Photoshop Editing Technique 3 – Creating an Action, Watermarking an Image

by Peter Zack


The Photoshop tutorial technique sections are found in this archive section beginning with the first article in the series.

Photoshop has some great tools but one issue I find is if I don’t repeat a certain effect on a regular basis, I can’t remember all the steps I used to create that effect. So there is a great feature in the software that allows you to create a unique method of adjusting a photo and saving that technique for future edits. It’s also a great way to do repetitive tasks in a matter of seconds.

Note: where possible a shortcut will be in brackets. E.g. (Alt+S). At the end of this article, there is a short video you can download and see the steps used to create an action in Photoshop.

Prepare the sequence of effects you want to create for a particular edit. If necessary, write the exact sequence down on a piece of paper. Creating an action is like recording a video without any editing. It will ‘play’ the effects in the order you choose. So if you mess it up or skip a step, the effect won’t be what you want. Of course there is always the handy trash can, so you can start recording the action over again.

Photoshop actions

1) Open Photoshop, then open an image.

2) From the top menu click on Window and from the pull down menu select Actions. (Alt+F9)

3) Here you have a choice. You can create a sub folder called a Set. Or just create an action alone. So maybe you want to create several different but similar actions for editing portraits. One might be Hi Key and another Soft Glow as examples. So to create a Set, click on the square button (blue arrow). The following window opens and add your sub folder title. PS actions

4) Once the Set is saved, click on the Create new Action button (green arrow). Put in the title you want and click the record button. You will notice the circle will turn red (orange arrow). Now the action is ready to be recorded (saved). action-3

5)  This is the point at which every step is recorded in the correct sequence. For this example we will add a watermark to an image. Your action may be very different but this will give you the steps to create whatever action you want. So in this action I will do the following:

a) Open the layers window (F7)

b) create a new blank layer (not a duplicate). Make the Background Layer invisible by clicking on the eye beside the layer.

c) Click on the Horizontal Text Tool (T). On the blank layer, click anywhere. Then from the top toolbar, select the style of type you want, colour and the font size. action-4 Type out the watermark you want to create.


d) Once the watermark has been created, click the eye (green arrow) beside the background layer and make the image visible again. You will most likely want to adjust the Opacity slider (red arrow) at this point to fade the watermark so that it is barely visible. Somewhere around 30-40% should be about right for most images.

Tip: when adjusting the Opacity slider, drag it to the correct percentage and before removing your finger from the mouse button, check the translucent strength of the watermark. Make opacity adjustments in one action until it is where you want it. Just remember that each time you release the mouse button and then adjust the opacity again, you’ve created another edit in the action. That will just slow down the action application.

You may create several watermarks and have them at different opacity levels for different image types. These could be titled ‘Watermark 30%” or “Watermark 45%” and so on.

e) With the drop down menu in layers (blue arrow), go to Flatten Image, which combines the layers into one. Our watermark is now done and we have created the action sequence we want for future pictures.

6) To save the action we just created, click the Stop Playing/Recording (red arrow) button. The action is now saved. If you look in the actions box, you’ll see the action that was just created and the steps the software will do automatically. Close the image we used to create the action without saving it (or save it if you wanted to watermark the image you were using to create the action).

Tip: I used a watermark as an example and if you wanted to watermark photos for web pages as an example, you would have to insert another step in the action. If the action was created for a small web image (e.g. 469 x 700 pixels) and you applied the same watermark to a full sized image (e.g. 2592 x 3872) the watermark will be so small as to be invisible. So the first step in the action would be to go to Image in the top tool bar and select Image size and set the pixel dimensions you want for web images. image-sizeSo you will create watermarks for your web images that might be shared on forums of sites like Flickr. For a full sized image, you will create a different watermark that will fit the pixel dimensions of that image (larger). This is why actions are so handy. You might have 5,6 or more watermark actions for different sized pictures and you don’t have to constantly repeat the tasks for each different size. Just click an action that suits what you are working on.

To apply the action to the image. Simply open an image or series of images. Then open the actions menu, choose the action to be performed and then click anywhere on the image you want to change. Click the Play button (yellow arrow) and you’ll see the steps applied to the image in a second or two.

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Here is an example of a watermarked image.

We have provided a video file that takes you through the process step by step: Photoshop watermark action tutorial, follow the link and you can download the video file to your computer. It’s an AVI file that can be played in the latest version of Winamp or on Windows Media Player.  It takes a while to download but you will have it on your computer to refer back to at any time.

Future articles will offer ideas on how to sharpen or finish a portrait and all of those techniques can be an action that completes the editing for you in seconds.

Cheers and good shooting –Peter Zack


6 Responses to “Photoshop Editing Technique 3 – Creating an Action, Watermarking an Image”

  1. This is a very good tutorial. Great write up, Peter.

  2. Good tutorial but more importantly is the debate on if watermarking is a good idea. Highly distractive for the sense of copyright protection.

  3. Thanks Peter!. I have never taken a picture worthy of a water mark, but who knows, Someday soon.

  4. Nice one, thank you!

  5. Wonderful information – thank you for making it simple for us to follow along.

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