Imagine… you’re excited to try out a new action you’ve purchased on your own image. You open the image, run the action, and… voila! Something seems wrong. You’re obviously disappointed! The action produced too much orange on your subjects face. Or your image is now too bright. It would seem that the purchase of your new action is a waste.
It definitely goes without saying that every image is unique in some way from the next, right? Some images are far more unique than others. One image may feature a large section of sky while another includes no sky at all. The way an action appears to effect one image can differ GREATLY from the way it seems to effect another image. Like the situation described above, this may seem to pose a problem for some when using purchased actions.
However, that’s really not the case! It is possible (and actually pretty easy) to make any action compliment almost
any image! The pre-made actions I sell at my Etsy shop (Chasing Daylight Photoshop Actions
) are what I refer to as non-destructive. In most
of my actions, the original background layer (your unedited image), is left in tact and untouched even after the action has run. In addition, each adjustment layer remains separate and adjustable! This means that *most*
of my actions are FULLY customizable! Which means, that you
can easily make my actions fit almost any of your images.
When I say that you can customize “most” of my actions, there are a couple of black and white images that require the background copy to be converted to black and white. Any color action that I sell (as well as some black and white actions) is fully customizable.
To illustrate the customizing of an action you’ve purchased from me, I’m going to walk you through the customization of an action called Merry Go Round that I’ll be releasing soon in an Action Pack on Etsy. If you like the action you see here, check back at my shop in the coming days to see it for sale in the Carnival Keeper Action Pack!
Customizing an Action
There are 3 main ways that I customize an action if it doesn’t seem to work for a particular image.
1. Painting OFF an effect using layer masks.
2. Adjusting the opacity of adjustment layers.
3. Adjusting the opacity of a group (or entire action.)
Painting off the effects of layer will be the most complicated of the three. However, that’s not something that should scare you off! Once you get the hang of it, it’s SO simple! Below, you’ll see an image from one of my recent sessions unedited beside the same image edited with the action Merry Go Round and customized to better fit the image.
The action Merry Go Round can be applied without customization to many images; especially those without portions of sky or bright objects included. This image, however does include a very bright area of sky. See below what the image looked like directly after running the action without customization.
It’s definitely not working “as is!” But with a few easy steps, this action can work for this image. After running the action, the actions palette should appear as it does below.
The Dreamy Vintage Layer is the culprit causing the intense yellow cream in the sky here. Click on that layer to highlight it blue. You’ll want to also make sure to click on the white box so that it’s outlined. This white box is called the “layer mask.”
If you are working with a layer that doesn’t already have a layer mask, you can add one to any layer by selecting that layer (so that it’s highlighted blue) and clicking the rectangle button with a white circle in it at the bottom of your layers palette (shown below.)
Once you’ve highlighted the white layer mask, you’ll need to select the BRUSH tool.
In instances such as this, you’ll want to select a round brush with with 0% hardness and spacing between 15% and 20%.
Your brush opacity should be medium to high (50-75%) and the flow should be around 26%. These settings will allow you to reduce the effect gradually without creating obvious boundaries in the image. Using a harder brush with a high flow would be useful when doing precision work. In this case, we need to allow the effect to subtly fade from the subjects into the sky.
Finally, your brush color should be black.
Because we will be painting OFF the effect of the Dreamy Vintage layer, our layer mask is a white box in the layers palette. Therefore, we will be painting the areas on the image where we want to minimize the effect using the color black. Conversely, layer masks can also be inverted so that the white box becomes black. In such a case, you would use a white brush to paint the areas of the image where you want to APPLY the selected effect.
It’s pretty clear in this particular case where we want to minimize the Dreamy Vintage layer: the upper portion of the image featuring the sky.
Using your paintbrush, paint across the image where you’d like to minimize the effect. As you do so, you should see a change in the image. Instead of seeing black painted across your image, you should see a minimizing of the effect of the selected layer. (If you DO see black painted on your image, you’ve probably forgotten to highlight the layer mask!) If you find that painting over your image hasn’t reduced the effect enough, simply paint over it again until you reach the level you think best fits your image.
Your layer mask should reflect the painting you applied to your image. You’ll see the same brush strokes you applied to your image on the white box (layer mask) on the selected layer like I’ve shown below.
What I like most about this method of customizing an action is that I can reduce the intensity of an effect on one portion of my image (in this case, the sky) while leaving the effect untouched on the rest of the image! While the necessary adjustments to this image were applied to the sky, this method is especially useful if an effect is too strong on skin tones but looks great on the rest of the image. Keeping a believable skin tone is so important to me during the editing process. If an adjustment negatively impacts skin tones, simply add a layer mask to that adjustment layer and use a black brush to paint the effect off of the skin!
For this particular image, this was the only customization I chose to use. However, I want to include a two more methods. As I mentioned before, these two methods are much simpler than using layer masks. But they can literally make a world of a difference.
You can adjust the opacity of single adjustment layers. Select a layer in your layers palette (so that it’s highlighted blue.) Then adjust the opacity of that layer so that it compliments your image. You can do this to any or all of the layers individually. This is a great way to tweak an action to specifically fit your image. See below.
For a quicker fix that will adjust the effect of the action as a whole, you can increase or decrease the opacity of the entire action (rather than individual layers). Most of my actions feature a “Group” that’s labeled the name of the action. In this case, all of the adjustment layers are filed under one group labeled “Merry Go Round.” As you can see above and below, the group can be collapsed or expanded to show each layer. To adjust the opacity of the entire action (or group), collapse the group, select it, and then adjust the opacity! Easy as that.
So, dig into your action files and find those actions that you’ve given up on! Take a second look at them! You may find that with just a little tweaking, these actions can take on a whole new personality.
If you have any questions about this tutorial, I’m happy to answer them! And as always, I welcome any comments! Thanks for checking out this tutorial!