Adobe’s flagship image-editing software Photoshop has a powerful programming language built-in that allows you to record tasks as an ‘action’ and replay the steps to complete the task automatically.
Not only can you record your own but you can also import actions, opening up a whole range of effects and time-saving options – whether you’re using an older CS or have signed up to the very latest Creative Cloud version.
So to add to our collections of Photoshop plugins and Photoshop resources, here are some great Photoshop actions that are free to download and install, for photographers, graphic designers, game artists and more. You can jump to the section you want from the menu below, but you should definitely check out the entire list – who knows where inspiration will strike!
- Photo filters (this page)
- Vintage photo filters
- Monochrome photo filters
- Touch-up techniques
- Special effects
If your photos just aren’t sinister enough for your liking, this free action should make things a little more unsettling. It’s designed to let you easily give your photos a dark, haunting effect, perfect for giving the impression that you’re permanently about to stumble into mortal danger.
02. Cold nightmare
This amusingly-titled action will transform a photo of a perfectly innocent scenario into a window on a dark world. In this example image, the archer probably shooting at a target takes on the look of someone who is definitely trying to kill a human. It’s amazing what some shadows can do.
03. Summer haze
If you’d prefer to cheer up your images, take a sunny shot and make it intensely summery with this great turquoise haze effect. Outdoor portraits taken in natural light are most suitable for this filter.
04. Hazy afternoon
Perfect for oudoor pictures, the Hazy Afternoon action certainly lives up to its name by creating a soft gradient colour layer. Use this free action on black and white or colour images, plus you can easily adjust the gradient until you get the exact look you’re after.
05. Sun kissed
Light up any image with this comprehensive collection of sunlight effects that’ll brighten and tone even the drabbest landscape. Simply add a bit of a warm toned, or go the whole hog and throw in a setting sun complete with a lens flare effect; it’s all there.
06. HDR action
Remove the lack of contrast that comes with HDR photography with this set of four actions; HDR fix light, normal, heavy, and clicker.
Alternatively, try getting vibrant colour effects with this free HDR filter from Shutter Pulse. If it works well for you but you’d like more options, it’s part of a set of 30 HDR actions that you can buy for $13.
08. Blue evening
Blue Evening is the free component of a paid-for set called Touch of Drama, which gives you various ways to add a mysterious atmosphere to your shots. The strength of the blue cast depends on your starting colours, so click through to see a good selection of examples.
This set of 11 actions convert your night-time images into twilight photos by introducing a colour cast and lightening the sky. The effect is rendered using layers, so you can adjust the degree of twilight by reducing the layer’s opacity, making it nice and flexible.
10. Purple contrast
This free Photoshop action washes out some of the colour from an image and gives it a purpley hue. A good way to give your photographs a dramatically downbeat look.
11. Bella action
This action adds a beautiful warmth to your photographs, bringing out rich tones in hair and skin, and softening colours with a pink cast that creates a romantic, nostalgic feel.
Photoshop actions are extremely useful for wedding photographers, dealing with a huge number of shots. Here you get a set of eleven actions that automatically create common portrait effects, especially around the theme of wedding photography. Includes skin smoothing and soft filter effects as well as b/w conversion.
A nice range of colour treatments including rich grainy black and white, bleach bypass, and some heavy casting effects. Great for experimentation.
Next page: Vintage photo filters
Vintage photo filters
Cross-processing is a traditional photographic technique involving deliberate processing of one type of film in a chemical solution intended for another, resulting in oddly skewed colours and increased contrast and saturation. This free Photoshop action gives you a way to recreate the effect digitally, and is available free for personal use.
15. Cross processed
This one adds drama and vivid colour effects to your images by deepening shadows and making colours more saturated. It’s especially good for stormy skies, landscapes, buildings and ocean scenes.
16. Color 024
Digital pictures are crisp and precise, but sometimes they can lack that nostalgic glow of a film photograph. By downloading this free action, you can adjust the colour saturation and create rich, sun-bleached photos that still retain a high level of detail.
Recreate the look of 2-strip Technicolor film by downloading this free action. Popular in the 20s and 30s, 2-strip technicolor film exposed black and white film behind a green filter and a red filter. By merging the green and blue channels in different layers, this action simulates the 2-strip look without damaging the original image.
This handy selection of light leaks has been created using gradients, making it very flexible for adding non-destructive vintage effects to your images. The free version includes five high-quality leaks, all featuring support for 16-bit colour so you can achieve brighter-than-white highlights, and they also work with video!
19. Hard lomo action
Deviant Art is a great place to find Photoshop actions, as this example from BlackLaceStock demonstrates. Included here is a set of actions that add a classic lomo-look to your images, akin to running an instagram effect.
Chris Spooner is well known for his excellent Photoshop tutorials and giveaways, and he doesn’t disappoint with this new selection of 10 free retro-style Photoshop actions. Each of the effects is inspired by 35mm film and processing techniques, and includes some lovely gritty options as well as colour treatments.
Turn any image into a Polaroid instantly with one of 10 different effects. Includes colour treatments and shadows automatically, and it’s one of those Photoshop actions you’ll use again and again.
Featuring some impressive retro Photoshop actions, plus a kit of light leaks and some vintage Photoshop brushes, the Mini Collection from FilterGrade is a free taster of its larger FilterGrade Bundle.
23. Old photo action
Want to make your images look like they’ve through a time warp? Then get experimenting with this old photo action, which adds colour and contrast.
24. Portrait action
Desaturate the colour in your photography with this portrait action, which creates a gorgeous vintage effect.
The area between greyscale and colour is split toning and adding this slight change to your photos can have a dramatic effect. You can also create retro and abstract images with this technique.
26. Amatorka action
Create an instant action-movie-style colour treatment with a blue-green cast, rich saturation and increased contrast.
If you’re after a vintage effect for your photography but you’re not entirely sure what, nab this collection from DeviantArt user Yeonseb. It contains 14 assorted vintage actions, so you’re bound to find somethng to your liking.
28. Thinking of you
This is another stylized photographic treatment that adds a filmic, green-cast and heavily saturated shadows effect. The end result feels both blockbuster-movie-like, and very fashion orientated.
This simple action creates a beautiful blockbuster-film look, heightening details in your photographs and increasing contrast, while introducing a blue/green tint.
30. Vintage neon
This simple filter give your photos a tinted, washed-out look with an extra neon touch that’ll turn lowlights into colourful highlights.
This set of actions creates Hipstamatic-style images inside Photoshop. The download includes three actions, each of which creates a recognisable treatment including borders and noise.
Next page: Monochrome photo filters
Monochrome photo filters
32. Bold B&W HDR
It’s not just colour photos that you can give the HDR treatment to; with this free action you can give any photo a bold black and white HDR-style look that’ll make it really stand out.
Add the eerie touch of a cool infrared chill to your pictures with this free Photoshop action. This action creates two adjustment layers inside a layer group, allowing you to change the red and blue adjustments, as well as the contrast.
34. High key
This action requires a credit if you use it, but offers a very simple way to convert a regular photograph into a stunning high-key portrait with clean lines and an almost dreamy finish, without compromising essential areas of contrast.
Create a lithograph-style image from your raw photos. This works best on larger images that have already been given a medium-contrast treatment.
Emulate 19th Century gum bichromate prints with this straightforward action that produces beautiful textured effects.
37. Art of decay
This excellent free action creates a simple heavily-aged photo effect.
38. Black and white
This action adds a punchy high-contrast black and white effect to your photographs. It produces a nice grittiness with heavy grain and over-saturated blacks. Great for creating a stylised image.
39. Dramatic sepia
This superb action offers a slightly more refined version of the standard sepia effect by adding a contrast curve to age the final result so that it feels like a faded photograph. Dramatic Sepia offers a great way to communicate a sense of age.
Next page: Touch-up techniques
Want to retouch skin like a boss? This set of retouching actions will give you a head start, enabling you to heal, mattify and airbrush skin with one click, and also allowing you to brighten eyes and increase their contrast.
Quickly put a bit of sparkle into dull, dark eyes with this easy eye enhancement action. Simply click on the background layer (or the layer with the eyes you want to sharpen), run the action, and paint on the layer mask to sharpen and brighten the eyes.
42. Teeth whitening
Teeth aren’t naturally a dazzling white, but sometimes they can appear grey or yellow in photographs depending on the lighting. This useful action can easily brighten up the smiles of family and friends by giving their teeth a clean white finish.
43. Bright eyes
This free Photoshop action gives an intense look to blue eyes, as shown above. A great effect for those extreme closeups.
The final stage of image preparation should be to sharpen your images according to the final delivery method – you sharpen differently for print or screen. This free action from MCP Actions offers a simple one-click solution to sharpening, with the ability to control the degree of sharpening that’s been applied after the fact by adjusting the opacity and masking of layers.
Used in combination with an existing selection or mask, this smooths skin while retaining textures and colouring saving clean-up time.
Automatically remove white backgrounds with this suite of three actions that allow for different automated processes to strip out the background of your isolated images.
Next page: Special effects
Transform your photos into posters, covers or backgrounds for text with Plexiglass, a set of Photoshop actions that make it easy to add abstract effects and borders to any image with a single click.
48. 3D map
A brilliant action that converts a flat vector map into an isometric 3D map mockup. There are three different styles of map available: sand, ice and grass, and the action also allows you to drop in your choice of buildings, trees, landscape elements and signs.
49. Pencil draw
This action uses contrast to find the edges in your image and automatically render a pencil sketch effect. Start from a full-colour image with no need to convert to black and white first.
50. Stickers n tape
Create round stickers with a curl in the corner, or polaroid-style images with clear sticky tape holding it in place. Site requires free registration to download action.
Automatically convert your text into a snazzy 1930s-style retro treatment with shiny sequins and a nice 3D effect. It’s also easy to adjust after running the action as all the layers are retained.
52. Stamp generator
Turn an image into a stamp automatically using an included Photoshop brush to define how the frill will sit along the edge of the final artwork.
Automatically generates a blue denim texture, ‘sews’ on a leather patch and embosses your own artwork onto the leather. Nice, simple and effective output that could be adapted for a variety of purposes.
Make the focal point of an image really stand out with this action from Christopher Fowler, which will train a virtual spotlight on your picture.
55. Paper fold
Automatically render your artwork onto a trifold paper design in pseudo-3D, complete with shadows and shading on the image. Ideal for rendering paper designs ahead of presenting them on-screen to clients.
56. Long shadow
This free Photoshop action allows you to create a long shadow from your text content, and you can tweak the shadow’s opacity.
Generate standard 3x triptych panels for print, with a 3D effect visual triptych generator also available. Print sizes include 1000x600mm, 1300×800, 1600×1000 with 50mm depth @ 288dpi.
58. Action 3D
This quirky action from JonasFan93 creates a pseudo 3D anaglyphic image by separating out colour channels within your image and offsetting them. This freebie offers a number of different styles that are more suitable for use in printed brochures and website design where you’re aiming for a stylised effect.
59. Outer space
Create an outer space background automatically complete with space dust and nebulous gases. Randomly colours the scene to produce a different effect every time.
Source: creative blog