If you found a way to cut your design time in half, wouldn’t you use it? Photoshop actions allow designers to save time and stay efficient by “recording” common tasks so that they can be automatically performed on different projects. But that’s not the best feature of actions for Photoshop; they’re also easy to share and download.
This community aspect has turned Photoshop actions into the ultimate designer “cheat code.” Downloading another designer’s actions lets you quickly apply new effects and techniques to your designs while also learning how those results were achieved.
We’ve searched high and low for the best free Photoshop actions and have returned with a plentiful bounty. This colossal collection was cultivated with print designers in mind, but there’s something here for everybody who uses Photoshop—from photo retouching and lighting tools to vector art and vintage effects.
Needing help browsing this huge collection of free actions? Use the links below.
Basic Color Enhancement Actions
Sometimes all you need is a little change—a little bit of extra contrast here, or a smidgen of color saturation there. These actions allow you to manipulate your image’s color in ways that might be relatively subtle, but can actually help them to look more natural and appealing.
Black and White Photography Actions
There’s just something about black and white photography that gives it more gravitas and drama than color photos. Black and white is practically made for print, since printing in one color of PMS ink helps to save on production costs. But creating stunning monochromatic photos takes a certain degree of finesse—which is what the following Photoshop actions are best at.
Vintage Photography Actions
Nostalgia is a powerful tool in design-there’s just something about the familiar and the old that makes us create an emotional connection to an image. These vintage Photoshop actions make your photos look like they were found in your grandma’s attic and pull at the heartstrings of every person who’s ever wished they could be young again.
Toy Camera Actions
Thanks to photo apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic, we’ve been able to recreate the look of old toy cameras like Polaroid and Holga. The result is something that looks both steeped in yesteryear and yet right at home with the digital world we live in today. These PSD actions help you bring a little of that toy camera magic to your print designs.
Trendy Photo Actions
The following Photoshop actions are perfect for younger, modern audiences who are used to the colorful, trendy images shared on social media sites. These are the type of funky, creative designs that you can only really get from working in a digital workspace like Photoshop, making them perfect for the online generation even when they’re used in print designs.
This set of actions gives your photos an enchanted appearance.
HDR Photography Actions
HDR or high-dynamic range photography creates a breathtaking effect with crystal clear detail that makes it perfect for print design. It’s not always possible for designers to use HDR photography, but many of the following actions help you fake the effect with surprisingly convincing results. Some are also handy for changing the look of HDR photos you’ve already taken.
Lighting Effect Actions
Light is both a photographer’s best friend and worst enemy. When the light is just right it can inject warmth and radiance into a photograph, but when the sun’s behind a cloud or the weather calls for rain, it can ruin your photos. These lighting effect actions give you the power to control the sun like the Greek god Helios by recreating different light settings.
Edit: No longer available.
A “bloom” effect that puts your subject in cool, hazy light.
Special Effect Actions
Whether you want to turn your photographs into pencil sketches or apply macabre horror movie effects, these special effect actions let your imagination run wild. If you’re looking for that little extra “oomph” that’s going to make your design really pop, look no further than these awesome special effect actions.
Desaturate all of the color in your subject, but make their lips stand out in brilliant scarlet.
Nobody likes looking at an image that makes them feel as if they need to strain their eyes. Though it’s usually better to use an image that was photographed with proper focus set, digital sharpening actions can help to clear away that unsightly blurriness.
When you can’t print your design on a textured paper, an interesting pattern can be the next best thing. Even the illusion of texture can encourage people to interact and engage with an image. Use these actions to create a look that your audience will want to reach out and touch.
Model Retouching Actions
Nobody’s perfect-we all have little flaws that we’re embarrassed about, but that’s just what makes us all unique. But sometimes as a designer you’ve just to eliminate the acne, scars and other unsightly blemishes from your photo models. These model retouching actions are like a day at the beauty spa for your photographs.
Actions for Specialized Subjects
The following Photoshop actions were created for specific types of images, ranging from blushing brides to blossoming trees. However, part of being creative is testing the limits and trying new things, so you might find new and exciting uses for these actions beyond what they are intended for.
The community of artists who create and share Photoshop actions are a large and diverse group, which leads to some largely diverse actions. We couldn’t find a place for the rest of our free Photoshop actions, but that shouldn’t discredit their usefulness.
Photoshop Action Collections and Multi-Packs
Who doesn’t love to buy in bulk? You get more and you save time and money. Well, all of these Photoshop actions are free, so you don’t have to worry about paying for them-but you can still save on your time by downloading them in bulk. Here’s our favorite collections that feature multiple diverse Photoshop actions in one convenient download file.
From the Community
We asked graphic designers on Twitter to share their favorite Photoshop actions with us. Here’s what they had to say.
— Jacob Cass (@justcreative) June 19, 2014
— Jake Rocheleau (@jakerocheleau) June 19, 2014
@CompanyFolders I use Totally Rad's Get Faded set for next to any picture I create. Even if the layer is just at 10% it adds a perfect touch
— Anthon Plake (@anthonplake) June 19, 2014
Not every action is going to work for every image. Remember to use them as guidelines—keep what works, but make necessary adjustments when the design calls for it. Sometimes you might find that a popular action is just incompatible with your design—but there are enough free Photoshop actions out there that you’re bound to find one that will work for your needs.
Now we want to hear from you. Do you have a favorite time-saving Photoshop action? Please share them in the comments below.