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Non-Stop Automatic Action

This month, the focus is on two aspects of Adobe Photoshop: Actions and the Automate menu command. Many of the tasks that you can do in Adobe Photoshop are easy enough when you are working on a handful of images, but when you have several hundred images simplicity quickly devolves into tedium. Fortunately, Adobe realized that and has provided us with the ability to record procedures and play them back on entire directories of images. Actions are available in the Actions palette (choose Show Actions under the Window menu). Photoshop comes with several predefined Actions (such as Wood Frame, Sepia Toning and Vignette), and there are plenty that can be downloaded on the internet, but you can make your own easily.
Atypical repetitive task, like resizing and resaving images for a web site, can be made painless by recording the steps as an Action. To do this, open a representative image and show the Actions palette. Access the drop down menu on the Actions palette (the triangle in the upper right corner) and select New Action (Fig 1) or hit the New Action button at the bottom of the palette. In my example I have named the Action “Resize and JPG.”

Fig. 1

You can even assign an Function Key to the Action (Fig 2).

Fig. 2

You will see the Record Action button (a red circle) lit on the bottom of the palette. Now Photoshop will record your steps, so select Image Size from the Image menu to resize the image (Fig 3), Save As (File: Save As) to save the image as a JPG file and then Close (File: Close). Photoshop will remember the settings you chose at each step.

Fig. 3

Lastly, click the Stop button on the Actions palette to stop recording of the Action (Fig 4)

Now is when the labor-saving starts. The Batch command (under the File menu select Automate: Batch) allows you to play back any Action, affecting all images in a specified directory. First select the Action you want to play, then the Source and Destination folders (Fig 5). Be sure to check “Override Action Save In Commands” to use a new Destination folder. At last, you can click “OK” and walk away while Photoshop does the work for you.

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

When you selected the Batch command you may have also noticed other goodies listed under Automate. Some of the useful default tasks that Photoshop can Automate are a Contact Sheet, a Picture Package and a Web Photo Gallery. The Contact Sheet will take all of the images in a specified directory and tile out thumbnail images on one or more pages and can include the filenames as well (Fig 6).

Fig. 6

I find this to be especially useful for making CD covers of backed-up images (Fig 7). Picture Package will let you tile up several different sized photos on one page for printing purposes. The Web Photo Gallery will take the images in a specified directory and generate a simple HTML page complete with images for the web.

Fig. 7

Paul Vaughn is the Director of Digital Services at River City Silver, the premiere photographic and digital imaging laboratory in San Antonio and South Texas. Mr. Vaughn loves labor saving devices and being able to slack off while his computer does all the work, he is on the web at, and he can be contacted at

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