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Batch Processing in Adobe Photoshop

Using Actions to process multiple files By Dave Nagel
"I have a bazillion pictures that need to be rotated and resized. Is there any way to do this quickly in Photoshop?" I get asked this question all the time--or at least questions similar to this one. For those of you familiar with Photoshop's batch processing capabilities, you couldn't imagine doing it any other way. For those of you unfamiliar with batch processing, you're about to find out why.

Batch processing in Photoshop takes the edge off repetitive tasks. It's a simple process but one that way too many users have yet to discover. It's accomplished by way of Photoshop Actions.


Actions, like filters, consolidate a number of functions into a single, simple interface. Photoshop includes several preset Actions (such as turning color photos into sepia-toned images), but, more importantly, it allows users to create their own. Essentially, anything you can do in Photoshop (with the exception of modifying File Info) can be recorded and applied automatically to any number of image files. This includes filters, color correction, transformations, image adjustments--anything.

For our example today, I'm simply going to create an action to rotate, resize and rename an image. In the screen shots below, you'll notice I'm using Photoshop 7 for Mac OS X. It's exactly the same process in Photoshop 6. I just happen to prefer using version 7 (and, of course, boasting that I have it).

1. We begin by opening an image (doesn't matter which one) and activating the Actions palette. To start things off, you simply click on the "Create New Action" button at the bottom of the palette. Name your Action, and then move to the next step.



2. Next you click the Record button, which is also located at the bottom of the palette. Once you click Record, any command or function you perform on your currently open document will be recorded.



In this particular case, I will now rotate my image and resize it using simple menu commands. Note that with image resizing, Photoshop understands the difference between percentages and actual pixels and between horizontal and vertical scale. So let's say I have a bunch of images of differing sizes, and I want them all to be scaled proportionally down to a 400 pixel width. I simply enter my width value in the Image Size dialog, and Photoshop records the action as a proportional resizing. Couldn't be easier.

3. When I'm done with all of the actions I want to record, I click the Stop button at the bottom of the Actions palette. Note that if you realize you've forgotten a step, you can press Record again to add more steps to your action.



You can also reorder your steps simply by dragging them up or down in the list.



And you can edit the steps individually by double-clicking them. (Double-clicking will call up the relevant dialog box for a given step. For example, double-clicking on the "Image Size" step will call up the Image Size dialog box, which you can then modify.)


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