I have this running joke with my twin sister, Brooke about how she’s a one-trick-pony when it comes to Photoshop.
Her one trick?
It’s a skill she picked up working as a photography assistant years ago when we were still in graphic design school. Yes- she and I both went to graphic design school together. However, she took a different career path and seldom uses Photoshop anymore. Or at least not for the same reasons I do. But again: the thing she never forgot? Batch Processing!
It’s just that good.
So today I’m going to show you how Photoshop Actions and Batch Processing are going to make you a faster & much more efficient graphic designer.
What is a Photoshop Action?
A Photoshop Action is simply a series of steps you take in Photoshop that can be recorded, saved & reused again and again.
For example, if I want to put my watermark on a bunch of photos, I can record that process in Photoshop once, save it as an action, and then run that action on any photo I want to apply my watermark to.
Imagine how much time this saves! Think about it: what are the steps of applying a watermark to a photo in Photoshop?
- Navigate to your files
- Open the original photo
- Resize the photo (optional)
- Navigate to my watermark file
- Bring in your watermark on a separate layer
- Adjust placement of the watermark
- Adjust the size of the watermark
- Adjust the opacity or blending mode of the watermark
- Flatten the image
- Save or Export the image
Now imagine I have 100 photos I need to do this for. That means I have to repeat all 10 steps 100 times.
Oy vey. No way. It would take all day!
Instead, I can record these 10 steps as a Photoshop action so I don’t have to do each of these things manually. I’ll show you exactly how to do that in just a moment, but first: for this watermark scenario, we also need to understand how batch processing works together with actions to speed up our workflow.
What is Batch Processing in Photoshop?
Batch processing in Photoshop allows us to point to a folder on our computer, run a photoshop action on all the files in that folder, and then save all our new files in a location of our choice.
Going back to the example of applying a watermark to 100 photos: we talked about how creating a Photoshop action would eliminate the need to complete the same 10 steps for each file separately.
But batch processing takes things a step further, and now: we don’t even have to open each file individually. If all 100 of our photos are saved in the same folder on our computer, we can apply the watermark action to every single one of them just by telling Photoshop where that folder is.
Pretty cool! Let’s fire up Photoshop and see exactly how this is done.
How to Create a Photoshop Action
In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how I apply a custom watermark to a batch of photos of my dog. 🐩
Step 1: Create a New Photoshop Action in the Actions Panel
If you haven’t already, go ahead and fire up Photoshop and open a photo that you want to apply your watermark to.
As you’ll see in the screenshot below, I have my Actions Panel and my Layers Panel open. If you don’t see the Actions Panel, go to Window > Actions to access it.
There is a Default Actions Folder containing all the actions that come built-in to Photoshop, and then there’s the option to create your own.
Click the icon at the bottom of the Actions panel to create a New Action.
A New Action Pop-Up appears, allowing you to enter details like a custom Name for your action, select the Set (folder) where you want your new action to be stored, and also assign a Function Key (optional) or a Color tag (optional).
Once you have your settings how you like them, hit Record.
Step 2: Record Your Photoshop New Action
Once you press record, you’ll see the red record icon light up to indicate that you’re indeed recording your action.
Photoshop is now literally watching your every move. So if you create a new layer in the layers panel, for example, that action will be recorded as the first step in your new action.
Go ahead and complete the steps necessary to add your watermark to your photo. For me, that was:
- File > Place Linked and navigate to my custom watermark. Photoshop adds it to a new layer in my Layers Panel
- Resize the watermark & place it in the bottom corner of my photo
- Flatten the image so it’s all one layer
After I completed these three steps, I pressed the Stop Icon in the Actions Panel to finish recording the new action.
My new action appears in the Action Panel, and you can use the drop-down arrows to display the details and specific steps taken. My new action is saved, and I’ll be able to use it anytime I open Photoshop and go to my Actions Panel.
However, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Since I linked my watermark file in this new action, it will only work as long as Photoshop can find that file again. If I move my original watermark file to a different location, Photoshop won’t be able to see it, and therefore won’t be able to complete the action. You can correct this by relinking the file after you move it.
- If I try to apply this action to a photo of a different size, or if I use a landscape photo versus a portrait photo, the watermark won’t land in the same place.
- You can record a lot more steps and processes in your action. For example, I could first resize my photo, then adjust the brightness/contrast, then place my logo watermark, then save the image all in one action.
How to Use Batch Processing in Photoshop
Step 3: Use Automate > Batch to Process Many Photos at Once
Now that I have my new action made, I’m going to apply this watermark to 6 different photos of my dog without ever even opening the images!
Amazing. Let’s see how to do this.
Open Photoshop, and go to File > Automate > Batch…
Step 4: Point to your Source Folder and Destination Folders
Now the Batch Processing Pop-Up has appeared. There’s a lot going on in this menu, but it’s not that complicated. Let’s break it down:
- Starting on the far left under Play, Choose the Set (folder) where your action lives and then select the action you want to run.
- Next, click Choose to navigate to your Source Folder.
- Optional: There are some extra options and settings for how you want Photoshop to handle errors. These will depend on your desired outcome & your files! Most are self-explanatory.
- Now Choose your Destination Folder. You can save your new files in your same folder or choose a different location.
- Choose the settings for how you want Photoshop to name your files. You can enter a custom name if you want or leave it as the Document Name. Again, there’s no right or wrong here, it’s just dependent on your goals/preferences.
- Finally, Click OK.
You probably won’t even see anything happen, but depends on your computer. And you’ll probably wonder… did this batch processing even do anything? Did it work?
Step 5: Navigate to your New Files to see the Results of the Batch Process
Go ahead and navigate to the location where you chose to save your photos once they were done processing. As you can see in my screenshot below, the watermark has been applied to all of them.
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If you’re interested in more Photoshop and Illustrator graphic design tutorials, check these out:
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- Risograph “Riso” Print Effect in Photoshop