Recording operations in Photoshop

If you studied lessons on operations in Photoshop, starting with the very first, let’s remember all the material covered – and there was a lot of it! If you immediately went to this lesson, do not worry, but you missed a lot of useful information.

We considered what operations are, examined the contents of the operations pane, learned the difference between the concepts of “operation” and “set of operations”. We also worked with the default operations that are automatically loaded into the program, and with the additional sets of operations that originally come with Photoshop.

We learned how to lose the operation step by step in order to better understand what happens at each stage of the operation, and finally, we looked at how to make changes to the operation and edit it. Do not forget the small useful digressions that we did while studying the topics, for example, how to view the details of the operation, including the details of the steps, how to show or hide dialog boxes during the operation, how to enable or disable certain steps of the operation and even where find the standard default operations in the version of Photoshop CS2!

Thus, we have studied enough material in order to try to record our own operation in Photoshop!

In this lesson we will look at how to record the operation to create a soft glow effect. As soon as we record it, we can apply this effect to any image! Below is a photo with which I will work:

The image that I will use when recording the operation

Let’s start!

Step 1: Create a new set of operations, if necessary.

As I mentioned earlier, all operations must be placed inside a set of operations, and it does not matter how many operations will contain a set — hundreds or just one. The main thing is that all operations are located within a set. In the lesson on editing operations, we learned that in order to create a new set of operations, just click on the “New Action Set” icon located at the bottom of the action pane. This icon is similar in form to a small folder, since in reality the set of operations is nothing but the folders where the operations themselves are stored:

To create a new set of operations, click on the “Create a new set of operations” icon located at the bottom of the action pane.

This action will open the New Set dialog box where you can enter a name for the new set of operations. I have already created a new set of transactions and called it “My Actions” (My Actions). If you studied with me a lesson on editing operations in Photoshop, then, most likely, you have already created a new set of operations, so there is no point in creating it again. If you have not created a new set of operations, then do this action. The screenshot below shows that I called the new set “My Operations”, but you, in turn, can come up with any other name you want:

The New Set dialog box allows you to enter any name for your new set of operations.

After entering the name, click OK to close the dialog box. If you now look at the operations pane, you will see that your new set has appeared there, located below the rest of the sets currently loaded in Photoshop. Since I will use the set of operations that I created earlier, we will be able to see in it the operation “Corners for photo-improvement”, which we edited in the last lesson. If you have just created a new set, then you will have it empty:

A new set of operations appeared on the “Operations” panel.

Keep in mind that you do not need to create a new set of operations every time you want to create a new operation. After you have created a new set of operations in order to place a new operation in it, you can also place other operations in this set – as many as you wish. It is also a good idea to remember not to place your own operations inside the sets of operations that were initially loaded into Photoshop, such as Default Operations, Image Effects, Frames, etc. Store your own operations in new sets that you created yourself.

Step 2: Create a new operation

After we have created a set of operations for placing a new operation in it, let’s create the operation itself. To do this, click on the “Create New Operation” icon (New Action) at the bottom of the action pane:

To create an operation, click on the “Create a new operation” icon.

This action will open the “New operation” dialog box, where we will be able to enter a new name for our operation and select a set of operations to place the operation in it. Since we will record the steps needed to create a simple soft glow effect, I’ll call the operation Soft Glow. Directly under the data entry window, where you entered a name for your operation, is the Set option. Here we will be able to choose the set in which our operation will be placed. If your new transaction set is not selected, select it from the list. In my case, you can see that I placed the operation “Soft Glow” in the set “My Operations”:

Enter a name for your new operation and select the set where you will place it.

At the bottom of the dialog box “New operation” you can see a few more options. The Function Keys parameter allows you to assign a specific key combination, if you wish, to a new operation using any function keys together with the Shift key or Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key. As for me, I would not pay attention to this parameter, since it is very easy to lose the operation by simply clicking on the “Perform Operation” icon located on the action pane. The Color option allows you to assign a specific color to your operation, which will only be visible when viewing your operations in Button Mode (Button Mode), but this is not the topic of this lesson. Therefore, you can easily skip the “Function key” and “Color” parameters and continue working, but this is just my opinion.

Step 3: Click on the “Write” button

When you are done with the parameters, click on the “Record” button located in the upper right corner of the dialog box:

Click on the “Write” button to start recording a new operation.

As soon as you click on the “Record” button, you will see that your new operation has appeared inside the “My Operations” operations set in the operations pane. You will also see that the record button at the bottom of the panel lights up in red, indicating that the recording has started:

Our operation appeared on the operations panel, and the record button lit up in red

Remember that there is no cause for concern. Yes, the recording has begun, but it does not look like a movie recording. Transactions are not recorded in real time. All that Photoshop will record is the steps that we lose, and it doesn’t matter how much time it takes us to complete the steps.

So let’s start recording the steps for our operation!

Step 4: Take a picture

As a first step in creating a soft glow effect, I’m going to tell the program to take a snapshot of the original image before applying the effect. In fact, you do not need to record the creation of a snapshot by the first step of the operation, but since later this step will give us the opportunity to quickly undo the effect, it will not hurt to include this action in the operation. Thus, in recording mode, I am going to switch for some time to the History panel, which is located next to the Operations panel by default, and click on the New Snapshot icon at the bottom panels:

Creating a snapshot of the image is the first step of the operation “Soft Glow”

As a result of this action, a new image snapshot will be added to the History panel:

A snapshot of the image appeared at the top of the History panel.

Now, if you need to cancel the effect after performing the operation, I can simply switch to the History panel and click on the image.
I’ll switch back to the Operations panel, and we’ll see that the first step appeared in Operation Soft Glow — Make Snapshot. Our first step was successfully recorded:

The first step appeared in the operation.

Step 5: Copy The Background Layer

Now, after we have found a way to quickly cancel the effect, if necessary, we can start creating it! The first thing we need to do is create a copy of the background layer (Background). The background layer is the layer that contains the original image, and at the moment this layer is the only one on the layers panel. In order to create a copy of it, go to the “Layers” menu section at the top of the screen, select “New” and then click “Copy to new layer” (Layer via Copy). A faster way to copy a layer is to press the key combination Ctrl + J (Win) / Command + J (Mac).

Any of the above methods allows us to create a copy of the background layer (or at least a copy of any currently selected layer, in our case this is the background layer). If we look at the layers panel, we see that there are now two layers placed there. The original background layer is below, and a copy of the background layer called Layer 1 (above Layer 1) is above it:

A copy of the background layer called “Layer 1” appeared on the layers panel

If we take a look at the “Operations” panel, we will see that a second step has been added to the “Soft Glow” operation – “Layer Via Copy”:

The second step appeared in the operation – “Copy to a new layer”

Step 6: Rename the new layer

Before we continue, let’s rename this layer. I don’t like common names for layers, such as “Layer 1,” and I believe that you should give the layers more clear and informative names. To rename a layer, double-click the layer name, then type the new name and press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to confirm the changes. In the future, we will apply a Gaussian Blur filter to this layer, so I will call this Gaussian Blur layer (gaussian blur):

Double-click on the name “Layer 1” and type in a new one – “Gaussian Blur”

When looking at the operations pane, we will see that the third step “Set current layer” was added to our operation. The name of the step, in reality, tells us only that something will be applied to the layer selected at the moment, but if we reveal the details of the step by clicking on the triangle to the left of its name, it will become clear to us that the selected layer will be named Gaussian Blur, as we wanted to:

The third step appeared in the operation – “Set current layer”

Step 7: Change the blending mode of the new layer to “Overlap”

Until now, despite the fact that we have already recorded three steps in our operation, the image in the document window has not changed and looks the same. It’s time to fix it. We are going to change the blending mode of the new layer. Selecting the “Gaussian Blur” layer, find the “Blend Mode” option located at the top of the layers panel, which looks like a drop-down box with the current Normal value. Click this drop-down box to open it, and then select the Overlay mode from the list of modes that appears:

Change the layer blend mode “Gaussian Blur” to “Overlap”

The use of the “Overlap” blending mode gave the image in the document window a greater contrast and heightened color saturation:

The image has become more contrast and saturated

Let’s look again at the “Operations” panel, where the fourth step appeared in our operation, also called “Set current layer”. If we open a step to view the details of its execution, we will see that during its execution, the Overlay mode will be applied to the selected layer:

In operation “Soft Glow” a fourth step appeared – “Determine the current layer”

We have successfully added the fourth step to Operation Soft Glow. It remains to record a few more steps, and we will have a finished effect that we can apply to any image in Photoshop whenever we want!

Step 8: Apply Gaussian Blur Filter

To create a soft glow effect, we need to blur our image on the Gaussian Blur layer. To do this, go to the “Filter” menu at the top of the screen, select “Blur” and then – “Gaussian Blur”. This action will open the Gauss Blur dialog box. Move the slider for the blur radius at the bottom of the dialog box to the right to increase the degree of blur to be applied to the layer, or to the left to decrease it. As you move the slider, watch the image on the screen and choose a blur radius so that you can see the desired result. I will choose a blur radius of 13 pixels, which will give my image the desired effect:

Create a soft glow effect by selecting the desired blur radius in the Gaussian Blur dialog box.

Click OK after selecting the blur radius to confirm the image blur and exit the dialog box. Below is my image after applying the Gaussian Blur filter:

Image after applying the Gaussian Blur filter

If we look at the “Operations” panel, we will see that the fifth step has been added to the “Soft Glow” operation – “Gaussian Blur”. When viewing the details of the step, you can see that each time the operation is performed, the blur radius will automatically become equal to 13 pixels:

The fifth step appeared in the operation – “Gauss Blur”

That’s great, but what if the next image to which we want to apply our effect, a radius of 13 pixels, doesn’t work? What if more or less blur radius is required to achieve the desired result? Perhaps we should tell the program to display the “Gaussian Blur” dialog box each time the operation is performed, where we could choose the blur radius for the image if necessary.

As we already know, we can easily enable or disable dialog boxes during an operation, simply by clicking on the toggle icon of the dialog box to the left of the step name. By default, all window toggle icons are empty. This means that during the operation the dialog boxes associated with the corresponding steps will not appear on the screen.

Since I want the Gaussian Blur dialog box to appear on the screen each time I perform an operation, I will click on the empty toggle icon on the window to the left of the step name. When I do this, an icon will appear in the form of a small gray dialog box, indicating that the Gaussian Blur dialog box will now appear on the screen during the operation:

Click the toggle icon of the dialog box to the left of the “Gaussian Blur” step to display the corresponding dialog box when performing the operation

Step 9: Reduce the opacity of the layer to 65%

To complete the operation, let’s lower the opacity of the “Gaussian Blur” layer so that the effect is not so obvious, and the colors are too saturated. To lower the opacity of the layer, select the Opacity option in the upper right corner of the layers panel, just opposite the Blend Mode option. By default, the Opacity value is 100%. Click on the small arrow to the right of the “100%” value, resulting in a scale with a slider. Move the slider to the left to lower the opacity to 65%:

Use the small slider to lower the opacity of the “Gaussian Blur” layer to 65%.

Important note: as you move the slider to lower the layer opacity, do not release the mouse button until you move the slider to the desired mark.

Every time you release the mouse button, Photoshop will consider this action as a separate step of the operation, with the result that you will have several steps to reduce the layer opacity. For example, if you move the slider to 90%, release the mouse button, then move the slider to 75%, release the button again and then reach the 65% mark and release the button again, you will receive 3 steps: one – reducing the opacity of the image to 90%, the second – up to 75% and the third – up to 65%. If such an incident happens to you, wait until the transaction has been recorded, then click on the extra steps if you don’t need them, and move them to the trash can icon at the bottom of the action pane for deletion.

Even more important note: If you are working in a version of Photoshop CS, do not use dynamic slider controls to reduce the layer opacity when recording operations. If you try to reduce the layer opacity to 65% with this slider, you will get 35 separate steps, each of which will reduce the layer opacity by 1%. Therefore, no slider controls when recording operations, otherwise you will have to delete many unnecessary steps later!

So, after lowering the opacity of the layer, you have finished recording all the steps necessary for the operation! Let’s take a look at our Operations panel, where we can see the last step that appeared, called “Set current layer”. If we reveal a step to view the details, we will see that during the last step, the layer opacity will be reduced to 65%

The last step appeared in the operation.

Below is my image after lowering the opacity of the layer and completing the creation of the “Soft Glow” effect:

Wedding photography after applying the effect of “soft glow.”

Step 10: Stop the Transaction Record

We finished recording our operation, and now we need the Photoshop program to stop recording. To do this, click on the Stop Recording icon (Stop) located at the bottom of the Operations panel:

Click on the “Stop Recording” icon to finish recording the operation.

And so we did it! We successfully recorded our first operation, and now we have an effect that we can apply to any image! Let’s quickly make sure that our operation works as expected. I will open another image in Photoshop:

New image opened in Photoshop

In order to reproduce a new operation, I will select it within the “My Operations” set in the action pane and then click on the “Perform Operation” icon located at the bottom of the panel:

Choose operation “Soft glow” and then click on the “Execute operation” icon in the action pane.

As soon as I click on the “Perform Operation” icon, the program will start playing back the steps, first creating a snapshot of the image in the History panel, then making a copy of the background layer, then assigning a new layer the name Gaussian Blur and changing the blending mode to Overlay “. When the program reaches the step where you need to apply the Gaussian Blur filter to the image, it will pause the operation and display the Gaussian Blur dialog box, where I can enter a new value for the blur radius if necessary:

The program pauses the operation and displays the Gauss Blur dialog box.

Note that the dialog box already has a radius value of 13 pixels, since we entered this value when recording the operation. I could change the value to another if I wanted, but it seems to me that in my case a radius value of 13 pixels would also be suitable for the image. I’ll just click OK to confirm the settings, exit the dialog box, and allow the program to continue with the operation.
The program will continue to perform the operation, reducing the opacity of the “Gaussian Blur” layer to 65%, and the effect will be applied. Reproduction of the operation took much less time than if I performed all the steps myself. Below is the image after applying the “Soft Glow” effect:

The effect of “Soft Glow” was easily applied to the second image during the operation

The result was exactly as we expected! Now we can apply our effect to any image we want!

Since we spent a significant amount of time and effort on recording an operation, we should save it so that it is not lost. In the next lesson we will look at how to save and how to load operations!

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