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Lesson 7: Efficiency is Key

Advanced Adobe Photoshop Tutorials

Table of Contents

Recording and Playing Actions

Color was the topic of the last lesson. You learned that RGB has a larger gamut than CMYK, and that therefore not all colors you see on screen can be printed. You learned how to watch for warnings from Photoshop on the differences between your onscreen image and your printed image. We discussed the color profiles from the ICC and also how to calibrate your monitor to get a stable color-working environment.

In this lesson, we're going to talk about what makes a really advanced user: efficiency. Photoshop is chock-full of keyboard shortcuts, actions, and batch processing that can save time and effort. To be an advanced user, you have to use the processes available in Photoshop efficiently and know how to shortcut many different elements to allow you to produce more in less time and with less effort. So let's get started.

Photoshop's Actions and Batch Processing features allow you to complete monotonous tasks with ease. Programming Actionsis just as easy as programming a macro in Microsoft Word.

Do you want to create a shortcut for the Canvas Size menu option? Create an Action. Do you want to convert 50 grayscale images to RGB, apply an Adjustment layer, and then flatten? Create an Action and then batch-process those files. Easy as pie.

The Action palette is, by default, grouped with the History palette (Figure 7-1), but I like to keep mine in the new Palette Well.

Figure 7-1: The Actions palette is bundled with the History palette.

Figure 7-1: The Actions palette is bundled with the History palette.

Let's go through each part of the Actions palette:

  1. On/Off: Toggle the Action or set on and off.
  2. Modal Control: If you have included a function that requires a dialog box, turning this on will make the dialog box appear.
  3. Action sets: The sets Default Actions and Commands come with Photoshop. To load other sets that come with Photoshop, click on the Actions drop-down menu in the upper right-hand corner.
  4. Stop: Press this to stop recording.
  5. Record: Press this to record.
  6. Play: Play an action with this button.
  7. New Set: Create a new set of Actions by pressing this button.
  8. New Action: Create a new Action with this button.
  9. Delete: Delete Actions and sets.

You'll notice there are three sets of Actions in Figure 7-1. The first is the Default Set that automatically appears when you open Photoshop for the first time; the second is a set that I created; and the third set, Commands, is one of six extra sets that comes with Photoshop. The others are Frames, Image Effects, Production, Text Effects, and Textures. To load the extra sets, click on the drop-down menu (black triangle) in the upper right of the Actions palette (Figure 7-2).

Figure 7-2: The extra sets are located at the bottom of the drop-down palette.

Figure 7-2: The extra sets are located at the bottom of the drop-down palette.

The best way for you to learn about the Actions palette is for me to show you how to record an Action. Let's say you want to complete the scenario I mentioned earlier: Convert a grayscale image to RGB, and then apply a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer. Here are the steps you'd follow.

  1. Open a grayscale image.
  2. Choose New Action from the bottom of the Actions palette. The New Action dialog box will appear (Figure 7-3).

Figure 7-3: The New Action dialog box.

Figure 7-3: The New Action dialog box.

3. Name your action, and if you'd like, apply a Function key (F1-F15) to it for the sake of efficiency.

4. Press Record.

  1. After you press Record, you will see the Record icon (circle) in the bottom of the Action palette turn to red.

5. Now choose Image > Mode > RGB. Your image will convert to RGB mode and you will see the Actions palette record the command (Figure 7-4).

Figure 7-4: The Actions palette shows the recorded commands as they are completed.

Figure 7-4: The Actions palette shows the recorded commands as they are completed.

6. Next, choose a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer from the bottom of the Layers palette.

7. When the Hue/Saturation dialog box comes up, choose Colorize (which adds color to a grayscale image), and then use the following settings, which will give a bluish purple cast to your image:

Hue: 260

Saturation: 25

Lightness: 0

  1. Press the Stop Recording (square) button at the bottom of the Actions palette.

Now, take another look at the Actions palette. Click on the gray triangle to the left of the lowerpart of this Action (Figure 7-5).

Figure 7-5: The Make Adjustment Layer action contains all commands that were included in the dialog box.

Figure 7-5: The Make Adjustment Layer action contains all commands that were included in the dialog box.

You will notice that all of the values you entered for Hue, Saturation, Lightness, and Colorize are noted here. This means that every time you run this action these settings will be applied. If for some reason you want to have the ability to change them when the action runs, click on the Modal Control to the right of Make Adjustment layer (circled in Figure 7-5).

Speed Up Work Using Batch Processing

Batch processing allows you to apply an action to more than one file. I recently had to convert about 60 images from 300 dpi to 72 dpi and I didn't want to spend all day doing it. What did I do? I created an action and batch-processed it.

Let's take the Action we created earlier, Gray to RGB and Adj. Layer, and batch process a folder of files with it. Choose File > Automate > Batch. The dialog box for batch processing is shown in Figure 7-6.

Figure 7-6: The Batch Processing dialog box.

Figure 7-6: The Batch Processing dialog box.

Let me fill you in on how each piece of the dialog box works:

  1. Set: Choose the set your action is located in.
  2. Action: Choose the action you want to use here.
  3. Source: You have a choice of Folder, Import, or Opened Files here. If you choose Folder, you'll have the choice next to step four.
  4. Choose: Navigate to the folder that contains the files you're going to batch.
  5. Override Action "Open" Commands: Since the files are going to be opened through batch processing, you want to turn off any open file commands that may be part of an action.
    Include All Subfolders: Decide if you want any folders that may be included in your source folder included in the batch processing.
    Suppress Color Profile Warnings: When you open a file that does not have the same ICC profile as your computer, you will get a warning dialog box. This will impede the batch process, unless you want to sit and watch all of your files for this warning.
  6. Destination: What do you want to do with your files when processing is finished? You have three choices: None, Save and Close , and Folder.
  7. Choose: Navigate to the folder where you want your processed files saved.
  8. Override Action "Save In" Commands: This is the same as the Override Action "Open" Commands in step 5.
  9. File Naming: You have different choices as to how you want your files named here. Some of them are: Upper and Lowercase, All Caps, Date, and Extension.
  10. Compatibility: This will save your files so that they are compatible with the Windows, Mac, and UNIX operating systems. The Mac OS option is grayed out because I'm working on a Mac.
  11. Errors: You can log any errors that may occur to a file of your choosing or you can choose for the processing to stop if an error occurs.

According to the settings in Figure 7-6, my action called Gray to RGB and Adj. Layer would run on all the files in the folder called Batch Before on my desktop. It will suppress any color profile warnings.

After all of the actions have been applied, the images will be saved with the document name only (no date or extension) in a folder called Batch After on my desktop. And if any errors occur, they will be recorded in a file called Errors.txt on my desktop.

Note to Photoshop 5.5 users: This dialog box will look a little different to you. You don't have the option to turn off the ICC warnings, and you can't choose different naming conventions for your files. Other than that, it works the same.

Keyboard Commands

The easiest way to be efficient in Photoshop is to learn keyboard shortcuts. I work with one hand on the mouse and the other in position for keyboarding. I really hate having to make any mouse movements toward the menus, and from what I've heard, so do most people.

The shortcuts I want to tell you about aren't those you can find on the menu, but some less well-known ones.

Table 7-1: Selected Photoshop keybord shortcuts.

Table 7-1: Selected Photoshop keybord shortcuts.

In the next lesson, we'll discuss Adobe ImageReady 3.0, which is bundled with Photoshop 6. It is an application you use to prepare images for the Web and includes tools for everything from testing color configurations to assigning rollovers and creating animations. We will talk about animations and other fun stuff. ImageReady is truly a cool program.

Other Resources

Try Real World Photoshop 6: Industrial Strength Production Techniques by David Blatner and Bruce Fraser.

If you're looking for something a little less advanced, try Photoshop 6 for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide, by Elaine Weinmann and Peter Lourekas.

Also, check out these sites:

www.photoshopuser.com -- Become a member!
www.planetphotoshop.com -- Contains resources and tutorials
www.designsbymark.com -- Tutorials and tips gurus.onlinedesignschool.com -- Tutorials and tips

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