These days I use Adobe Lightroom to do most of my photo editing. Shooting in RAW preserves all of the image data captured by the camera with no loss in quality. Lightroom is the most powerful and straightforward way to work with that data.
However, there are times when I want to get creative in ways that Lightroom can’t accommodate. Enter Adobe Photoshop. Having the ability to work in unlimited layers gives near total control of the creative process. You can edit nearly every aspect of every layer.
A Photoshop action is a recorded series of steps by the creator. You can then use the recording, a .ATN file, to apply these steps automatically to any photo. I’ve made some sets over the past handful of years, and I’m going to give all of them to you, free.
DOWNLOAD FREE PHOTOSHOP ACTIONS
This set of free actions covers a wide variety of styles and effects. They don’t flatten at the end so each layer is editable after running an action. This gives you the ability to fine tune the result for an individual photo.
Click the download button to get the entire bundle of Photoshop actions:
37 free Photoshop actions to enhance your photos:
These free actions were made over about a two year period to process my own photos. The actions don’t flatten at the end, leaving all layers adjustable.
Photoshop actions included:
1 Copper Sunlight, 2 Intense Cross-Processing, 20 Deeply Matte, 1 Dramatic Freckles, 1 Dreamy Film, 1 Dreamy Matte, 1 High-Contrast Teal Fog, 1 high Contrast B&W, 1 Improve Dark Portrait, 1 Ultra Matte B&W, 1 Matte High Contrast B&W, 1 Red and Yellow Cross-Processing, 1 Richly Warm, 3 Fog Haze Toning Samples, 1 Warm Reds Bold.
11 more free Photoshop actions:
ACTIONS INCLUDED IN THE DOWNLOAD
Pastel – 11 actions that give your photos a bright, slightly washed out pastel color effect with toning. These actions are great for soft, pretty subjects like brides and flowers.
Frequency Separation – Frequency separation allows you to work on color and tone in one layer and texture in another. This is generally used to edit professional portraits or when a smooth but very natural skin texture is the desired result.
This action will not change the look of your photo when you run it. Rather, it sets up your image to be edited with frequency separation. After you run the action, there will be 3 layers. Background, Base and Texture. Edit the base layer when you want to even out color and tone. Edit the texture layer to smooth or enhance skin texture and other details such as hair.
In the following example photo I applied the action, then selected areas of the base layer and applied gaussian blur. I then used the spot healing tool to remove some spots and blemishes. I left the skin texture layer alone in order to preserve the realism.
Matte Portraits – 20 actions designed specifically for portraits. These give matte film looks with varied color and toning, including several black & white options.
Black & White Street Photography Actions – 6 actions that will create a high-contrast, old photo effect with grain. These actions are great for spontaneous urban street scenes but will add old-world grit to any photo. Red, brown, indigo, steel blue, and old paper tones give control over the mood.
Toning – 20 Photoshop actions that give a beautiful color tone and increased contrast to any photo. These were designed for and look especially beautiful on misty, foggy scenes as well as certain landscapes.
Monochrome Matte – 20 actions to create intense monochrome and Black & white effects. Like all of the actions in this bundle, every layer is fully adjustable.
HOW TO INSTALL PHOTOSHOP ACTIONS
Before installing the actions into Photoshop, you’ll need to unzip the downloaded file. If you use a PC right-click the zip file and choose “extract all” to unzip. If you use Mac double click the file to unzip.
There are 2 ways to install Photoshop actions.
Method 1: Simply drag the .ATN file to your Photoshop Window to install the actions. The actions contained in the .ATN file will load into the actions panel.
Method 2: Click the dropdown menu in the upper right of the actions panel and choose either “Load Actions” or “Replace Actions” to install.
HOW TO USE PHOTOSHOP ACTIONS
Generally you will want to start with a flattened image as most actions are recorded that way. If you start with an arbitrary layer after making some edits you will get errors. It’s best to simply run the action on a flattened image and then make any edits to the result
To run the action make sure the action panel is open. If not, go to Window and click “actions”. This will bring up the action panel. Click on the action you want to run and then click the triangle (play button) at the bottom of the action panel to run it.
You can then continue to make edits. the actions don’t flatten at the end, so you can edit every layer separately.