The best free Photoshop actions can save you a lot of time if you're aiming to create a particular type of effect in Adobe's industry-standard image editing software. While doing it yourself can be time-consuming, Photoshop actions bundle in all the changes and processes needed to achieve a result while still allowing some fine-tuning once they've been applied.
You can create Photoshop actions yourself, which is super handy if you find yourself repeating the same processes regularly. But you can also import Photoshop actions that have been made by other creators – and some of these creators are so kind as to give away Photoshop actions for free. To get you started check out our guide on how to download Photoshop.
Free Photoshop actions: Photo filters
Coffeeshop actions soften your photos, creating a sense of depth and visual intrigue. These filters can add an aura of romance to wedding photos, or give children's portraits a feeling of innocence and tenderness. The actions can help make your photo lighting appear more dynamic or make alterations to level out skin tone and imperfections. Whether you're a novice or a professional, the Coffeeshop actions are a useful addition to make photo editing easier.
Sharpening your images can instantly make them clearer, and this collection of free sharpen actions makes it easier than ever to make your most important snaps shine. Details become more visible by adjusting contrast and clarity, enhancing the colour scheme and lighting in your pictures. Portraits, landscapes, wedding photos and more can be brought to life with this free tool and it's perfect for both outdoor and studio photography.
03. Cross Process
Next up on our free Photoshop actions roundup is this cross-processing effect. Cross-processing means deliberately processing one type of film in a chemical solution intended for another, resulting in oddly skewed colours and increased contrast and saturation. This collection includes six different cross process effects. We especially like the rich vibrant tone of the example pictured above (action number two of the collection).
04. Desert Dust
Want to create a dry, overly hot atmosphere in your images? Try this entry in our free Photoshop actions list from Brusheezy. It knocks out colour and gives everything a hazy look. Mimic the effect in a single click, to save you hours of editing work.
05. Facebook Fix
This powerful set of Photoshop actions gives you everything you need to optimise images for sharing on Facebook. There are actions to resize, sharpen, watermark and brand your images for Facebook. Each resizing action will instantly apply your logo – all you need to do is move it to where you want it, and adjust the size and opacity.
06. Winter Blues
At the other end of the temperature scale, these Winter Blues photo effects are designed to add some wintry magic to your landscapes. Use these free Photoshop actions to enhance overcast and cloudy skies and with subtle cool hues. The pack includes 10 actions, each with a different style.
07. Underwater Luxe
If you're a fan of underwater imagery, this is the pick from the free Photoshop actions list you need. It removes the underwater haze, sharpers and boosts contrast, sharpens, and warms up skin by removing blue tones. Ideal for transforming underwater portraits in particular. This action is completely customisable, and you can download it for free at The Coffee Shop Blog.
08. Deep Matte
This free Photoshop action does exactly what its name would suggest. It will give your image a super-strong matte finish. If you want a more subtle matte finish, Exposure Empire also offers a basic version, but we love the intensity of this one.
09. Color Pop
Give washed-out photos an instant burst of colour with this free Photoshop action from Shutter Pulse. One of its set of 14 Boosters Photoshop Actions, it comes as part of a free bundle of 20 Lightroom presets and 20 Photoshop actions. This action is perfect for bringing a pop of colour and contrast to any photo.
10. Reduce Motion Blur
Sometimes a little camera shake, or an unexpected movement from your subject, can ruin an otherwise great photo. Save the day with this entry from the free Photoshop actions roundup. It will remove motion blur from your images.
11. Pastel Effect
Another way to breathe fresh life into your photos is with this set of 40 pastel effect Photoshop actions; they'll provide instant light enhancement and beautiful colour toning at the touch of a button, and transform ordinary shots into something much more Instagram-worthy.
12. Mini Fusion
This Mini Fusion Photoshop action promises to inject new life into images. It includes colour conversions and optional tints and exposure fix layers. There are a number of impressive before-and-afters on the MCP Actions site that showcase the results.
13. Mystical Light
Give your photos an other-worldly air with this Photoshop action from Megan Joy, available through DeviantArt. It'll infuse landscapes with a magical light, infusing any shot with an ethereal purple haze and making the dullest of landscape shots look like a mysterious fairy dell.
14. Instant Hipster
For those times you want to give your photos a one-click Instagram effect, Instant Hipster's the perfect solution. It comes with 10 ready-made filters – Amaro, Mayfair, Hudson, Valencia, X-Pro II, Willow, Sutro, Hefe, Nashville and 1977 (you'll likely recognise those names from Instagram). Capture just the retro effect you need in seconds.
If your photos just aren't sinister enough for your liking, this free Photoshop action should make things a little more unsettling. It's designed to let you easily give your photos a dark, haunting vibe. Perfect for creating the impression that you're permanently about to stumble into mortal danger.
16. Cold Nightmare
Want to go darker still? Perhaps the most dramatically titled of the free Photoshop actions will transform a photo of a perfectly innocent scenario into a window into a dark world. In this example image, the archer probably shooting at a target takes on the look of someone who is definitely trying to kill a human. It’s amazing what some shadows can do.
17. Summer Haze
If you'd prefer to cheer up your images, take a sunny shot and make it intensely summery with this great golden haze effect. Outdoor portraits taken in natural light are most suitable for this filter.
18. Hazy Afternoon
Perfect for outdoor pictures, the Hazy Afternoon action certainly lives up to its name by creating a soft gradient colour layer. You can use this free action on black and white or colour images, plus you can easily adjust the gradient until you get the exact look you're after.
19. 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. This action is designed to remove the digital grey (lack of true black) found in HDR photos, to give them back their punch.
20. Strong HDR Effect
Try getting vibrant colour effects with this free Photoshop actions HDR filter from Shutter Pulse. If it works well for you but you'd like more options, it's part of a set of 30 HDR actions that you can buy for $13.
21. Night to Twilight
This set of 11 actions convert your nighttime images into twilight scenes 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.
This action adds a beautiful warmth to your photographs, bringing out rich tones in hair and skin, and softening colours with a pink cast. Give your images a romantic, nostalgic feel in an instant.
Free Photoshop actions: Vintage photo filters
23. Ultra Faded
Want to make your professionally captured photos look like they were taken with a cheap camera? Of course you do. This set of free Photoshop actions from SparkleStock recreate a faded film effect, with optional light leaks. The full (paid) set includes a whole load of different options, but you can download 11 for free. All actions are created using adjustment layers, so they'll all remain fully editable and nondestructive.
24. Vintage Light Leak
Sometimes you want Photoshop actions that can stop your photographs from looking too polished; a little imperfection can add to a shot's charm, and this vintage light leak action is one way to achieve that effect. Send it into action and you can turn any top-end DSLR shot into something that looks like it was taken on an antique camera.
25. Cross Processed
We've mentioned one free cross process Photoshop action, and here's another. This action adds drama and vivid colour effects to your images by deepening shadows and making colours more saturated. It’s especially good for stormy skies, landscapes, buildings and ocean scenes.
26. Color 024
Digital pictures are crisp and precise, but sometimes they can lack that nostalgic glow of a film photograph. By downloading this free Photoshop action, you can adjust the colour saturation and create rich, sun-bleached photos that still retain a high level of detail.
27. 2-strip Technicolor
Recreate the look of 2-strip Technicolor film by downloading this free action. Popular in the 20s and 30s, 2-strip technicolor film exposed black and white film behind a green filter and a red filter. By merging the green and blue channels in different layers, this action simulates the 2-strip look without damaging the original image.
28. 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 work with video, too!
29. Hard Lomo
DeviantArt 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 applying an Instagram filter.
30. Retro Style filters
Chris Spooner is well known for his excellent Photoshop tutorials and giveaways, and he doesn’t disappoint with this selection of 10 retro-style free 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.
31. Polanoid Generator 3
Turn any image into a Polaroid instantly with one of 10 different effects. It includes colour treatments and shadows automatically, and it's one of those Photoshop actions you'll use again and again.
32. 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 $49 FilterGrade bundle.
33. Old Photo
Want to make your images look like they've gone through a time warp? Then get experimenting with this old photo action, which adds colour and contrast. It's available from photographer and artist Sakir Yildirim on DeviantArt.
Desaturate the colour in your photography with this portrait action, which creates a gorgeous vintage effect. This popular free Photoshop action is broken into two parts to enable you to pick the sharpness and saturation levels that work for you.
Create an instant action movie-style colour treatment with a blue-green cast, rich saturation and increased contrast. This Photoshop action is available for free from Amatorka on DeviantArt.
If you're after a vintage effect for your photography but you're not entirely sure what, nab this free Photoshop actions collection from DeviantArt user Yeonseb. It contains 14 assorted vintage actions, so you're bound to find something to your liking.
This simple filter gives your photos a tinted, washed-out look with an extra neon touch that'll turn lowlights into colourful highlights. Use it to liven up your images in an instant.
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.
Free Photoshop actions: Monochrome photo filters
39. Bold B&W HDR
It's not just colour photos that you can apply the HDR treatment to. With this free Photoshop action you can give any photo a bold, black and white, HDR-style look that'll make it really stand out.
40. Infrared Photography
Add the eerie touch of a cool infrared chill to your pictures with this free Photoshop actions entry. This action creates two adjustment layers inside a layer group, allowing you to change the red and blue balance, as well as the contrast.
41. 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.
Create a lithograph-style image from your raw photos. This works best on larger images that have already been given a medium-contrast treatment. Download this Photoshop action for free on DeviantArt.
43. Old and Dirty
For Photoshop and Lightroom, this action will give you a 'black and white conversion with a slight twist'. Apply the action and voila! You'll get a vintage/retro feel on your photo.
Free Photoshop actions: Touch-up techniques
44. 5 Skin Retouching actions
Want to retouch skin like a boss? This set of retouching actions will give you a head-start, enabling you to heal, mattify and airbrush skin with one click. You can also use them to brighten eyes and increase their contrast.
45. 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.
46. Soft Skin Tones
Used in combination with an existing selection or mask, this smoothes skin while retaining textures and colouring, saving clean-up time. It's available to download for free.
47. 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.
Free Photoshop actions: Special effects
48. BlackNull's Modern Artist Action Set
This is a complex free Photoshop action created for Adobe Create by the artist Nuwan Panditha, also known as BlackNull. It can be used to turn photographs into vibrant works of graphic art. You'll need to follow the instructions carefully for this one, creating a clear mask layer (be sure to name it 'mask') for your subject. The action may look great immediately when applied, but have a play around because there are lots of way to change the shapes and colours.
49. Powder Explosion free photoshop action
Powder is a common prop in dance photography, but you don't necessarily need to mess up your studio to get that exploding look. This free Photoshop action attempts to replicate the effect. Don't expect too much – it's never going to replicate the realism of actually shooting with powder, but can be a fun action to add some exaggerated drama to an image. You'll need to credit Diego Sanchez, the creator of the action, if you use it for free.
50. Cinematic Rain Effect free Photoshop action
Rain is another element that can add a lot of drama to an image, but it's hard to rely on rain when you want it, and hard to photograph too. This dramatic rain action works best on shots that already have a dark and moody look, adding an extra element to really set them off.
51. Free Oil Paint Collection
Want to turn your images into oil paintings? Look no further! This collection of six actions contains special effects that'll apply different types of oil paint finishes onto your images.
52. Infrared Photo Effect
Authentic infrared photos require either infrared film or an infrared lens, but this free Photoshop effect can help you achieve the same effect. Capture the surreal appearance of false-color infrared photography in you images. There are eight actions to choose from in this set, each with a different and unique inverted colour effect.
53. Texture Applicator Plus
Create depth and interest in your images by adding texture overlays with this set of free Photoshop actions. Pick up a free texture, then apply it to a photo to create a range of different effects.
Turn your nighttime cityscapes into something a whole lot more dramatic with these free Photoshop actions from SparkleStock. These actions work with Photoshop CS3 and newer, including CC. Get three dramatic effects for free, or purchase the full version to get access to all eight.
55. Dispersion Effect
This free Photoshop action enables you to easily create dispersion effects in your images, to make it appear like an object is exploding or disintegrating. The action leaves layers intact so you can easily modify and edit the results to your liking. The only downside is that you can only use it with 72 dpi images in RGB color mode, and has not been tested for use with Photoshop CC.
56. Glitch Effect
You can't beat the look of stuff recorded onto a knackered old VHS tape, and this free action by Syed Faraz Ahmad does a pretty good job of recreating it, with plenty of glitches and colour smearing.
57. 3D Isometric 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.
58. Stickers and Tape
Create round stickers with a curl in the corner, or polaroid-style images with clear sticky tape holding them in place. This site requires you to register for free before you can download the action.
59. Fold Paper
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.
60. 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 stylised effect.
What are Photoshop actions?
When working on Photoshop, there is a feature that allows you to track all your edits and save them as an 'action'. This means that in the future you can quickly apply all of those edits at once rather than having to add all of the adjustment layers and masks one-by-one every time you want to apply the same kind of edit to an image.
If you then assign that action to a shortcut key, it means you can perform an edit at just the press of a button, saving you minutes and hours of your time. They're an absolute lifesaver if you're in a rush, or if you have lots of projects to edit in a similar fashion – and of course, they're all designed by you, to suit you and your process. But you can also import Photoshop actions created by other people, saving you even more time.
How do I install Photoshop actions?
Most free Photoshop actions will download as zip folders. You'll want to download this and extract the contents (which should take the form of an .ATN file) to an easy-to-find location on your computer.
To install the Photoshop actions and make them available to use in Photoshop, you'll need to select the Window Menu in Photoshop and choose 'Actions'. Click on the Menu Icon at the top right of the Actions panel, scroll down to Load Actions and open the Photoshop Actions Folder. Navigate to the folder where you saved the Photoshop action and double-click the .ATN file. Once the action you want appears listed, you can simply click the Play button.
If you're looking to get the best out of Photoshop, check out the recent update that has equipped Photoshop with generative AI tools, or take a look at Photoshop online and learn the basics on how to use it.