How to Record Flexible Actions in Photoshop (1)
In this series of posts I will explain you how to record flexible Photoshop actions using selections and vector objects. Now what means flexible? Flexible want to say that actions does not depends on image or document size or resolution, however some of things you can record using selections and vector objects depends on aspect ratio. What is aspect ratio? Proportions compared each to other simply speaking. For example image 1500x2100px has 5:7 aspect ratio. Image 900x600px has 3:2 aspect ratio. Image 2000x1600px has 10:8 ratio. Got it? Lets move further.
Examples of flexible actionsFor example of flexible actions visit my portfolio on Graphic River and download sample files for Layouts Photoshop Actions Bundle using link at the bottom in description section. Along with plenty of actions you will download and help files which are comprehensive and will help you to understand all the glory of flexible Photoshop actions using vector shapes which does not depends on size, resolution or aspect ratio. Note: actions works properly with Photoshop CS6 and below, I need to update them to work with CC. Update will be available for all existing customers if you are one of them.
Next example is using selections to record flexible actions which depends on aspect ratio. Actually actions will work with different ratio but best result is with fixed 3:2 ratio. You can download sample files for Collage From Single Image Actions and play around with them.
Recording actions using Insert Path commandOne of most asked questions in Photoshop and Lightroom group on Facebook, where I am one of administrators, is about watermarking and batch processing. Entire process is not complicated you just need instructions. In this post we will record simple action with 2 steps which will always insert your signature exactly at the same position in document and signature size will vary depend on image size. With huge image you will have bigger signature while with small images signature will be small and proportional to image size. You are controlling proportions of signature versus image size. The only dependency is on aspect ratio, all images that you want to process must have same aspect ratio but can be at any size or resolution. Since it is action with 2 steps only you can record couple of them, later we will explore and other possibilities. For now, lets keep it simple to get started.
Step one: before we start set Rulers to Percent
Before we start let me explain you how Photoshop records actions. Photoshop is recording actions using measurement unit set for Rulers. If you set Rulers to pixels then position of selections or drawings will be recorded as fixed position with coordinates in pixels. You can try and examine what is recorded with pixels, millimeters... as Ruler unit. Position of object or selection will be recorded as: Top: xxx pixels, Left: xxx pixels... what is another limitation because regardless of document size selection or object will be at recorded position where Top means xxx pixels from top of document. What if selection is created and recorded in document with different sizes? You won't get expected result and in some cases maybe you won't even see shape because its top side is 1200 pixels from top of document and your document is 1000x8000 pixels in size. When you set Rulers to Percentages this will give you flexibility because Photoshop will record shape or selection top side position as percentage, for example: Top 10%. Every document has 100% of size and off course 10% from top will be always at the same relative position regardless of document dimensions. Another good thing is that all sides of selection or shape will be recorded or described using percentages so shape or selection will always be in same proportions relative to document size with only one limitation: aspect ratio. Aspect ratio is actually limitation in this case because we want to insert our signature. Letters are shapes and its relative proportions must be maintained or otherwise signature will appear distorted. To display Ruler go to View > Rulers. Note that you must have image or any document open. Right/Command click on ruler and choose: Percent.
Step two: create new document with specific ratio
As already mentioned action will depend on image aspect ratio. You can open any image but I will suggest you to create new document (File > New) lets say 1500x2100px and resolution 300. Resolution pixels per inch does not play any role, by the way.
Step three: create signature
In this step you will create vector signature. Keep in mind that there are so many variations how this can be done but we want simple to get started. Type your name or whatever you want using Type Tool.
Step four: convert type to shape
Right/Command click on Type Layer and choose Convert to Shape.
Step five: position your signature
Now activate Path Selection Tool from Toolbox (black arrow tool - letter A is shortcut). Drag marquee over signature to select it if its not selected. With shape selected click in Options bar on Path components icon and choose Merge Shape Components. Letters are individual shapes and we want them as unit to easily move them. Click on selected shape and move it where you want to appear on your images. Keep it simple for now and I will explain you options for precise positioning later in some of the next tutorials. If you want to resize or rotate shape then right click and choose Free Transform Path.
Step six: copy shape path
Now ensure that shape is selected. We are actually interested in path which describes shape and you can see if path is selected from Paths panel. Since it is only path in our document you can not be confused. Selected path has highlighted. If its not selected go and select shape using Path Selection Tool then copy it from Edit > Copy.
Step seven: delete shape and paste path
Delete vector signature because we do not need it anymore and can confuse you. Drag shape layer to trash can. Now is time to paste copied path from Edit > Paste. You should see Work Path in Paths panel. Just click on Work Path in Paths panel if its not selected.
Step eight: Create action and start recording
Now open Actions panel from Window > Actions. Click at the bottom on folder icon (Create new set) and when New Set dialog appear type: Signatures. That's actions set or folder. Next is to click page icon (Create new action) at the bottom of Actions panel. When New Action dialog appear type: Signature 5x7 then click Recordbutton. You just created action and now you are in recording mode. Indicator that you are recording is red circle at the bottom of Actions panel.
Step nine: use Insert Path from Actions panel menu
I assume that Work Path is selected (step six). Click on Actions panel menu and choose Insert Path. What will happen is that Photoshop will insert path at the exact same position, something like copy/paste. So now we have path active. In Actions panel you will see step: Set Work Path recorded.
Step ten: fill path with color
Now we have active path which is not filled with anything and its outlines are visible only when selected. To fill selected path go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color. When New Layer dialog appear type My Signature for the layer name and click OK. In Color Picker dialog choose color then click OK button. In Actions panel you will see Make fill layer step recorded.
Step eleven: stop recording action
Thats it, now stop recording action by clicking on Stop playing/recording icon in Actions panel.
Step twelve: test action
Open image with 5:7 aspect ratio and test action. Click on Signature 5x7 action name then click Play button at the bottom of Actions panel. Use for test flattened images without any layer beside Background. Actions can work with layered files but if you want to use them for batch process then additional step is required. Keep it simple for now. If image has different aspect ratio use Crop Tool and choose 5:7 from Select preset drop down menu in Options bar.
Step thirteen: record more actions
Now that you know how it works and how easy it is go and record actions for other aspect ratios like 3:2 or 10:8.
To be continued
Now tell me how it works? Is everything OK? Need some assistance? Do not hesitate to leave comment. We will continue in the next tutorial. Till next tutorial you can also get some practice with interactive tutorials How to record Photoshop actions posted on DesignEasy formerly Adobe Photoshop Secrets.