7 Reasons Why Actions Can Improve Your Creativity And Color Education

I’ve been asked often, what’s the point of color toning actions and why are these different or beneficial to me? I was just like that and after this venture, I realized just how beneficial it has been and wanted to share a few reasons for others who may not realize how they are useful beyond the obvious. 

Photo: Elena Prosdocimo  IG  |  FB  |  Flickr  Action:  Vermilion

Photo: Elena Prosdocimo IG | FB | Flickr
Action: Vermilion

1. Actions package the intricate color work of amazing artists, and allows them to be used by anyone.

I found out that actions, by themselves, could mean anything.

My original idea with this site was simple. I wanted to share beautiful color toning or color grading work (whatever you may call it) of highly talented creatives with other artists who wanted that in their own work.

Usually color toning is a series of adjustment layers in Photoshop with blend modes and blending styles to create a certain look. But as you can imagine, it’s not so convenient downloading a set of adjustment layers and dragging them over each image. Thus, re-writing these adjustment layers into actions made a lot more sense.

it was convenience of sharing the color work of talented individuals that made me realize actions were a good way to do it!

2. The stigma of cheesy actions.

This brings me to another point. I always hated actions. Then I realized it wasn’t that I hated actions themselves, but I didn't like the ones that weren't very intricate sold in bundles of 100+. I would get lost among all of them.

So even though actions have a certain reputation at times, being able to use actions as a vessel to deliver beautiful and elaborate color work from high-end creatives became more convenient, and realistic.

Alana Lee from our community put it best.

“The real power in the Fine Art Actions i have found is that they are more complex, and allow users who understand the intricacies of how they work to really fine tune them to create something unique (as opposed to some of the more basic actions otherwise available that really just give a common look that can be seen everywhere and have no built in ways of adjusting or modifying them).

Honestly I used to look down on using actions before I found the Fine Art Action collection. Even among the other ones available where the user can manipulate the layers nothing else I've tried comes close to the range of modifications one can do with your collection. As someone who is fairly proficient with photoshop, these actions save me so much time adding the various components myself.”

3. Actions from specific artists serve as an educational tool to see inside the minds of others

With a recent direction in featuring sets from other creatives, they allow an invaluable insight into seeing how others process their own images. And since we keep all the adjustment layers customizable, you can dig in and see what settings people use to get to certain looks. It’s the most fascinating way to discover what can be done and what you could do for your own work!

As Nicolas Cuenca (@phnicolascuenca) recently said, “I got this collection and it was my first time buying actions, since I like to do my own color work. But now I feel I need to take some color lessons! This is truly, truly amazing! I’ve been playing around with some of these actions and they good. Thank you for such an amazing educational content!

Comments like these have shown me that people that already do their own color toning also use these as forms of education and inspiration and infuse it into their work!

Photo:  Nico Nordstrom  |  FB  Action:  B  lack Gold

Photo: Nico Nordstrom | FB
Action: Black Gold

4. The power of suggestion - A strong starting point.  

As I wrote about here in this blog post, https://fineartactions.com/blog/actions-as-a-reference-to-color-toning, they serve as a starting point in what potential the image you’re working on might have. I actually use my own actions on jobs because I want to get a starting point that may not be obvious to me just by looking at the image. I’m a retoucher, and I love skin retouching, but color toning often eludes me and am continually inspired by seeing other references. So the actions don’t only become a reference, but it applies right on top of your work and can be completely modified.

In the link, I also talk about being guided by an emotional response that they allow you to explore.

Community Feedback

These reasons were all things that I believed in when I first started this platform, but I was surprised to find these were all reasons people in the community discovered from their feedback. They elaborated even further and here are some of their reasons.

5. A direct portal to the vision of the best artists.

Luca Storelli:
"Actions are a great way to speed up the workflow. But at the some time they are a way to get the fundamentals of color grading. Actions let us to test immediately the look of the image, so we can try different looks and moods speedily. I love the idea that these actions are made by professionals and by artist, each different from the others. Because each artist has his own world and visions, as film directors for example. Tim Burton has his fantastic film look, yet so different from Quentin Tarantino, and that is different from Christopher Nolan, and different from JJAbram too, etc. The principle of Photoshop actions could be like these, we have talented artists that recreates their image visions and workflow, so you can learn from them and grow. I think it’s a great and fantastic opportunity for all."

6. Saving time and gaining efficiency

Kundan Baruah:
"Actions are the easiest way to see things that we have never imagined."

"We all know, most of the times before hitting that shutter button, what mood/expression we are going to capture. We presume the toning of an image and most of the time (in my case), once I export the file to PS, to make a specific color toning, I have to implement multiple curves, color mixture, LUTs. etc. Sometimes, by accident, I come across a different style of color/tone proportions. Next time, if I try to replicate the same to another pic, I have to dig in each layer by layer and also not sure how the finish product will look like. Having actions created for different split toning, skin toning, color grading or even a cinematic look makes it easy to navigate through each and every style. If we like one tone, we can then easily change the intensity/opacity which is less time consuming."

Photo:  Silvia Chiteala  Action: Paranormal

Photo: Silvia Chiteala
Action: Paranormal

7. Formulas for high-end color work

Chloe Greenhalgh:
"The reason I started using actions was really just adding speed to my workflow. I used to think using actions and presets was ‘cheating’ especially since I’m not only a photographer, but a retoucher. But when I went pro, I found myself drawn to actions because I don’t have the time to meticulously edit each image anymore, and Lightroom presets also weren’t doing it for me anymore. I was looking for a high end solution that could speed up my editing time. When I find a mix that works for me for a set of images, it gives me a base to work from for that whole shoot to keep up that consistency without having to remember what I did to every image, or creating new actions every shoot!"

This blog post inspired us to branch out and share the work of other creatives. 

Want to try one of our Photoshop Actions? Download Paranormal below and take it for a test drive, then submit your images to our Facebook group