HOW TO CREATE AN INITIAL SETUP ACTION
1. create a target PSD for reference.
this PSD will serve as the ideal for what you'd like the action end result to be. layer arrangements will heavily depend on the project's art requirements as well as your own working preferences. discover new approaches by taking a peek at your project PSDs and ask the authors any questions you might have.
here is the target PSD i decided on for this demonstration:
while working on the action, i've found it's helpful to keep a screen-grab of your target layers in view.
2. create and name a new photoshop action.
(alt+F9 is the default shortcut to open the actions panel window.)
i created a set folder named "demo" to store my action inside for better organization.
once you create a new action, the "Begin recording" button turns red.
a new step, or operation, is added to the action list for each recordable act you make.
if you make a mistake and add redundant or unwanted steps, all you need to do is press the "Stop playing/recording" button to halt the recording. in this state, same as manipulating layers, you can now reorder your steps by click-dragging them up or down the stack, holding alt will duplicate them. lastly, you can delete them entirely by highlighting the offending steps and then clicking the "Delete" button.
after doing this type of action surgery, it can become uncertain if your changes will work as intended. a quick way to find out, is to open the history panel and revert the document back to its original snapshot instance. jump back over to the actions panel, be sure you've selected the top of your action sequence and press the "Play selection" button to execute the action from the start.
now you can be certain your layers are in sync with your progress. when everything seems to be in order, hit the "Begin recording" button and continue where you left off.
3. record the sequence of operations necessary to recreate your target PSD.
while recording, in as few steps as possible, match your target PSD's groups and layers.
double-clicking an italicized "Background" layer will execute the "Layer from Background..." command, which otherwise is found in its right-click menu. this will prompt the "New Layer" window where you can name the layer and set it's blendmode and opacity, all in one operation.
and here's the result of that:
hold alt and click the "Create new group" button to quickly name and create in one fell swoop.
here's the result:
unfortunately, the group was added above the "UVs" layer which doesn't match our target PSD layers.
in this case, click-dragging the group, to move it below the "UVs" Layer, will work just fine. a more reliable option however, would be to press "Ctrl+[" to move the group down one position.
although both acts move the current layer to the desired position, their operations are slightly different.
here is the action operation recorded with a click-drag:
and here is the action operation recorded with the "ctrl+[" hotkey:
the difference becomes much more noticeable when adding more layers.
"To: Layer 0" moves the current layer to the bottom of the stack.
while "To: previous layer" only moves the current layer down once.
these types of nuance can sometimes cause unforeseen behavior in your actions so it is a good thing to be aware of.
a few useful hotkeys for creating actions:
"Ctrl+[" moves the current Layer down one.
"Ctrl+]" moves the current Layer up one.
"Alt+[" moves the selection down one.
"Alt+]" moves the selection up one.
next, record the creation of the "Specular" and "Diffuse" groups.
in the next post, we will finish creating our "initial setup" action by adding the remaining layers.