Combining Actions

Using Actions Together

Most of the Totally Rad Actions can be combined together to create unique recipes for your images. By blending several actions together in a single image, you have nearly limitless possible combinations, and can create a unique look for your images.

Most of the actions in the set will create a new layer or layer set when the action completes. In a sense, the result of the action is stored in that layer or layer set, and you can then use layers or layer masks to control what parts of a photo the action effects, and how strong that effect is. Additionally, whenever it’s possible, we’ve created layers that are “transparent,” meaning that changes to the layers below it in the layer stack will still affect the whole image. This gives you great flexibility in how you combine your actions.  Some actions create non-transparent (or “opaque”) layers, and will obscure changes made to layers lower in the stack.

There is no right or wrong way to combine your actions together, so run a few and see what happens! If you don’t like the effect of a particular action, you can drag the whole layer to the trash icon in the layers palette. Alternately, you can click the eyeball icon to the left of the layer icon to turn the visibility of that layer on and off. This is a great way to see just what that action is contributing to the overall look of the image. You can also use layer opacity to interactively blend different actions together.

Also note that when you run an action, the new layer / layer set will be placed immediately above the selected layer in the layers palette. If you have a layer set expanded, the new layer will end up within that layer set. A few of the actions will expand the layer set when they’re done running so you can tweak the action. Click the little arrow between the layer set icon (the folder) and the eyeball icon to expand / collapse a layer set.

Layer Order

One other important concept is the order of layers in the “layer stack.” When determining what the final image will look like, Photoshop works from the bottom up. Generally, you will want to make sure that the topmost layer is selected before running an action. If you just ran an action that either didn’t produce the desired result, or had no effect whatsoever, it might be because there are other layers above it in the layer stack that are messing with it.

The most important thing, generally, is to make sure that any “toning” actions are placed at the very top.  If you have a fairly advanced understanding of how the layer stack works, you can exercise some subtle control over the final result by altering the order of the layers.

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