27 Free Photoshop Actions To Pretty Up Your Photos

by anna on July 6, 2009

in making things pretty

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Last week, I showed you how to record your own Actions in Photoshop to make the image editing you do for your blog faster and easier. But did you know that there is a whole world out there of pre-recorded Photoshop Actions, ready for your use? That’s right–all you have to do is download these Actions and install them to your Actions folder in Photoshop (Applications–>Photoshop–>Presets–>Actions). Once you’re in Photoshop, you can then load them to your Actions palette and use them on all of your photos! It’s an easy way of making your photos look a lot more professional and polished, even when, like me, you’re not that great of a photographer. Please note that I am using Photoshop CS3 for Mac, and all of the following Actions work on my version of Photoshop. Most are designed to work across versions, but if you run into trouble, it may be that you’re using an different version of Photoshop that is incompatible.

    Before, without the Smooth Skin Action.

    Before, without the Smooth Skin Action.

  1. Do your own photo retouching in less time than you can say “Dermablend.” The smooth skin Action for Photoshop allows you to correct skin [cough] imperfections without losing definition in the rest of your photo. The photo at right is me without retouching. If we want to smooth out the skin on my cheek, we can use this action to make it look more perfect. In this case, we don’t want to just apply the action to the whole photo, because we will lose definition on everything in the photo, and it will just look like we have a blurry photograph. Instead, we are going to select portions of the skin to blur–the best bet is to choose just the cheek portion, and leave the eyes and other features out of our selection, since we want them to look defined.


    The hardest part is selecting the parts of the face to be smoothed out.

    The hardest part is selecting the parts of the face to be smoothed out.

    We’ll use the magnetic lasso tool to select the portion of the cheek we want to retouch, but you can also try the magic wand tool, or any other tool that you prefer to use. It often depends on the photo which one you want to use, and you might have to play around a bit to figure out the best choice. This Action does some blurring (kind of like the anti-HD effect), so you want to stay on skin and stay away from things that require definition (like eyes, for example) wherever possible.


    Once we’ve got the patch of skin to be smoothed out selected, we can run it through the Smooth Skin Action. You will have to play around with the radius of the “Gaussian Blur” dialogue that comes up in order to get it to look natural. Hint: stick with low numbers in most cases: a large radius will end up looking “fake” because of the dramatic difference in definition between the smoothed out portions and non-smoothed out portions.

    a-dah! Almost like microdermabrasion, after the fact.

    a-dah! Almost like microdermabrasion, after the fact.

  2. hollywoodhighlandhollywoodhighlandboost

  3. Get two sets of full-range Actions for free from the Pioneer Woman. The Pioneer Woman has partnered with Totally Rad Actions to create two free sets of Photoshop Actions. The first set allows you to do several basic functions such as convert a color photo to black and white, sharpen the clarity of an image, soften an image, and lighten up an image that is too dark. It also has some more complex actions that are designed to make your photos more memorable, or to “pop”. For example, the “boost” Action is designed to change contrast and color. Let’s try it out on a photo: you can see the photo before (left) and after (right) Boost below. There’s just a little extra boost of color in the After shot.All in all there are 13 Actions in this set! Pretty cool. You can also check out the second set, which has 10 Actions, including ones that will make your photos into sepia tone, and give them a “seventies” look in color.
  4. Click to visit DeviantArt page and download.

    Click to visit DeviantArt page and download.

  5. The Dooce® Effect. Dooce offers instructions on her site for how to get a “glowy, mashed-potatoey look” to your photographs. You can follow her instructions, or you can just download the Photoshop Action I made that duplicates it: The Dooce Effect: ABDPBT Photoshop Action Hack.
  6. Rounded corners. If you like how Ryan’s series of photos on his wife’s pregnancy always have rounded corners, you can achieve that same look with this Action by DeeDoo. Please note that this action has a bunch of different steps, so instructions will appear at each step to guide you on creating rounded corners for your photographs.
  7. Make your photos into Polaroids. Use this Action to “frame” your photos into Polaroid. Download is available on DeviantArt from rawimage.

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Amateurish…at Best
September 21, 2009 at 2:43 pm


1 Kerry July 6, 2009 at 7:50 am

I am saving these for when I have time to see how many of them work in Photoshop Elements (which is what I have).

If only there were an action to remove 30 lbs…

2 abdpbt September 4, 2009 at 12:01 pm

you and me both, Kerry.

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