We've rounded up some of the best Photoshop actions that are free to download and create stunning effects. 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.
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. Enjoy!
01. Night to Twilight
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.
02. Vintage Light Leaks
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!
03. 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.
04. 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.
06. Cross-processing ATN
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.
07. 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.
08. Sunlight actions
This set of five free Photoshop actions is designed to enhance and beautify your sunlit photos.
09. Bright eyes
This free Photoshop action gives an intense look to blue eyes, as shown above. A great effect for those extreme closeups.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. High Definition Sharpening
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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. Magic 3D
Want to go 3D with Photoshop actions? Create sophisticated pseudo-3D extrusions from text, shapes or layers with gloss and highlights using this great tool.
16. Polanoid Generator 3
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.
17. Soften Skin Effect
Used in combination with an existing selection or mask, this smooths skin while retaining textures and colouring saving clean-up time.
18. The Mini Collection
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.
Create a lithograph-style image from your raw photos. This works best on larger images that have already been given a medium-contrast treatment.
20. Wedding Enhancers Kit
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.
21. 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.
22. 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.
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.
25. Split Toning Action
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 2
Create an instant action-movie-style colour treatment with a blue-green cast, rich saturation and increased contrast.
27. Photoshop Color Actions 2
A nice range of colour treatments including rich grainy black and white, bleach bypass, and some heavy casting effects. Great for experimentation.
28. 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.
29. 1930s Glitter Text
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.
30. Gum Bichromate Print
Emulate 19th Century gum bichromate prints with this straightforward action that produces beautiful textured effects.
31. Vintage Collection
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.
32. 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.
33. Denim & Leather
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.
Automatically make any portrait look like you’ve used a model with this action. A series of effects are built up to produce a soft-glow effect around your portrait for a magazine cover-image result.
35. Remove White Background
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.
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.
37. 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.
38. Long Shadow
This free Photoshop action allows you to create a long shadow from your text content and leave it as it is, as you can set the Opacity manually as per the desire.
39. Triptych Generator
Generate standard 3x triptych panels for print, with a 3D effect visual triptych generator also available. Print sizes include 1000x600mm, 1300x800, 1600x1000 with 50mm depth @ 288dpi.
40. Art of Decay
This excellent free action creates a simple heavily-aged photo effect.
41. Black and White
This action adds a punchy high-contrast black & white effect to your photographs. It produces a nice grittiness with heavy grain and over-saturated blacks. Great for creating a stylized image.
42. Page Curl
This simple action is based on a tutorial on how to create a convincing page curl effect in Photoshop, but with the action there’s no need to take all the suggested steps - simple click and run for a handy time-saving effect ideal for web designers.
43. 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.
44. 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.
46. 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 stylized effect.
47. Black and White Action
This action creates a lovely black and white effect with a rich vignette and nice silver/sepia tint to the final treatment.
If you’re after a toy-camera-style effect, this action produces just that. Nice and simple to use, but very effective and convincing results (similar to Instagram images) including over-saturated colours, bleeding and heavy vignettes.
49. HipstaRev - Pack 1
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.
50. 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.
Words: Sam Hampton-Smith
This is an updated and expanded version of an article that previously appeared on Creative Bloq.