Using an Action in Photoshop and Elements


Yesterday, in Wendy’s contributor feature, I told you that she would be here today with a tutorial on installing and using her actions that are included in THE DIGI FILES this month. This was something I requested from her, because I know actions can be intimidating at first, but once you give them a try, you will quickly become addicted.


If you purchased this month’s Digi Files, you may have noticed some of my actions in your download. For some of you, this may be the first time you’ve ever downloaded an action. Don’t let it intimidate you! We’re going to walk through one of the actions all the way from installing them to using them.

When you unzip your download, you will find several folders organized according to the version of Photoshop or Elements you use. Each folder contains all the files you need to install and run the actions. Let’s take a look at each version and go over how to install. (NOTE: Included with your download is a PDF file that goes over all the installation instructions for each version.)


There are several ways to install actions in Photoshop. The easiest, however, is to double-click on the ATN file. (I recommend Photoshop be running before you do this.) The actions will be automatically loaded into your Action Palette. To view them, click WINDOW>ACTIONS and scroll to the bottom of the list where your new actions will appear. If the Action Set is collapsed, simply click the arrow to the left of the palette to expand the Set and view all the actions included.

To launch the action:

1. Cick on the action name (ie. WZ_ScrapIt10).

2. Press the play button on the bottom of the palette (the triangle).



Installing actions in Elements is much more difficult, but once you get the hang of it for your version of PSE, you’ll be a pro! The tricky part is matching up your version of PSE with your operating system. In every version of PSE, you will install the action (ATN) and thumbnail (PSD or PNG). In newer versions of PSE (6-8), you can also install a file for placing the actions in categories (XML). Make a note of the files you’ll need from the list below and have them ready to copy into the correct locations.

PSE 4: ATN & PSD thumbnail (one for each action in the set)

PSE 5: ATN & thumbs.PSD thumbnail (one ATN for each action, only one thumbnail total)

PSE 6: ATN, PNG thumbnail, XML (one for each action in the set)

PSE 7 & 8: Classic Mode-ATN, PNG thumbnail, XML (one for each action in the set); Action Player-ATN (only)

1. Before you can install your actions, you must be sure to SHOW HIDDEN FILES AND FOLDERS. Actions should be installed using the Admin Account.

2. Quit Photoshop Elements.

3. Copy your ATN and thumbnails into the Photo Effects folder. (See the PDF tutorial for the exact location of this folder for your version of PSE and your operating system.

4. If you have PSE 6 or 7, you need to copy your XML file into the Metadata>Layer Styles folder.

5. Now that the files are in place, you need to delete your cache files to force Elements to rebuild the thumbnails. Delete the thumbdatabase.db3 file and the mediadatabase.db3 file. These will be recreated when PSE is started the next time. (To locate your cache files, see the PDF tutorial.)

6. Launch Elements. Click on your Effects Palette and you’ll see the following:

To launch the action:

1. Create a new document in any size.

2. Click on the Photo Effects button.

3. Select the Action Category name from the drop down menu (ie. WZ_ScrapIt).

4. Cick on the action thumbnail (ie. WZ_ScrapIt10). TIP: Hovering your mouse over the thumbnail will show the full action name.

5. Press the APPLY button on the bottom of the palette.

Now that we have loaded our actions and now how to play them, let’s walk through using one of them. We’ll we working with Scrap It {10} and using One Little Bird’s kit from The Digi Files #15. Are you ready? Let’s go!

Using Scrap It {10}

First, let’s talk a smidge about what Scrap It is going to do. Scrap It is a new way of using templates. Basically, the action will lead you through opening and placing each paper, element and photo. You can control the size, placement and shadows as you go. When we are done, we will have a layout based on the layout below.

WZ_ScrapIt10b_600 supplies for layout in preview by ZigZagScrap (collab)

1. Prepare your files. Each Scrap It action comes with a tutorial that has a list of digi supplies you will need. Feel free to make minor substitutions. Scrap It 10 needs:

1 Background paper

1 Paper for upper matte

1 Paper for journaling

1 Paper or bottom matte

1 Frame

1 Element (bottom right of frame)

1 Hanging tag

1 Fastener

1 Element (next to tag)

1 Small Element (next to frame)

Title & Journaling

2. Launch the action. (PSE users be sure to have a blank file open first.) You will see several messages introduction the action. Press CONTINUE.

3. Eventually, you will be asked to select a background paper. Browse to the paper, select it and click OPEN. I choose a green paper. The action opened it, copied and pasted into my new file. (I realized at this point I meant to choose the plum paper. Instead of starting over, I will continue on, and just swap the paper out at the end.)

4. On the next screen, I’m asked for a second paper for the matte. Select one and watch as it’s added to your layout.

5. Next the action asks you to select a light colored paper to go behind the journaling.

6. On the next screen, you will be prompted to add your drop shadow. Adjust the settings to your liking and press OK.

7. Finally, you will be asked for a pattern paper for the bottom matte. Then, adjust the shadow settings again.

8. You will be asked for to select a frame and to add a drop shadow. Then, the action will move your frame. At this point, you can resize it by clicking the corner anchors, or reposition by clicking and dragging. When you are done, press ENTER (or in PSE, click the Green Check mark).

9. Next comes the photo. Select your photo, add the shadow when prompted, then position it under your frame. It’s okay if it sticks out. We’ll crop it later.

10. You will now be asked to crop your image under the frame by contracting the selection. Enter a number large enough to inset from your chosen frame but small enough that it doesn’t contract beyond the frame border. Usually 10-30 pixels works well.


11. Next we’ll start adding elements. Follow the instruction along, selecting the elements, adding shadows and positioning when prompted.

12. After you’ve placed the rest of the elements, the action will add text for the title. Position it. You can edit it when you are done.

13. The action now adds text for the journaling. Finally, you will see a message letting you know the action is complete. Press CONTINUE (PSE users should not press CANCEL or it will cancel the entire action and delete the file.)

14. Your layout is now complete. Edit your journaling and title. Adjust elements, or add additional ones. Or, swap some out if you change your mind. I decided to remove the Title word and use the word art included in the kit. And, I swapped my green background paper out for the plum one. I even moved my elements around a bit. I still might go back to this one and add some more finishing touches.


15. Save your file and you are done!


Actions can help save time and these Scrap It actions are great for creating quick layouts in just 10-15 minutes. If you have any questions, just post a comment and I’ll be back to help! I hope you enjoy these Scrap It actions! I’d love to see the layouts you create with them, so feel free to leave a comment with a link.

P.S. It’s Steph and I just wanted to let you know that our random winner for $10 in product from Studio Wendy is Sandy who said, “Wendy’s actions are amazing! There is only one set for PSE that I don’t have yet, and that is the Scrap It Collection 2. I will be adding that to my collection soon. If you haven’t tried any of her products, please take advantage of the coupon and give them a try. You won’t be disappointed! Her Cluster It and Scrap It sets are real timesavers. Her photo action sets are awesome. The photo book actions and templates are so helpful when you want to print your pages. {Can you tell that I am a huge fan?!!! ;~)} Thanks for the coupon, Wendy!”