Creating an Action for Batch Processing in Photoshop

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Actions are a powerful feature in Photoshop which can save you time by performing repetitive tasks for you automatically and for batch processing multiple images when you need to apply the same set of steps to many images.

In this tutorial, we will show you how to record a simple action for resizing a set of images and then we'll show you how to use it with the batch automate command for processing multiple images. Although we'll be creating a simple action in this tutorial, once you know the process, you can create actions as complex as you like.

The Actions Palette

The Actions Palette in Photoshop

S. Chastain

This tutorial was written using Photoshop CS3. If you are using Photoshop CC, click the Fly Out menu button beside the arrows. The arrows collapse the menu.

To record an action, you'll need to use the actions palette. If the actions palette is not visible on your screen, open it by going to Window > Actions.

Notice the menu arrow at the top right of the actions palette. This arrow brings up the actions menu shown here.

Create an Action Set

Create an Action Set

Sue Chastain 

Click the arrow to bring up the menu and choose New Set. An action set can contain several actions. If you've never created actions before, it's a good idea to save all your personal actions in a set.

Give your new Action Set a name, then click OK.

Name Your New Action

Name your new action

 Sue Chastain

Next, choose New Action from the Actions palette menu. Give your action a descriptive name, such as "Fit image to 800x600" for our example. After you click Record, you'll see the red dot on the actions palette to show you're recording.

Record the Commands for Your Action

Fit image

 Sue Chastain

Got to File > Automate > Fit Image and enter 800 for the width and 600 for the height. We're using this command instead of the Resize command because it will ensure that no image is taller than 800 pixels or wider than 600 pixels, even when the aspect ratio doesn't match.

Record the Save as Command

Save as JPEG

Sue Chastain

Next, go to File > Save As. Choose JPEG for the save format and make sure As a Copy is checked in the save options. Click OK, and the then JPEG Options dialog will appear. Choose your quality and format options, then click OK again to save the file.

Stop Recording

Stop Recording the Action

 Sue Chastain

Finally, go to the Actions palette and hit the stop button to end recording.

Now you have an action. In the next step, we'll show you how to use it in batch processing.

Set Up Batch Processing

Set Up Batch Processing

Sue Chastain 

To use the action in batch mode, go to File > Automate > Batch. You'll see the dialog box shown here.

In the dialog box, select the set and the action you just created under the Play section.

For the source, choose Folder then click Choose… to browse to the folder that contains the images you want to process.

For the destination, choose Folder and browse to a different folder for Photoshop to output the resized images.

You can choose None or Save and Close to have Photoshop save them in the source folder, but we don't advise it. It's too easy to make a mistake and overwrite your original files. Once, you're sure your batch processing was successful, you can relocate the files if you desire.

Be sure to check the box for Override Action “Save As” Commands so that your new files will be saved without prompting. (You can read more about this option in Photoshop Help under Automating tasks > Processing a batch of files > Batch and droplet processing options.)

In the file naming section, you can choose how you want your files to be named. In the screenshot, as you can see, we are appending "-800x600" to the original document name. You can use the pull-down menus to select pre-defined data for these fields or type directly into the fields.

For errors, you can either have the batch process stop or create a log file of the errors.

After setting your options, click OK, then sit back and watch as Photoshop does all the work for you. Once you have an action and you know how to use the batch command, you can use it anytime you have several photos you need to resize. You could even do another action to rotate a folder of images or perform any other image processing that you normally do manually.