Best Free Photoshop Actions for Photographers
Photoshop Actions are created when you save a set of steps into an automated process. For example, you might have an action that resizes an image and saves it as a .jpeg in a particular folder. Thanks to the Action, all it takes is one click for that process to be applied.
As you can imagine, this is a real time-saver when you have a big batch of images that you need to process. However, the advantages don’t stop here.
Similar to Plugins, Photoshop Actions are also useful for special effects and more complex postproduction. Photoshop comes with some of them installed by default – like adding a wooden frame or coloring your image in sepia tones.
You can also make your own Actions or get them from other professionals. This article is about the latter: the amazing Actions for Photoshop that are available online.
There are tons of Actions that you can download and install. Some of them are for sale, and some are for free.
Whenever you download one, be sure to check the license. Some of them are for personal use but not commercial; some require credit and others don’t. Always double-check each Action for Photoshop before you use it.
My last advice is to check that they’re compatible with your version of Photoshop. Having said this, let me recommend some of the best free Photoshop Actions around.
Table of Contents
61 Best Free Photoshop Actions in 2021
This list of 61 free Photoshop Actions is a sample of the work that some amazing retouchers are making available online.
If you need any help downloading, installing, or using them, I’ve included an easy guide at the end of this article.
1. Tiny Planet
This action takes your image (it’s best if it’s a panorama) and makes a sphere out of it, creating essentially a tiny planet.
With this free Photoshop Action, you can turn your photos into vintage prints. It’s called ‘bad’ print because it shows the pattern of the printing, ink bleed, and simulates bad quality paper. Very old school cool.
This bundle offers several free Photoshop Actions with a single download. Mostly they’re intended to enhance portrait photos, however, some of them also work very well with other types of photos.
Among these Actions you’ll find HDR, cross-processing, light leaks, fade, and others. Try them all out.
4. Retro Filter
This bundle offers 10 free Photoshop Actions with retro effects like film grain, fading, and black and white. Check them out and choose which one creates your favorite retro effect.
5. Light Leaker
Light Leaker is part of the Mini Collection from Filter Grade. Within one free download, you get Photoshop Actions, retro brushes, and light leaks.
6. Winter Blues
This set of Actions will keep winter going all year round – at least in your photos. You can choose from reducing the color temperature with Hypothermia, to forming a dark mood with deep shadows by applying Blizzard.
Try each of them to find a favorite, but don’t forget that you can also apply more than one to create unique effects for your winter and snow photography.
This pack offers three separate free Photoshop Actions to suit your every need. With them, you can remove the white background from the most intricate textures. It will make any design work more efficient.
These free Photoshop Actions designed by SparkleStop will turn your night urban pics into a dystopian nightscape suited for any apocalyptic scene.
9. 3D Bars and Tiles
With this free Photoshop Action, you can turn your regular 2D photos into 3D tiles or dominoes.
10. Desert Dust
This free Photoshop Action gives your photos a warm color glow.
11. Special Effects
This free Photoshop Action has different special effects for your photos, like Miniaturize or Retro Comic. My favorite is the Photo Box that creates a cube where each side has your photo on it. Pretty cool effect – check it out.
If you want to get more Likes and Followers on your Instagram account, this package might be the one for you.
Here you can download six free Photoshop Actions to give your photos some of the most popular looks on Instagram.
13. Powder Explosion
With this free Photoshop Action, you can create amazing powder dance photography without making a mess in your studio.
Instead of using flour powder in the photoshoot, add it later in Photoshop for free.
14. Photo Bend
This free Photoshop action makes your digital file look like a print on a surface by bending it and casting a shadow to add depth.
15. Premium Looks
This package of free Photoshop Actions offers different color casts to give your photos a vintage effect, plus a set of light leaks to complete the effect. All in one free bundle.
The photography package includes free Photoshop Actions that simulate camera effects or fix problems that might have occurred during shooting. For example, it includes Actions to reduce motion blur or create a soft focus.
This free Photoshop Action allows you to create animations and images for Halloween. It contains Spooky Skies to use as backgrounds for your scene. I’ve also used them as overlays to my photos with great results.
Then you’ll find the Animated Spooky Scene to create a 40-second clip and Spooky Shapes with 18 vector Halloween themed shapes to decorate the scene.
18. Turquoise Haze
This is a freebie for you to taste-test the Summer Haze package of actions that’s for sale. It has a beautiful color cast for your summery photos, and is equally beautiful in wedding photos.
19. Artistic Actions
With this package of free Photoshop Actions, you can turn your photos into drawings, illustrations, or watercolors with a single click.
20. Underwater Luxe
This free Photoshop Action is specially designed for underwater images, although you can use it for any kind of photos and still get beautiful results.
It dehazes your photo, increases the contrast, and sharpens it. It also corrects the blue color cast and warms the skin color.
This action is a freebie to promote a complete set of sunrise and sunset actions that change the color temperature of your photos.
Remember that there’s a reason why landscape photography is often done during the golden hour: the effect is beautiful. And you can replicate it with this Photoshop Action.
22. Mermaid Actions
These free Photoshop Actions give a magical, enchanted effect to your photographs.
This Photoshop Action does exactly what you would expect: it mimics the effect of a photograph taken with infrared film.
24. Out of Bounds
This Action creates the pop-up effect that we all know and love: a train that comes at you through the frame or a tree that grows out of a picture.
It does require your interaction – it sometimes stops for you to select the subject, for example – but all in all it’s very easy to use and gives amazing results.
Have you ever wondered how to split your photos into triptychs to hang on your wall or sell on your e-commerce website as wall art? Then this is the Photoshop Action for you because it will generate the panels for print and also render the 3d effect for visualization.
26. Cold Nightmare
This Action creates very strong shadows and increases the contrast of your photos to give you a sense of unease when you look at the picture.
27. Cool Fade
This Action desaturates and gives a cool color cast to your photos making it look vintage and beautiful.
This amazing bundle of free Photoshop Actions gives you 20 different ways to turn your photos black and white.
Included in the black and white Actions are varying levels of contrast, toning, and exposure, allowing you to go from high key to low key, sepia to selenium, and more.
29. Ice Action
This free Photoshop Action will give your photos a sharp and bold effect with a cool toning.
30. Skin Retouching
This bundle of free Photoshop Actions makes skin retouching a breeze.
As well as smoothing skin, it will also brighten the eyes and make a great overall face retouch. It will simplify your retouching in portrait sessions.
For more time-saving portrait retouching, check out Luminar AI.
31. Sunken Sunlight
This free Photoshop Action will make your image look like it was taken at sunset by adding beautiful color to it.
32. Color Graded
Check out these 15 different free Photoshop Actions which allow you to edit your photos with beautiful colors like ‘Raspberry Tart’ and ‘Sunday Picnic’. A must-have!
This package of Actions offers enough actions for you to personalize the effect as you like: diagonal, horizontal or vertical strips, different texture overlays, and more.
34. Hazy Afternoon
This free Photoshop Action is used to cast a warm light on your outdoor scenes. It’s OK for commercial use and there’s a tutorial where the author shows you the steps of the action if you want to create your own personalized version.
This amazing package of Photoshop Actions turns your photos into digital stickers or notes stuck with tape. I love this bundle and it’s all for free.
36. Pro Sharpening
If your photos are a little blurry you definitely need this set of free Photoshop Actions that offer different techniques for the best results.
Twilight Actions will make your night photographs pop by adding some blue into those dark skies.
38. ASCII art
ASCII is a design technique that creates images from 95 printable characters, but it can be used commonly as a name for any text-based art.
This bundle has five free Photoshop Actions to create four different variations of ASCII art.
39. Faux HDR
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range (photography guide) and it’s done by taking many exposures of your photos and combining them together to include all the information from the highlights to the shadows.
This Action creates a faux HDR effect from a single image.
40. Pop Art Actions
Try turning your photos into fun pop art-inspired images with any of these 5 free Actions. They’re compatible with CS versions of Photoshop as well as CC.
41. Ultra Faded
Ultra Faded is a bundle of different Actions that will give a vintage look to your photos. It has 24 different light leaks and color casts for you to choose from.
42. Corrupted VHS 3D
This Action creates corrupted video effects and is great for creating glitch art. The final result is editable so you can personalize it.
Sweeten and beautify your portraits with this free Photoshop Action from Black Pearl that could be ideal for Instagram portraits.
Make your photos look like they’re from the ’20s with this Action that mimics the effect of 2 strip technicolor.
Create double exposures with seven color styles to choose from. This set of Actions is free with a subscription to Envato but it’s only compatible with the English version of Photoshop.
Put your subjects in outer space with this Photoshop Action that includes galaxies and stars to create backgrounds that are out of this world. Perfect for design work.
47. Hard Lomo
Lomography is an exciting branch of photography made with Lomo instant cameras. If you don’t have one but you love the look, try these free Photoshop Actions to transform your digital photos.
This Action is part of a bundle that includes 20 Photoshop Actions and 20 Lightroom Presets. Try it out and turn your color photos into black and white with a hint of toning.
For more free Lightroom presets for mobile, click here.
Create vibrant images that look like holograms for a fun and futuristic look with these Photoshop Actions.
Add a soft and creamy color cast to your photos with these Photoshop Actions that give a sweet, vintage look.
Have you noticed that certain films have a specific toning to create the atmosphere? This set of Photoshop Actions changes the colors and contrasts of your photographs to give them cinematic effects.
Just like the name says, this Photoshop Action will add a sepia tone to your photographs. This look is beautiful if you want to go old style – maybe for some vintage-inspired wedding photos – without going straight black and white.
Everyone loves a Polaroid – they’re fun and spontaneous! With this Photoshop Action, you can make your photos look like polaroids with 10 different effects.
54. Dust Storm
This Action comes for free with an Envato subscription. It creates dynamic images with dispersion effects and flying dust.
This Photoshop Action gives a matte finishing to your photos and adds a subtle warm tone to them. It’s beautiful for wedding photos.
This free Photoshop Action is perfect for landscape photographs. It adds drama and makes the color very intense, just like the name promises.
57. Color Play
This is a bundle of 20 Photoshop Actions that will add a great variety of styles to your photos, from bright warm yellow light to desaturated purple gold toning. Check them out.
This set comes with 14 different Actions to create vintage style photographs. Try them separately or combine them to give your photos a unique look.
This is another way to create those retro, VHS glitch effects. Though technically it’s more of a template than an Action, it’s cool enough to make the list.
This Action divides your image into small tiles and then applies a brick texture for you to create fun mosaics with any of your photos.
If you didn’t have a fast enough lens or enough distance from your subject to create a bokeh effect at the time, you can blur the background in your photos later with these Photoshop actions. They’re great for making any subject stand out.
See also how to blur the background in Lightroom.
How to Download, Install & Use Photoshop Actions
As you’ve probably noticed by now, Actions can optimize and make Adobe Photoshop more powerful.
If you were intrigued by any of the Photoshop Actions on the list but you’re not sure how to download, install, and use them, just follow these steps.
1. Download the Action. Normally Photoshop Actions come in a zip file. This is because there’s usually more than one Action included, or because the author has added a ‘how-to’ guide or the license of use. In any case, download it to your preferred location.
2. Unzip the file. Double-click on the zip file that you’ve downloaded to open the files. You can then back up the zip or delete it, it’s your choice.
3. Find the .atn file. That’s the one that contains the Actions. Double-click on it.
4. Open Photoshop. Go to the menu Window, Action. This will open the panel where all the Actions are installed. Scroll down until you find the one that you just installed. If it’s there, skip to Step 6.
5. Load the Action. If you didn’t find the Action already installed, you can open the hamburger menu (the three lines on the top right of the panel) and choose Load Actions. When the browser window opens choose the .apn file and click OK.
6. Open an image. Now that you have the Action installed in Photoshop, you can open the image that you want to apply it to.
7. Play the Action. Choose the action you want from the Actions panel and click the play button. That’s it, just wait until it’s done. This is usually a very fast process, but it will depend on how complex the action is and how many steps it includes.
I hope this article opened up a world of possibilities by introducing you to some of the best free Photoshop Actions on the web.
You’ll enjoy your post-production process much more by using Photoshop actions to save time and give your images that little something extra.
Do you have any Photoshop Actions that you’d like to share? Post them below in the comments section, and have fun!