by October 11, 2003 0 comments



B eginning this month, we have started a section on multimedia and graphics. It contains hands-on articles, product reviews and quick tips on various graphics packages and multimedia software. The section is aimed at people who have some idea about Photoshop and Flash and want to add to what they can do with the same. You are welcome to send any specific hands-on requests that you may have for the same.

The Action toolbox showing the steps in the action and various options in the menu

There are a lot of tasks in Photoshop that can be very repetitive and bugging. For example, if a Web developer has to convert 200 product images into a specific size and apply a filter to act as a border. Imagine how much time this would take? If the Web developer were to go one by one, it will take him at least one full working day. On the other hand, by using actions, the same task can be done in a few minutes. This is a great time saving tool.

Such automations are possible in Photoshop in two ways: through actions and scripts. Yes, Photoshop also supports scripts! While actions are simply steps that are recorded while working and can be extended through droplets, scripts are more intensive in behavior and can be a little more interactive while achieving more than what actions can.

Let’s see how we can use these actions to streamline the workflow in Photoshop. We would learn how to play, record an action and make a droplet out of it. We are using Photoshop 7.0 for the tutorial. Though the action command is available in the earlier versions, some of the specifics that we talk about here may not be available in other versions. 

Actions
Actions in Photoshop are a set of commands that have been recorded to be executed in a sequence. They can be accessed through the actions palette that can be invoked through Window
àActions.

Actions Palette
The Action Palette contains the Photoshop action sets. There is a separate menu for the Actions Palette that can be accessed by clicking the triangle button on the right side of the palette. It contains various palette options and commands for recording, playing and editing actions.

Playing an Action
There are various default Action sets that are installed with Photoshop; lots of them are also available on the Internet.

Alternatively, if you buy a Photoshop filter, it may come with its own action sets.

Quick Tip
1. Do not change the file name when using the Save As….. option while recording an action. Photoshop saves the filename if you change it and then uses that to save whenever the action is run.
2. Photoshop 7 has a feature through which you can dock your most used palettes on the right top corner of the screen and invoke them at a click of a button. Choose dock to palette well from the Palette menu.
3. When recording actions that involve position, it is advisable to use percentages rather than ruler units. This will help in getting the correct relative result in different files.
4. You can make one action play another using the Play command in the actions palette.

Lets play one of the actions that came along with Photoshop. This will help you understand better the power of actions.

    STEP
ONE 
  
 
Open any Jpeg file from your machine.

    STEP
TWO 
  
 
Open the actions palette. From the palette menu click on ‘Image effects.atn’. This will load the image effects action set. Click on any of the actions listed below the name of the action and press on the play button at the bottom of the palette.

Things to remember
There are some things that have to be kept in mind while recording an action. Some of them are:

  • Most, but not all the commands in Photoshop can be used in actions
  • The results of the action would depend both on the file on which it was recorded, as well as, on the file that is being used.
  • While recording actions, make sure you change the value in the dialogue box. If you don’t, the action will take the default value when it is played.
  • While using ruler units in recording an action (for e.g., transform, marquee, slice, magic wand etc) be careful, since the units prevalent at the time of applying the action would be taken into considera
    tion. 

Thus, it is advised that percentages are used instead of ruler units. It will thus playback in the correct relative position in the image, irrespective of its bit-depth.

Xenofex 2 filter
Xenofex 2 is a plugin pack from one of the most popular plugins for Photoshop, Eye Candy. This pack of filters is compatible with Photoshop, Fireworks and Paintshop Pro.

It comes with a set of 14 effects. Some of the effects can be seen in the adjoining graphics. It has four more filters than its first version and a new interface that is similar to Eye Candy. The interface is user-friendly, non-jazzy, non-cluttered and easy to use. It is divided into three main parts; menus, filter settings and preview pane. 

There is a filters menu that lets you change the filter directly from the interface, so you don’t have to go back to the Photoshop GUI. There are also exciting filters like Rip Open, Lightning, Stain, Mosaic, Electrify, Crumble, little Fluffy Clouds, Puzzle etc. All the filters, except Shatter (that does not work in the CMYK mode), can work in all the color modes. 

The settings menu has an options for saving your own settings also. The preview pane has its own zoom and pan buttons as well as extra buttons. 

Another good feature is that it supports undo inside the filter environment only, so if you don’t like a particular setting, you can simply undo it. Altogether, a good basic collection of
filters!

Recording an action
If you have recorded on your cassette deck, you can record on Photoshop too. It’s as easy as that! We will record an action to open a file, change it to CMYK, change its size, make a border around it, change the levels and brightness, and finally save it in a particular folder.

    STEP
ONE 
  
 
Open any Photoshop compatible image file. 

    STEP
TWO 
  
 
Open the Actions palette, click on the new Action button. Name the action ‘My Action’ and alternatively give the shortcut key to the same. Click on the record button.

    STEP
THREE 
  
 

  • Change the size of the file from the menu Image à Image Size
  • Change the mode from Image àMode à CMYK
  • For making a border around it, make a new layer, press Ctrl+A to select the image, select Edit à stroke to make the outline.
  • Add a bevel to the outline from the layer effects dropdown.
  • Merge the layers by selecting the topmost layer and choosing merge down from the layers palette
  • Select Image à Adjustments à
    Auto Levels to set the levels.
  • Select Image à Adjustments à
    Auto Contrast to set the con trast.

   STEP
FOUR 
  
 
The explanation of how to save is given as a different step as it could be tricky. If you want the files to be saved in a specific folder with the default filename then follow this procedure:

  • Click on File à Save as…
  • Change the format to .jpg
  • Change the folder to where you want to save the file.

Do not even click on the filename text box. If you do this, the files will always be saved with the present filename.

  • Click on Save

After the file is saved, close the file.

Click on the Stop button in the Actions palette. To check the action, open any other Photoshop compatible graphic file. Open the Actions Palette. Click on My Action and click the Play button at the bottom of the Actions palette. 

After you run the action, 

check the particular folder that you specified while recording the action. You will find the edited file there.

Droplets

If you were amazed at actions, you will go bonkers if you use droplets. Droplets are small executables generated by Photoshop. These are basically actions on which you can simply drag files/folders. They will automatically open photoshop and perform the specified action. 

Droplets are immensely useful for Web designers who have to change a large bunch of images into a particular size, or apply the same effect to the same.

Lets make a droplet out of the action that we just made. 

Click on the menu item File à Automate à Create Droplet. Choose the action you would like to make into a droplet. Choose the file name for the droplet and save it at a convenient place. 

Now close Photoshop and go to the folder and when you saved the droplet, just drag and drop any image file on the droplet.

You will notice that it opens Photoshop by itself and saves the file in the folder that you chose while recording. 

Geetaj Channana

XENOFEX 2 FILTER

Xenofex 2 is a plugin pack from one of the most popular plugins for Photoshop, Eye Candy. This pack of filters is compatible with Photoshop, Fireworks and Paintshop Pro.

It comes with a set of 14 effects. Some of the effects can be seen in the adjoining graphics. It has four more filters than its first version and a new interface that is similar to Eye Candy. The interface is user-friendly, non-jazzy, non-cluttered and easy to use. It is divided into three main parts; menus, filter settings and preview pane. 

There is a filters menu that lets you change the filter directly from the interface, so you don’t have to go back to the Photoshop GUI. There are also exciting filters like Rip Open, Lightning, Stain, Mosaic, Electrify, Crumble, little Fluffy Clouds, Puzzle etc. All the filters, except Shatter (that does not work in the CMYK mode), can work in all the color modes. 

The settings menu has an options for saving your own settings also. The preview pane has its own zoom and pan buttons as well as extra buttons. 

Another good feature is that it supports undo inside the filter environment only, so if you don’t like a particular setting, you can simply undo it. Altogether, a good basic collection of filters!

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