How to Insert Action Stops in Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop Actions are great for speeding up or automating repetitive processes. Most, but not all commands can be recorded in an action. Action stops can also be created to allow user input at the end of a recorded command. In this example, an action will be recorded to create a Black & White adjustment layer and then apply a gradient to the layer mask, with an action stop for the user to determine where the gradient should be applied in the mask.

  1. First, a few tips on creating actions:
    • When certain layers need to be selected, use the keyboard shortcuts: Alt+[ (PC) / Option+[ (Mac) to record a Select Backward Layer command, or Alt+] (PC) / Option+] (Mac) to record a Select Forward Layer command. This way, you'll avoid having the action stall when used on files with different layer names.
    • Minimize the number of steps in an action by using dialog boxes wherever possible. For instance, if a new layer is to be duplicated and renamed, use the Duplicate Layer command in the Layer menu. That way the dialog box opens so that the layer can be named while creating the copy, and it's recorded as one step.
  2. Now, to create a simple action with an action stop. Click the New Action button in the Actions panel.
    Actions Panel
  3. Name the action in the dialog box and click Record.
    New Action
  4. The red dot at the bottom of the Actions panel indicates that the action is being recorded.
    Action Recording
  5. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Black & White.
    Layer Menu
  6. Name the layer in the dialog box, if you wish, and click OK.
    New Layer Dialog Box
  7. When an adjustment layer is created, the layer mask is active by default.
    Layers Panel
  8. Select the Gradient Tool [ Gradient Tool ].
  9. Before dragging the gradient, go to the Actions panel menu and choose Insert Stop.
    Actions Panel Menu
  10. A dialog box will open where a message can be written to prompt the user. There's also an option at the lower left to Allow Continue. If you don't want the action to continue without user input, make sure this option is not checked.
    Stop Message
  11. Drag out the gradient, then go to the Actions panel and click Stop.
    Actions Panel
  12. Test the action by opening another image, selecting the action in the Actions panel, and clicking Play.
    Actions Panel
  13. When you see the message with the prompt, click Stop, drag through the image, then click Play in the Actions panel again to continue the action. (In this case, a Save As command was also added to the action to save the file to a different folder and change the file format to .psd.)
    Prompt Message
Author: Kate Cahill

Kate Cahill is a graphic designer, writer, and creative director who has developed content for print and web. As creative director, she has produced award-winning work for agencies focused on the pharmaceutical and health and beauty aid industries. She has also served as production manager, with responsibility for the successful fulfillment of long-run print contracts. Kate has been delivering training for Webucator clients since 2010. Her enthusiasm for cutting-edge technology, combined with hands-on practical experience, brings an added benefit to her classes. Kate teaches real-world techniques and integration of Adobe software, as well as Microsoft PowerPoint, to produce a fully developed and cohesive brand identity.

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