Meagan Musing: My Favorite Photoshop Actions

Meagan Musing


My Favorite Photoshop Actions

I upgraded my Photoshop Elements to the full Photoshop program, CS5, last fall, and I've been in love ever since.

There are so many things I can do in CS5 that I wasn't able to do in Elements; I use my curves adjustment layer on almost every photo and the ability to put a mask on each layer is awesome.

And one of my favorite things is the ease with which I can run actions.

I thought I'd share a few of my favorite Photoshop actions with y'all. I'm certainly not an actions expert, but I've played around with quite a few and hope this helps some of you.

Also, I've found that you really need to know what your style is before you start loading up on too many actions. It's easy to get caught up in all they have to offer and then you lose what you originally were trying to convey with your photo.

One of my favorite actions that I run on 60% of my photos is Amy McMaster's AMP Simply B&W.

It's pretty simple, hence the name, but it adds so much. (And did I mention that it's free?)! I usually toggle off the black and white layer, but if your photo is clean enough to start with it can make a beautiful black and white conversion as well.

It's a series of curves and levels adjustments playing with contrast and you can tweak them all to your preference.




And together:


You can see it's subtle, but I think it really helps most photos pop and look much more finished.

You should check out Amy's site. She is so talented and very generously shares (for free!) some of her actions with her readers. She also has tons of Lightroom presets and other Photoshop action sets for sale in her shop that can do beautiful things to a good photo.

My favorite retro/vintage action is Keri Meyers' A Little Retro.

It comes in a set of three - Take the Red Out, A Little Retro and Color Pop. I mostly use A Little Retro, but they're all great. (Take the Red Out is great for newborn baby skin.)

Here is A Little Retro by itself:


I like to run it with the AMP Simply Black & White. This is my fast, go-to combination for quick Andrew shots.

Here it is with both Simply B&W and A Little Retro:


At the end I added a curves layer with a mask and brightened up under his eyes. There are lots of ways to do this, but this one is pretty fast and effective.

Here are all three versions together:


It's worth pointing out that I almost never run an action and then leave it just like it is. With most actions you have the ability to change the opacity on different layers and even turn effects off if you prefer. I've found that almost all actions need some kind of tweaking for any given photo.

There are so many beautiful action sets out there. I also love my actions from Paint the Moon and the new Flora Bella Luxe II collection.

Both of these sites offer all their actions for Photoshop Elements users, too.

I wanted to show you some more of my favorites but it's taken me forever to put this post together. I think I'll save them for another Photoshop post soon.

In the meantime please let me know if you have any questions about actions. I'd love to share what I've learned with you.

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  • this is great! what a wonderful picuture :) I am just getting my feet wet in the world of action sets...glad to have found you

    By Blogger Kristen, At May 16, 2011 at 2:23:00 PM CDT  

  • These edits are amazing. Subtle, yes, but they add SOOOO much ;D Now I just need to get my hands on CS5!!

    By Blogger Brooke, At May 16, 2011 at 7:09:00 PM CDT  

  • I switched to CS5 late last year too and I'm loving it. I haven't checked out a lot of actions yet so thanks for the tip.

    By Blogger deb duty, At May 17, 2011 at 7:51:00 PM CDT  

  • Thanks so much for resharing these actions. I also upgraded to CS5 late last year and forgot to go back and pick up Amy's actions. These are so wonderful! I'm going to share your link and Amy's link on Thursday.

    By Blogger Ashley Sisk, At May 17, 2011 at 8:44:00 PM CDT  

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