A reader asked me to recommend the best Photoshop Elements actions. As simple as that question sounds, there are actually many things you should consider before purchasing actions.
What Are Photoshop Elements Actions?
Actions are small files that you install into Photoshop Elements. These files automate edits. For instance, at the click of a button you could create an edit with the warm tones of fall. Or, you could create a high contrast black and white.
Why Use Photoshop Elements Actions?
- Running actions can speed up your workflow. If getting a certain look requires 20 layers, it’s going to take you quite a while to create those layers, right?
- Running actions can create effects that you don’t know how to create. Think about those 20 layers again. Do you know exactly how to build the 20 layers that create a warm fall glow? Actions can create a more sophisticated look than you might come up with on your own.
It’s important to know that actions don’t do anything magic. Except for a few rare features, actions don’t do anything in PSE that you couldn’t do by yourself. Couldn’t do by yourself if you had the time and knowledge, that is. Actions aren’t absolutely necessary for editing either. But they do make it easier.
It’s also important to know that not all actions are as simple as one click. No two photos have exactly the same needs, so you’ll need to adjust the effects of most actions using layer opacities and masks after they run. And you can’t do that without a some Photoshop Elements knowledge.
So, now that you know what actions are, do you think I’m ready to tell you what the best actions for Photoshop Elements are? Not even close. 🙂 We have to talk about what “best” means first. And I suspect it might mean something different to me than you might expect.
In my opinion, you need to look at the maker of the action before you find the best actions. Anyone can throw something on the internet to try to make a buck, right? A high quality action maker offers the following:
- Detailed documentation (written and video) on installing & using the actions
- A support desk to submit requests for help if you have questions or problems
- Free upgrades if Adobe’s updates to Elements require a new version of the action
- A place to re-download your actions if you lose them
- Actions that allow for exposure and color correcting in addition to creating a style.
Once you find an action maker that offers those must-haves, then you can choose your favorite actions.
Note that I said favorite, not best. Once you find a good action maker, your next decision is completely personal. What look are you going for? Is there a specific need you are trying to fill, like retouching or creating files for your blog? There usually isn’t much variation in quality among actions at any one action maker. You have to choose the one that matches your style and needs the best.
Does it sound like I have some experience in this subject? Well, I do. I make actions. There are free Photoshop Elements actions available right here on this blog. I also have a very complete and much-linked to set of action installation instructions.
So, that’s my take on Photoshop Elements actions. The highest quality actions will come from well-established action makers. Choose the action set that most fits your editing style or needs. and enjoy!