad – Photoshop cannot do everything for you (but maybe it’s not necessary – then what will you do?).

There are certain things that the program is not able to do itself: for example, you cannot select any person in the image with the Lasso tool, and then expect from the program that it will automatically select people in other ways in other ways. It will not (at least not in the coming years)! Nevertheless, the program can perform quite a lot of actions for you if you specify how to do it.

As you become familiar with operations, study their properties and features, perform seemingly impossible actions, you will understand how useful and thoughtful the application of operations can be. Just imagine – you have finished working with a complex, time-consuming photo effect that involves performing a huge number of individual actions (steps), and now you can apply this effect to process another photo or many photos by simply clicking the “Run” button on the action bar. Impressive?

Of course, the operations in Photoshop can also be used to solve simpler tasks, as we will see later.

Photoshop operations – how important is it to know them

Formally speaking, to work in the program Photoshop to know the operation is not necessary. I mean that there is no such action in the program that you would not do without the use of operations. If you want, you can even work all your life in Photoshop and never use the operations panel. Operations were designed only to make our lives easier, as is the case with a car – a thing is certainly convenient, but is it vital to know how to drive it (or, at least, to know someone who could to carry you)?

Formally, you can walk and, eventually, still go to the right place, but why spend hours on hiking, if the car is able to take you to your destination many times faster (we do not take into account the additional financial costs, harm to health and environment).

Imagine that you have a hundred or even a thousand photos, the size of which you need to change to be placed on the Internet or for printing, and you have to sit in front of the monitor and change the size of each photo individually. At best, you use keyboard shortcuts, but all the same, at the same time, you will spend a lot of time, time that you could spend with more benefit for yourself!

By applying operations, you could first resize one photo, then save the sequence of actions as an operation, and then give the program a command to work with the other photos on your own. Or suppose you want to add a copyright to all the photos. Again, you can start putting a mark on each photo individually or, adding a mark on one image, save the sequence of steps as an operation and further relax, allowing the program to finish the work for you. I gave just a few simple examples of how operations in Photoshop can make your work much easier. With a little practice, you can use operations to solve almost any problem in Photoshop.

Fear, anxiety and confusion …

Despite the fact that operations are certainly a useful and remarkable parameter, many Photoshop users, even those who have been working with the program for a long time, try to keep away from this parameter because of fear, anxiety and confusion. Many people click on the red “Record” button and then suddenly feel a sense of confusion, as if the little red button on the “Operations” panel is watching and making fun of them. Drops of sweat begin to drain on their faces, hands begin to shake, and in an instant they are covered by a real panic!

The reason is the following: the recording and playback controls in the Operations panel are very similar to the traditional recording and playback buttons on most recording devices. Since most recording devices record everything that happens in real time, people mistakenly think that after clicking the Record button on the action pane, the program starts recording everything in real time. They begin to write down the order of actions as quickly as possible, fearing that the program will lose patience, with the result that panic begins and further errors appear, further aggravating the panic state. Then, suddenly, people realize that they have missed some action, and the whole sequence is wrong, and before the error is found, there is a feverish pressing of the Escape button and the promise not to repeat this whole nightmare anymore.

If your behavior is similar to the above, take a deep breath and relax. There is absolutely no reason for panic or haste while recording transactions, because the recording does not happen in real time.

Let’s clarify this point again to clarify – transactions are not recorded in real time! You can safely click on the “Record” button, leave the house, go to the cinema or cafe, go back, watch TV, take a shower and then, after many hours, go back to the computer screen and begin to finally work on the sequence of steps you need to record for the operation – the program will not care. Indeed, all the same.

All entries in Photoshop are the steps of the operation, no matter how long you had to perform them or how much time you had between the steps. Feel free to spend as much time recording an operation as you need. Even if you make a mistake (and this can happen to anyone, even with the most experienced user), you can easily go back to previous actions and make changes, since editing operations is very simple. After all, first of all, they are designed to make life easier for us, and not to ruffle.

Operation Compatibility Property

Another important advantage of operations is their availability. Formally, you can record the operation in one version of Photoshop, and it will work in all other versions of the program! Moreover, operations are compatible with different operating environments, that is, you can record an operation on a computer with a Windows operating system (OS) and then play it without any problems on a computer with Mac OS and vice versa!

Please note that when specifying the advantages of operations, I used the word “formally”, since you may encounter situations when an operation recorded in one version of the program will not work in another version, at least without special processing.

I will now explain the reason from the point of view of common sense. If you, for example, record an operation in a version of Photoshop CS3 and use the new features (parameters) of this version, when you play this operation in earlier versions of the program, where these parameters are not available, the operation will not work. Why? Because the operation uses a parameter that is available only in the version of Photoshop CS3.

In most cases, you will quite successfully use the operations that were recorded in earlier versions of the program, since almost all parameters of earlier versions are available in later versions. But if you record the operation in one of the latest versions of Photoshop and want it to be reproduced in earlier versions, then you probably will use when writing those commands and parameters that are also present in earlier versions. Logical, isn’t it?

Operations panel

A little later we will look at how to write a simple operation so that you can understand the principle of its operation. However, before we write anything down, let’s first examine the basic commands of the Actions panel. This panel contains everything related to operations in Photoshop, starting with recording and replaying operations and ending with their saving, editing, deleting and grouping. By default, the Operations panel is grouped together with the History panel, although there is nothing in common between these panels. Also, by default, the History panel is visible, while the Operations panel is hidden behind it. To display the Operations panel, you need to click on the tab with the panel name:

Operations panel

If for some reason the Operations panel has not opened on your screen, you can access it by going to the Window item in the menu bar at the top of the screen and then selecting Actions. At first glance, the “Operations” panel does not contain many elements, but let’s still consider it in more detail.

Control buttons

If you look at the bottom of the panel, you will see a series of icons similar to the icons of most other Photoshop panels:

Icons at the bottom of the Operations panel

Notice how the three icons on the left side look like traditional control buttons for recording devices, and indeed, as I mentioned earlier, they are responsible for the same functions. From left to right in the panel are the icons Stop Play / Record Operation (Stop) (square icon), Start Record (Record), Play Active Action / Command (Play), Create New Set of Operations (New Action Set), “Create New Operation” (New Action) and, finally, the trash can icon for deleting operations and operation sets.

Menu bar “Operations”

Like all panels of the program, the Operations panel has its pop-up menu, where we can access various parameters and commands, as well as download additional sets of operations. In my case, I work in the version of Photoshop CS3, and if you have the same version, then you can open this menu by clicking on the corresponding menu icon in the upper right corner of the Operations panel. If you are working in an earlier version of the program, then in the upper right corner you should see a small right-hand arrow. Click on it to access the menu:

To display the pop-up menu, click the menu icon or the right-hand arrow.

All commands that we reviewed with you at the bottom of the panel (“Stop playback / recording of an operation”, “Start recording”, “Replay an active operation / command”, “Create a new set of operations,“ Create a new operation ”and“ Delete ”) , also presented in the pop-up menu, so some of the menu commands are repeated (as in many other sections of the program), and some of the commands are new, for example, commands for editing operations, such as: “Insert Menu Item”, “Insert Stop” (Insert Stop) and “Insert Path” (Insert Path). The popup menu also contains commands for loading operations, replacing them, restoring them, and resetting them. You will use these menu commands most often when working with operations.

At the bottom of the menu list are additional sets of operations that come with Photoshop, such as Frames, Image Effects, Text Effects, and others. Some of the operations that you find in these sets may be really useful for you, but unlike the default set of operations, these operations are not loaded into the program automatically. How to download these additional sets of operations, we will look at in more detail in the following lessons!

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