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 brushes (not to mention our best laptops for Photoshop buying guide), here are some great Photoshop actions that are free to download and install, for photographers, graphic designers, game artists and more.
You can jump to the section you want right now from the drop-down menu above, but you should definitely bookmark the entire list to check out the rest later – who knows where inspiration will strike.
01. Mystical Light
Give your photos an other-worldly air with this Photoshop action from Megan Joy. It'll infuse landscapes with a magical purple haze, enlivening any shot with an ethereal purple haze and giving any location the atmosphere of a mysterious fairy dell.
02. 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 – so you can find just the retro effect you need in seconds.
If your photos just aren't sinister enough for your liking, this free action should make things a little more unsettling. It's designed to let you easily give your photos a dark, haunting effect. Perfect for creating the impression that you're permanently about to stumble into mortal danger.
04. Cold Nightmare
This amusingly-titled action 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.
05. Summer Haze
If you'd prefer to cheer up your images, take a sunny shot and make it intensely summery with this great turquoise haze effect. Outdoor portraits taken in natural light are most suitable for this filter.
06. 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.
07. 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 tone, or go the whole hog and throw in a setting sun complete with a lens flare effect; it's all there.
08. 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.
Alternatively, try getting vibrant colour effects with this free 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.
10. Blue Evening
Blue Evening is the free component of a paid-for set called Touch of Drama, which gives you various ways to add a mysterious atmosphere to your shots. The strength of the blue cast depends on your starting colours, so click through to see a good selection of examples.
This set of 11 actions convert your nighttime 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.
12. Purple Contrast
This free Photoshop action washes out some of the colour from an image and gives it a purpley hue. It's a good way to give your photographs a dramatically downbeat look.
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.
Photoshop actions are extremely useful for wedding photographers dealing with a huge number of shots. Here you get a set of 11 actions that automatically create common portrait effects, especially around the theme of wedding photography. The set includes skin smoothing and soft filter effects as well as black and white conversion.
A nice range of colour treatments including rich, grainy black-and-white, bleach bypass, and some heavy casting effects. Great for experimentation.