Have you ever wanted something to do all the work for you in Photoshop? Then you’ll be interested to hear about Photoshop actions. These addons perform a series of actions to create everything from photo effects to 3D text. In this beginners tutorial, you’ll learn how to use and create your own Photoshop actions.

Step 1 – Installing Your Actions

Before you learn how to create your own Photoshop actions, it’s important for you to try it first and see what they can do. Head over to our Photoshop Actions section and download some actions to try out. You can pick any action but we’ll be using the Instant Hipster actions to demonstrate this tutorial.

ATN vs ZXP files

Sometimes when you download any Photoshop action, you’ll get an ATN file, ZXP file, or both. The difference between the two is that the ATN file will load the actions directly into Photoshop while the ZXP file will install it through Adobe Extension Manager. We recommend using the ATN file because it’s the easiest.

Step 2 – Using ATN files

After you’ve downloaded an action, find the .atn file and double-click it. In Photoshop, open up your Actions panel (Window > Actions).

If you don’t see the actions, you can load it manually by clicking on the panel menu and selecting Load Actions.

Step 3 – Using ZXP files

The ZXP file isn’t always included but if it does, you can choose to install the action using Adobe Extension Manager. It’s a good idea to use Adobe Extension Manager if you plan on installing a lot of addons because you can manage them all in one place.

The number one problem people run into with Adobe Extension Manager is that they can’t find their actions. This is because you need to load them first in your Actions panel menu. In the menu, select the action that you want to load.

Step 4 – Safety Precaution

Not all Photoshop actions are safe to use! Before you use any action that you’re not familiar with, save your document. Many actions will fill your history with so many operations that you can’t undo back to your original document. There are even some actions that purposely merge your layers as a way to make it harder for you to reverse engineer their actions.

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12 responses to “How to Use Photoshop Actions”

  1. Gen Patient semukika vampino Avatar
    Gen Patient semukika vampino

    i prefere this app

  2. Maidul Islam Avatar
    Maidul Islam

    A very smart approach to explain the things,like your step by step tutorial.

  3. Maidul Islam Avatar
    Maidul Islam

    The information which is given in this tutorial that will helpful for the learner to understand each and every thing easily.

  4. Grooms Avatar


    When i’m using Action panel and I click on the play icon, the action doesn’t play alone : I need to accept every adjustment that are made in the action..

    Do you know how can I restore the original Action panel so the action can run alone without my agreement ?

    Thanks !

  5. kwabena awuku Avatar
    kwabena awuku

    i just learn some information about the use of photoshop.

  6. David Asiedu Avatar
    David Asiedu

    learn he Photoshop action tools

  7. Pedro Malo Avatar
    Pedro Malo

    thank you. I just download photoshop you help me

  8. Legend Avatar

    Do you know how I can load an action that is not a zxp file into extension manager? I want everything to go through extension manager.

    1. Photoshop Tutorials Editor Avatar
      Photoshop Tutorials Editor

      You have to make the ZXP yourself with Adobe Exchange Packager that you can download at adobeexchange.com/producer after logging in. If you just want it to show up in your Actions panel menu, then you can copy it to your Photoshop/Presets/Actions folder but it won’t show up in Adobe Extension Manager.

  9. Shawn Rubel Avatar
    Shawn Rubel

    Hey Denny,

    I’ve always been a PhotoShop newbie, but I think that my wife might finds this quite useful, so I’ll be forwarding it to her. (mind you, she only started learning PhotoShop few weeks ago)

    Thank you,

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