How to Make a Photoshop Action to Create a Photo Art Effect

What You’ll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you will learn how to make Photoshop actions to create your own photo effects. I will show you how to transform any photo into art with Photoshop effects and how to keep these photo art effects editable using smart filters, which has the property of adding image effects to layers in a non-destructive way. So now it’s time to learn, and you’ll soon be able to create your first photo effect Photoshop actions.

Tutorial Assets

The following asset was used during this tutorial:

  • Stock image

1. Choosing and Preparing a Good Photo

Step 1

First, you need to find the right photo for the effect you want. Not every photo will look great with all photo effects. 

For this tutorial, you will need an image with good illumination and not much detail on the background. I’m going to use a photo of a beautiful woman with a white background. It will work perfectly with the photo effect we are going to create.

Stock image used for the photo to art effect

Step 2

Another thing you need to know is that some effects depend on the image size and dpi of the document. Using a different configuration will result in different results. Dpi is not going to be important for this tutorial, but if you choose an image much bigger or smaller than mine, your result will look slightly different.

To check the size and dpi of your image, open it with Photoshop and go to Image > Image Size. For this tutorial, you will need an image with about 1400 x 1400 px.

Image dimensions and resolution

2. Recording the Action

Step 1

We are going to create a new action set. Go to Window > Actions to open the Actions panel. Then click on the Create new set icon and name it My First Photo Effects.

Creating a new Action set

Step 2

Now click on the Create new action icon. Name it Mezzopop Effect and click on Record. After that, Photoshop will record almost every step you make. That is how a Photoshop action works—you play it, and Photoshop repeats the actions recorded.

Pay attention to the Actions panel. If you make a mistake, click on the step you want to delete and then click on the trash bin.

Creating a new action

Step 3

Go to the Layers panel, right-click on the photo layer, and choose Convert to Smart Object. That will keep the image editable. 

Converting the layer into a Smart Object

Step 4

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set it to 0.5 px. That will make the image less detailed, which is good for the final result. You can disable it later if you don’t like the effect—all the effects will be on separate layers.

Adding a gaussian blur filter

Step 5

Now go to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen and use these settings:

  • Amount: 183%
  • Radius: 1.0 px
  • Reduce Noise: 66%
  • Remove: Lens Blur

This will make the image sharper but with less fine details, since we added a Gaussian blur first.

Smart sharpen settings

Step 6

Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise and use these settings:

  • Amount: 9.16%
  • Distribution: Uniform
  • Monochromatic: On

This will give us some controlled noise, which will make the final result always look like we want.

Adding noise to the image

Step 7

Now go to Filter > Pixelate > Mezzotint and set it to Long Lines. This will add the main effect of this tutorial.

Adding the mezzotint effect

Step 8

Go to Window > Adjustments to open the Adjustments panel. Then click on the Gradient Map icon. After that, go to Window > Properties and click on the gradient bar to edit it with these settings:

  • Stop 1: Location: 0% Color: #003533
  • Stop 2: Location: 100% Color: #f6001d

Here we are creating a red gradient, but you can choose any color you want. The stop on the left side controls the shadows, and the one on the right controls the highlights. You can click below the gradient bar to create more stops and customize the gradient even more.

Adding a Gradient Map layer

Step 9

Go back to the Actions panel and click on Stop recording

In the next image, you can see all the steps of this action. 

Stopping the recording of the action

Here is the result of this photo art effect:

Final result of the photo art effect

Step 10

It is possible to edit the action. To understand that, we are going to add one more filter to it. This filter needs to be applied to the photo layer. If you look at the Actions panel, you will see that the last step that had the photo layer selected was the Mezzotint.

So select the Mezzotint step on the Actions panel and the photo layer on the Layers panel and click on Begin recording. Then go to Filter > Filter Gallery and add a Texturizer filter with these settings:

  • Texture: Canvas
  • Scaling: 100%
  • Relief: 2
  • Light: Bottom
  • Invert: Off

After that, click on Stop Recording.

Adding a texture to the photo art effect

Here you can see that the Texturizer filter was applied right after the Mezzotint.

Texturizer after the mezzotint filter

To play this action, select the photo layer on the Layers panel and the Mezzopop Effect on the Actions panel. Then click on Play and the photo effect will be applied.

Final result with the texturizer filter

Step 11

Now go back to the Layers panel—I want to show you something.

At the beginning of this tutorial, we converted the photo layer to a Smart Object. Because of that, all the filters we applied are now Smart Filters. So you can disable/enable or change them anytime you want, and the original photo will remain untouched. Not converting the photo to a Smart Object would result in an uneditable rasterized image.

To edit a Smart Filter, double-click it and the appropriate panel will open.

Smart Object and its Smart Filters

And We’re Done!

In this tutorial, you learned the basics of how Photoshop actions work. We created a beautiful Photoshop art effect using simple filters and a Gradient Map. Then you learned how to edit an action and add more filters to it. Then you also learned that Smart Objects allow us to apply filters as Smart Filters, keeping all the effects editable. 

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