Lesson 10: Using Actions

UPDATE: The Atomic Cupcake website, where I get most of my actions, has closed. However, I did find that you can get about 70% of them for free at the following link: FREE ATOMIC CUPCAKE ACTIONS. This is not a link that I have created, but just stumbled across. You MAY have to create a login to get them, but it's worth it. I have downloaded it just fine, and the file includes 109 actions! Unbelievable!

Actions are one of my favorite features in digital scrapbooking. I am very excited to tell you all about them. My favorite site is Atomic Cupcake, which is now closed. But, as I mentioned in the update above, you can download many of their actions for free. There are also many other sites that do actions--there are A LOT of photography actions. I like Atomic Cupcake because her actions are specifically for digital scrapbooking. You can actually create your own elements using them.

What is an action?

Actions are like a macro, if you ever use Microsoft Word. It's basically a set of instructions that are recorded and saved. So you just pull up the action, press play, and wait. You will see Photoshop going through a whole bunch of steps on its own--sometimes it can take quite a while--and then suddenly, your work has all these awesome changes to it.

How do I install an action?

For me, I created a specific folder where I put all the actions that I download. I have a Digital Scrapbooking file, with subfolders like "kits", "templates", "patterns", and "brushes." I also have an actions folder. Once you direct Photoshop to this folder for an action, it will always go there automatically unless you redirect it somewhere else.

So, in order to download it, you may need to unzip the file so that it is an .atn file. Then just place it in a specific place where you need to find it. That's it. We'll go over how to get it from there in a minute.

Where do I get them?

First and foremost, the mother of them all--atomic cupcake. Bless this site. It's changed my world. I have purchased almost every action from this site. As mentioned above, it is now closed. I totally cried. Please go to the link at the top of this post to download 109 actions of hers for free! You will need them in order to do this tutorial.

Another site I go to is Panos FX. (this link will take you right to their free actions) They have some freebies and some for purchase. I have used several and they are really great. They can make some really fun page layouts, though their focus is more on photography than digital scrapbooking itself.

A third place I've gotten actions is thePioneerWoman.com. She's got two great actions for making your photos look FABULOUS.

You can also just do a Google search for actions. My sister is heavily into photography and has purchased some actions from well known photographers. These actions can cost over $40, but I was amazed to see what they could do with a single photo.

How Do I Run an Action?

Below are videos that will show you this entire process, but here are the directions in writing.
In Photoshop, make sure you have the layer you would like to add an action to selected. If it is a shape, you will probably want to rasterize it first. (Just right click on the layer and chose Rasterize). You do not have to rasterize your text, but if you text has a gradient on it or something, its a good idea to rasterize it first.

1. Pull up photoshop and create a new page. Draw a shape and rasterize it.
2. Go to Window and click on Actions to open up your actions toolbar. Mine is usually tabbed with my history bar.
3. On the right of the actions bar, click on the pull down menu button.
4. Select Load Actions, and find where you have saved the action you have.
5. Place your cursor on the second line of the action, where there's a play button. (you may have to pull it down)
6. Press play on the bottom of the action menu and wait!
7. It's also a good idea (and sometimes necessary) to highlight your layer. Do this by holding down the CTRL button, then click on the picture part of the layer. You'll now see dancing ants all around the layer on your page.
8. Depending on the action you are using, you may also need to select the desired color you want in your color picker before starting the action.

Ok--written, it's hard to follow, I know. So I'm doing a video for each of the four types of actions you get from Atomic Cupcake. These are also ones I've personally used a lot, and are all available in the free download.

1. Gold - a total must have! This action doesn't require you to choose a color--whatever you have selected will be turned to gold!
Gold_Action_-_Atomic_Cupcake (click to view)
2. Gemstone- This is an awesome one! Make sure you select the color you want it to be in the color picker before you begin.
Gemstone_Action_-_Atomic_Cupcake (click to view)

3. Torn Paper - The first one I ever bought from this site! I suggest it's your first, too! This is one designed for papers rather than for shapes or text--though it CAN be used that way. There are several others for paper like inked or chalked edges that are really great.
Torn_Action_-_Atomic_Cupcake (click to view)

4. Cast Pewter - There are several actions like this one, that require a black and white image.
Cast_Pewter_Action_-_Atomic_Cupcake (click to view)
Well, that's all for actions. Don't forget to also check the Panos actions and Pioneer Woman actions if you find these are interesting. I use them all!

Can I Make My Own Actions?

Yes you can! I am certainly not capable of making ones like Atomic Cupcake, but the other day I made one because I had a bunch of files that I needed to copy a layer, fill it black, take an outline of the black layer, and then delete the original. So, I opened my Actions panel, clicked "record," named my action, and then just did the steps, pressing the stop button when I was done. Then I could just repeat that action for all the other files. It can be done quite easily!


  1. Awesome! I love actions. I have all these actions, but I don't realize all the ways I can use them. I am going to make it a goal to use them more on my digital scrapbook pages!