Actions -3rd Year
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Having gathered lots of actions in my second year of post-processing, I have now refined them to a much smaller set, in this my third year, and included Dan Margulis's Picture Postcard Workflow items.

This page is basically for me, to backup, document and remember what I learnt, but it may be useful to you too!

If you are not comfortable with the comments I made on my second year page - forget this lot! - as there is little explanation.

I lay out my actions in rows of 7 columns and so there are a lot of empty ones – this format will probably not suit you, so just delete them.  

As before click on a heading to download an action set, or click on the action name to see the steps of the action (in a new window).  If you have any questions, then drop drop me a line and I'll see if I can help you with them.

I have placed some of the specific PPW actions in the right hand column of my layout.  But because I'm no expert, I have changed the methodology to keep the result of each step, rather than flatten the image, to give me more latitude.  

I found the PPW videos very difficult to watch and especially annoying that the download images were almost completely different from the video (because of size and colour space).  Although I loved some of the ideas, for non-critical images, 5 minutes is much too long for me - so I tend to do a couple of passes of CurveMeister - the first for colour casts and luminosity and the second for colour boost with L channel mask.  But I always start with FocusMagic and go for conservative sharpening at the end - 2 minutes is nearer the mark. 

Actions are coloured to show in which colour space they were designed to work.

Red         - RGB

Green      - inspection from any mode

Orange    - RGB to new Lab image

Mauve      - subroutines or special actions

Yellow    - Lab

Grey        - group names

Blue        - any

Darker Grey - Notes & the PPW column


1 Inspect & Analyse


1/3rd Grid lines

Creates layer holding 3 grid lines to help with cropping.

Edit>Transform>Scale to move and scale the grid


Shows the differences from the original background layer

New window

Show RGB CH > Grey

Shows the 3 RGB channels relative to mid-grey (128).

3 small images

See 11 channels

Creates a new image with 3 rows

Original L A B
R G B desaturated

5 Stop Tones

Shows the tones in a new lab window  



Creates a layer of the visible image so far

Make Diff Layer

Makes a new layer of the difference between the top 2 layers

Better D&Burn

Creates 2 Luminosity Curve layers to play with

Adjust curves & then Invert Mask and pain 

Rgb>Lab (flat New W)

Creates a new image & sets the mode to Lab colour space


Lab>rgb (flat same W)

Flattens and converts the Lab image to RGB


50% Grey

Creates a dodge/burn layer in SoftLight blend.


Creates a History snapshot



2 Levels+ColourCast



‘CurrentImage’ & starts NeatImage



‘CurrentImage’ & starts FocusMagic


CurveMeister - F2

‘CurrentImage’ & starts CurveMeister


RGB>Lab L channel

Places the RGB ‘luminosity’ channel as the Lab L channel, while retaining the original colours of the image. 


+1 EV Printer

Adjusts image for Printer luminosity

Colour cast - CM

‘CurrentImage’ layer, blend to Color & starts CurveMeister

Step 1 of PPW 


3 Contrast



ch ContrastSharpen

'Standard' Dan Margulis action .  Select the channel with best contrast – usually Green.

Beware of colour changes, especially red turning to black! Changing to ColorDodge can be interesting

B&W Contrast

Subtle B&W contrast action

Needs a fairly large blur radius

B&W <> grey

Even more B&W control to feather edges


Luminosity Curve

To save key stokes!

Channel Diffs

Creates Differences of the 3 channels

Channel Lum Blend

Quick action to Apply Image on a channel

New layer set to Luminosity

Local Auto-Levels



1px to 100px

AutoLevels over differently sized areas of the image

Does the work in a separate image – but adds a named set on the original for copying into.

S/H plugin 36-16-10

CS2 simulation of Conservative Shadow/Highlight for PS7

New layer set to Luminosity


-- Light & Shadow


Sh/Hi cmd 22%

Simulates the CS2+ tool, but with more control

Creates a new set (Opacity @ 22%)
Need to set a good B&W mask

Harsh Sun/Shadows

'Standard' Dan Margulis action using Luminosity

Watch for halos

Severe Shadow/HiLight

This is quite crude, but does not produce halos


LightenShadow ~O

'Standard' Dan Margulis action using Inverted Overlay layer of the selected channel, constrained by the original layer

The Overlay layer needs a hefty blur

DarkenHiLights ~O


4 Colour


LabSat -new window

Standard Lab saturation from RGB

Opacity at 75% for the set

LabMultiply -new window

Use to increase weight overall, or in the lighter half of the image, while intensifying colours - from RGB


Standard Lab saturation

The A & B channel curves are set to 43:127,-42:-127 & 51:127,-51:127


Standard Lab Multiply with 2 selections offered for Mask

A curve adjustment layer is added in case Luminosity needs changing.

LabCMYKMultiply -new window

A Dan Margulis suggestion

Assign a low gamma profile, convert to Bogus CMYK and then curve to get a full shadow.  Then runs LabMultiply




Uses the Blue channel to darken the sky, with an optional blur

Lowering opacity of Foliage layer will lighten the greens.

Improve Weak Sky

A Dan Margulis suggestion, which should always improve a weak sky.

Watch for noise in the sky and adverse effects on other areas of the image, which may need Masking.

Enhance Dull Vegetation

A Dan Margulis suggestion, which normally works, but may alter other colours, so inspect carefully and follow the instructions!

Adds an adjustment Channel Mixer layer with the Green channel set to 130% Green and –30% Blue.

Chromatic Aberration

Attempts to remove colour fringing


Sky Select b ch

Suck & see


Sky Select rgb

Sky Selection Diff

ManFromMars =ise

A mad idea – using Equalise

Reduce opacity like stink!


5 Sharpening


Midtone 20-40%

This applies contrast to the mid-tones.  The Opacity is set to 30% as one normally uses between 20% and 40%

Applies a HighPass filter of  50 pixels. The ‘This Layer’ of BlendIf is set to 50/70 and 185/205 to limit the effect to the midtone. Beware of halos.


The above action may be modified by immediately playing this action, which allows further lighten/darken adjustment

Set the Opacity high-ish in the MidTone layer so you have something to back off from.


PostCard Sharp

A Dan Margulis action, bit OTT for me

Very complex – so in new window.  
Copy Layer Set back to original window

PostCard Sharp

USM 500:1+50:20

Quite strong – it will need a mask and lower opacity


USM 500-1+50-20

High Pass Sharpen

Different approach – using High Pass with a Hard Light blend

High pass set at 3 pixels

my USM dark+light

My sharpening action - excellent at halo & threshold control.
Set Threshold = 0 in USM dialog.

Requires applying the unsharpened image to create difference masks, which can then be curved for Threshold and more


Halo control with 2 layers set to Lighten and Darken blends



High Radius Low Amount – try 50>100:40>65


HIRALOAM sharpen

KmaskUSM .7-1.5

A Dan Margulis action, adjust the Unsharp Mask between 0.7 and 1.5 pixels

If the image is not sharp enough, lighten the curve midpoint or darken it if too sharp.
When happy copy the layer back to the original image and delete the duplicate image.

-           Fraser..

(needs CBsActions subroutines)

from Bruce Fraser book "Image Sharpening with CS2"

Sharpening 6meg

Suggested sharpening for 6meg images + content


Sharpening 4meg

Suggested sharpening for 4meg images + content


Depth Sharpening

Use Mask to simulate depth of field

USM of 500%, 4 pixels & HighPass of 25 pixels

Texture Sharpen

Brings out detail in flat surfaces

6 applications of USM




Mist Blur

Adds a rich glow to images


Orton Blur

Refined Orton effect with facility to alter the blur and sharp layers

A default blur of 20 pixels is added – which may be redefined by going back 2 history steps.

Pop postcard

Quick Dan Margulis idea to ‘pop’ a well exposed image

Grey layer controls impact of effect, which can be modified by Curving and altering the opacity of the VividLight layer.  For more control, reduce opacity of 50% Grey layer to 50% or so and use a flat ‘Jacob Ladder’ Curve!

Replace Sky Notes

In case I forget!  


Emphasis after Selection

Adds a slight darkening to edge of image.
Select the main area first on an image layer.

Inverses the selection and then Gaussian blurs it by 150 pixels. Adds this as a mask to a solid fill layer with Multiply blend.

Adaptive Equalisation

Finds fantastic detail

CurrentImage + Reindeer Graphics Adaptive Equalization plugin


Useful Screen, Max, Min & Multiply masks on RGB channels




Blown HiLight (skin)

Uses Lab impossible colours to add colour back into blown highlights


Skin Enhance > Lab

A Dan Margulis action, which enhances the skin colour, but may muck up other colours so a mask and opacity change will probably be required

Need to reduce Opacity of layers

Skin Enh pt1 (G ch)

Slightly improves the skin tones

Applies the Green channel to a new layer of the current visible image in Luminosity blend.

Skin Enh pt2 > newW

Enhances the shin colour

Overlays the A and B channels on themselves.


Changing Profiles to help skin colours



Jacobs Ladder

 - there is a page describing this technique


See LAB chs Auto

Run this first to see which Channel to use as the Controlling channel.  It will create a new window showing the 3 Lab channels side by side as they will be used in the following 'Auto By..' actions.  Delete this image when you have inspected it.  

Auto By Lch

These 3 actions will create the Layers using either the L, a or b channel to control the adjustments.  They will give you the option of blurring the channel, which may be necessary for a or b, to get a smooth transition of colour.  The actions include an AutoLevels adjustment on the controlling channel to make sure the entire width of the curve dialog is useable.  If you do not like the result, then use the 'Manual By' actions.  

Auto By A ch

Auto By B ch


This action will convert the Lab image back to RGB for you.


Flat Curve

This creates a grouped Curve adjustment Layer and sets all the 3 channel curves as horizontal lines.  

Manual By Lch

These actions allow you to curve the appropriate channel, rather than have AutoLevels applied - useful for some images.  Note it uses some actions from my standard set (CBactions) which must therefore be present.  

Manual By A ch

Manual By B ch


Creates a controlling layer at 80% opacity


Auto all 3 chs

This action creates 3 sets of adjustment layers in case you need different controlling channels.  Rus uses this, but being simple minded I tend to just play with one adjustment at a time.  Note this must be started when the image is already in Lab mode.


These actions are present in case you want an addition Jacob layers based on the adjustments you have made so far - so the image will already be in Lab mode



Lch to ALL

Use this action if you want a different sort of controlling image (perhaps from RGB space) - place your chosen image into the L channel before running it.  You will then need to add the Flat curve and Zoom layers.




 - general subroutines



Creates a layer of the visible image so far – used everywhere

Creates a new layer & ALTkey + Layer> Merge Visible.


Used by all the Local Auto-Levels actions


sub Ch Contrast / Sharpening

Used by the ContrastSharpen action


sub Ch Hi/Sh to Blur

Used by the 3 Hilight/Shadow actions



Fraser – preSharpen layer



Fraser – basic action for the Sharpening 4/6meg images


iDRange+/-1 no Flatten

Not a subroutine – kept to remind one how to merge multiple exposure images


iDRange+/-2 no flatten

Date this page was last changed:-  28/01/2010