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How to Use Photoshop Actions in Photoshop Elements

Using Photoshop Actions in Photoshop Elements

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Some Photoshop Actions can be used in Photoshop Elements, but they are accessed in a different way depending on the version of Photoshop Elements. Instructions for creating actions that work in Photoshop Elements have not been documented by Adobe, but several folks with both programs have figured it out and posted Elements-compatible actions on the Web.

Using Actions in Photoshop Elements 1 and 2

In Photoshop Elements 1 and 2, Photoshop actions can be accessed through the How To/Recipes palette, but you need a special add-on in order to use Photoshop Actions in Elements this way. At the time of this writing, two such add-ons exist, and both are free:
Hidden Power Tools by Richard Lynch
snapActions by Ling Nero
• Future add-ons of this nature will be linked from the Photoshop Elements Add-ons category.

Using Actions in Photoshop Elements 1 through 4

In Photoshop Elements 1 through 4, actions can also be accessed through the Styles and Effects palette. You do not need an add-on to use Photoshop actions in Elements this way, but the files must be specially prepared in a certain way (usually by someone with Photoshop) before they can work inside Elements.

Those who are interested in creating Elements-compatible actions in Photoshop should be aware of these requirements:

• Actions cannot call another action.

• Action Sets may only contain a single action.

• Some Photoshop functions and modes are simply not available in Elements, and actions which refer to them will not work in Elements.

Before a Photoshop action can be used in Elements, the following steps must be taken.

For all versions:
• You must create a 64x64 pixel PSD file and place it in the same folder with a group of actions. For each action you want to call, you must create a layer in the PSD file with an image to represent the action. This is the image that will show in Elements' Styles and Effects Palette. Each layer in the PSD file should be named to correspond with the Action it calls.

For Photoshop 4 and lower:
• The folder containing your actions and PSD files must be placed into:
Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop Elements X\Previews\Effects
where X is the version number of Photoshop Elements.

• Before the actions will appear in the Styles and Effects Palette, the user must go to the folder Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop Elements\Previews\Cache\Effects Cache and delete the following three files before restarting Photoshop Elements:
CatagoryCache.che
ListCache.che
ThumbNailCache.che

This forces Photoshop Elements to rebuild the Effects Cache, which makes the actions available to the user from the Styles and Effects Palette.

Using Actions in Photoshop Elements 5 and 6

For Photoshop Elements 5 or 6, actions still need to be prepared using the guidelines above, however the ATN files should be placed into a folder under:
XP: C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Adobe\Photoshop Elements\5.0\Photo Creations\special effects
Vista: C:\ProgramData\Adobe\Photoshop Elements\5.0\Photo Creations\special effects
(replace 5.0 with 6.0 if that is your version)

The folder name is what will appear under the Special Effects menu of the Artwork and Effects palette in Photoshop Elements 5, and the folder can contain multiple ATN files. As described in the section above, a PSD file containing thumbnails for each action must also be created and placed in the same folder. For Photoshop Elements 5, this file should be named thumbs.psd. No cache files need to be deleted for Elements 5, as the Artwork and Effects palette cache is rebuilt any time the program is opened.

For more documentation on how to create content for Photoshop Elements 5, see How to Make Printed Creation Content for Photoshop Elements 5 and download the PDF file by Wayne Jiang, Adobe's content designer for Photoshop Elements 5.

Using Actions in Photoshop Elements 7

Photoshop Elements 7 introduced the action player which allows you to install third-party actions in Photoshop Elements.
Installing Actions into the Action Player in Photoshop Elements 7

In Conclusion

Elements users who wish to use Photoshop actions they have obtained online or elsewhere can certainly try these actions by following the three steps above. However, not all Photoshop actions will be compatible with Photoshop Elements. Richard Lynch has some troubleshooting suggestions in his detailed article on How to Run Actions in Photoshop Elements, but in many cases these actions will need to be edited in Photoshop in order to make them compatible with Elements.

More Photoshop Action Resources
Free Adobe Photoshop Actions
Photoshop Elements Compatible Actions and Tools for Using Actions in Elements
Tips for Creating and Working with Photoshop Actions

Questions? Comments? Post in the forum!

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