Photoshop tutorial: How to use Photoshop Actions, Conditional Actions and Droplets

A simple step-by-step guide to automating Photoshop using the full Actions feature set.


Actions let you apply sets of commands and effects to images in one go. You record them once, then apply them with a single click or keyboard shortcut.

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You can take Actions to the next level by letting them work intelligently based on the images they’re applied to – using a feature called Conditional Actions. And you can apply them from outside Photoshop using Droplets.

Conditional Actions let you apply Actions to many images at once, working in different ways based on each image’s size, shape or other criteria. Here’s an expect guide to using them.

Conditional Actions are a great way of automating your digital workflow by allowing Photoshop to do some of the manual sorting for you.

Lets say you have a folder of images that need resizing for your website that includes a mix of portrait and landscape images. Due to the layout of your website, you will need to format both orientations separately at different sizes to fit your theme.

Rather than separating them out into two individual sets of images, Conditional Actions allows you to set parameters for filtering your images and consequently executing the relevant resizing action.

Want to know how to set it up? Photographer Tigz Rice shows you how.

STEP 1

Before we create our Conditional Action, we need to create the two Actions that Photoshop will be choosing between when it assess our folder of images.

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To create a new Action, bring up the Actions panel (Window > Actions) and click on the New Action icon to bring up this dialog box.

Give your action a name - lets go for Landscape Resize - and then press Record. This will automatically set your Action recording, so be mindful of where you click from now on.


STEP 2

Next, I’m going to go to File > Export > Save For Web (Legacy) to bring up the Save For Web dialog. If you haven’t used this before, Save for Web is a brilliant tool that compresses your images to make them smaller (and therefore load faster) for web use.

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STEP 3

You should have a box come up that looks something like this. Mine is currently set to show 4-Up.

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STEP 4

I’m going to set my preset to JPEG High, which will give us some base settings to work from. I also want to make sure Convert to sRGB is ticked for web compatibility.

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STEP 5

Looking at the four images in the dialog box, I can see that there are four different quality versions of my image: Original, 60, 30 and 15 Quality. As the quality of the image decreases, so does the file size. What I’m looking for here is the best trade off between quality and file size.

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60 is normally a good option here, so lets highlight that option by clicking on it.

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STEP 6

Next, lets look at image sizes. I want all landscape images to be 1200px wide, so I’m going to enter that now in the W box.

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It’s important to mention here that I don’t want to make any amendments to the height box at all or it will be accidentally recorded in my Photoshop Action too. Once you’re done, press Save…


STEP 7

To make sure you always know where your images are going after resizing, create a new folder on your computer – I store mine on the Desktop – and call it Website Ready.

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Remember not to make any changes to the name of the file at this point either, or it will also be recorded into your action. Save the file.


STEP 8

Back in the main Photoshop window, click on the Stop icon in the Actions panel to stop recording your action. To test the action, click on Landscape Resize in the Actions panel and then press the Play icon.

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STEP 9

If you then navigate to your Web Ready folder, you’ll find the resized image waiting for you there.

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STEP 10

Now that you’ve got your Landscape image set up, you’ll want to go ahead and create a Portrait Resize action too. Follow steps 1-7 again, but the only difference will be the Image Size in Save For Web.

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STEP 11

For portrait images, I’ve decided to set these to 600 wide. I’ve entered that here as shown.

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STEP 12

With both Actions set up, we can go ahead and create our Conditional Action. Once again, create a New Action. This time call it Conditional Resize.

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STEP 13

In the Actions Panel sub menu, click on Insert Conditional… to bring up this dialog box.

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STEP 14

Following the prompts, choose these settings…

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If Current Document is Landscape,
Then Play Landscape Resize Action.
Else Play Portrait Resize Action.

Press OK.

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STEP 15

Important: Remember to press the Stop icon in the Actions panel to stop recording the action. Our conditional Action is now ready to start using.

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STEP 16

To process your mixed folder of portrait and landscape images, go to File > Automate > Batch…

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STEP 17

This will bring up a dialog box. First, you want to set the Play Action to Conditional Resize.

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STEP 18

Next, under Source, choose the folder of images you want to resize. Clicking on Choose… will open up your normal browser window for you to navigate to your files.

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STEP 19

Then, on the Right hand side, click on the Override Action Save As Commands tick box. As we have specified a Save structure in our actions, we do not need to set this up again. Once you’re done, click OK.

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STEP 20

Your images will then be processed via Photoshop quickly and within a few moments you’ll find them all waiting for you in the Website Ready folder to upload to your website

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STEP 21

Now you've set up Conditional Actions in Photoshop, lets take your automation one step further by setting up a Droplet.

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Instead of going into File > Automate > Batch, Droplets allow you to create a drag and drop icon that can live on your desktop, which means you can activate your processing without even having to open Photoshop.

To create a Droplet, let's start in Photoshop.


STEP 23

In the top left corner, click on the Choose button to choose a place for your new Droplet to live. I keep mine on the desktop so they are always accessible.

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STEP 25

Then, in the Destination section, choose a folder for your images to be saved to.

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Note: If you followed the Conditional Actions tutorial and have Save For Web included in your action, tick the Overide Action Save As Command box to stop any conflicts in saving.

Once you’ve done this, Click OK.


STEP 26

On your desktop, you’ll now find your new Droplet ready and waiting for you. To activate it, simply drag and drop a folder of images onto the Droplet to start processing them.

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