Batch processing in Photoshop #1: Using Actions to Centre and Resize your designs

Redbubble releasing throw pillows and tote bags is great.

But what if you have lots of designs, and your poster versions don’t look quite right?

Thankfully Photoshop has some tools for processing lots of files at once.

In these semi-tutorial posts, I’m going to look at:
- Actions
- Trim
- Batch processing
- Image processor
- Export layers to files

Your designs are specific to you, so these processes may not work for you.
Even if they do, you’ll probably have to experiment and adjust them to suit your designs.

Furthermore, there’s always a proofing/checking stage – for each design to look great, it needs that human touch, and that’s not something you can automate! This is just about saving time and taking the legwork out of updating hundreds of your existing designs.

This process is based around the following requirements:
- Photoshop CS6
- A decent computer (doesn’t have to be amazing, but still)
- Enough hard drive space, depending on the number and file size of your designs.

First steps
- Copy a single, typical poster design for testing purposes, ideally in a new folder called “Test”.
- Copy ALL your poster designs into a new folder. Because whatever happens to these files, you want to leave your originals as they are.
- “Clean” your copied files: Go through all your designs and remove extra bits and pieces, unnecessary layers, and other junk not used in the final design. This can be very time-consuming, but is very useful in the long run if you want to resize and re-use your designs in the future. Remember to do this to your copies, not your original files!
- Reduce any excess space in text boxes on text layers! The “centre” process will include this space and your text won’t be centred.
- Put all your layers into an overall group folder.
- Make sure your Background layer is a single colour.

Actions
Actions in Photoshop let you record a series of steps on one design, so you can repeat them again in the future.

- To see the Actions windows, go to Window and tick “Actions”.

To create a new action, click the “Create new action” icon at the bottom of the Actions window, or click the menu icon in the topright of the Actions window and select “New Action…”. You’ll see the “record” icon light up red. You’re now recording! Don’t worry if you make a mistake and have to undo it – you can delete individual steps after you’ve finished recording.

Typical Action: Centre your design

- Use Control+Alt+A to select all layers except Background
- Hold down Control and click the Background layer to select that as well
- Select the Move tool (V)
- In the toolbar at the top of the screen, click the “Align vertical centers” icon, then click the “Align horizontal centers” icon. You can hover over the icons to check you have the right one.
- Press the “Stop” button at the bottom of the Actions window to stop recording.

Your image should now be centred in the middle of your canvas.
You can now use this action again to centre other designs.

Notes
- Note that it’s essential to have all your layers in an overall “master” group folder. If you just select the individual layers, this process will put each layer in the centre of the canvas! Using an overall group folder tells Photoshop to treat it as one single item.

- This process won’t work for all designs. If you are using a vector mask, for example, Photoshop can still “see” the whole image, and will use that to work out the “centre” of the image. Some designs also have a different “centre of gravity” (there is probably an official design term for this!) to the actual centre – e.g. if you have a picture of a dinosaur with a long tail, Photoshop can’t take into account all the empty space.

Typical Action: Use Fit Image & Resize to convert 5000×7100 poster to 3000×3000 throw pillow/tote bag

- Go to File → Automate → Fit Image…
- Enter 3000 and 3000 for both Width and Height and click OK

This will resize your entire canvas to fit within a certain area, such as a 3000px square for uploading as a throw pillow/tote bag.

Typical Action: Resize to 3000×3000 including 200px border, keeping background colour

- Go to File → Automate → Fit Image…
- Enter 2800 and 2800 for both Width and Height and click OK
- Select Background layer
- Duplicate Background layer
- Transform current layer (i.e. Background Copy layer) 200% height and 200% width
- Go to Image → Canvas Size, enter 3000 pixels for Height and Width

This follows the same process as above, but makes your entire canvas fits in a slightly smaller square, then adds some space around it

This may or may not be necessary, depending how big your margins are on your poster designs.

- Some poster designs are meant to go off the edge of the canvas
- Some poster designs will look better with a smaller or bigger image on the throw pillow.
These reasons are why it’s essential to review your processed image and make sure it looks right.

The above process also keeps the background colour the same.
- If all your poster backgrounds are white, or all black, this is not so important – the Redbubble uploader automatically uses a white background, and you can change it to black easily.
- If your designs have the same background colour (e.g. the same shade of blue), you can set the foreground and/or background colour before starting
- However, if your posters have backgrounds of different colours, this process keeps the existing colour for each design.

I’ve tried using the Eyedropper tool as part of the Action process, but can’t make it work. It only records the exact colour, instead of “Use Eyedropper tool on this design’s background”.
If you know of a better way than duplicating the background layer, please let me know!

Combined Action: Centre design, resize posters to 3000×3000, keep background colour, and save PNG file in other folder

- Create a new folder called “Redbubble Throw Pillows 3000px PNG” (or JPG!)
- Create a new folder called “Redbubble Throw Pillows 3000px PSD”
- Use Control+Alt+A to select all layers except Background
- Hold down Control and click the Background layer to select that as well
- Select the Move tool (V)
- In the toolbar at the top of the screen, click the “Align vertical centers” icon, then click the “Align horizontal centers” icon.
- Go to File → Automate → Fit Image…
- Enter 2800 and 2800 for both Width and Height and click OK
- Select Background layer
- Duplicate Background layer
- Transform current layer (i.e. Background Copy layer) 200% height and 200% width
- Go to Image → Canvas Size, enter 3000 pixels for Height and Width
- Go to File → Save As…, and save in the PNG folder as PNG (or JPG as JPG)
- Click Stop recording on the Actions window.

This combined Action is now ready to use on your “cleaned” poster files.
- Go to File → Automate → Batch…
- Choose the Action you recorded from the dropdown list
- Select your Source folder with your “cleaned” copies
- Select your Destination folder where you want your new PSD Photoshop files to go
- Under “File Naming”, use [Document Name] + [type: “throw pillow”] + [extension]

When you click “OK”, Photoshop will go through all your poster designs and convert them to new 3000×3000px Photoshop PSD files, saved in the “PSD” folder, while also saving new PNG/JPG files in the PNG/JPG folder.

So, if your design automatically looks good, you have the PNG or JPG ready to go – but if you need to adjust the design, you have the new 3000×3000 PSD file to work with. To repeat, you definitely should look at each new design and customise it to the new throw pillow size.

Why is this process useful if it’s still necessary to tweak them all?
Well, it takes the donkey work out of resizing each and every design as a new canvas size.
So if you only have a small number of designs, learning the process and tweaking them may take longer than just resizing them individually.
But if you have a lot of designs, it will save you a lot of time and effort – meaning you only have to tweak designs, rather than completely redesign each one.

Learning these steps is also very useful. I didn’t know these tools were available – this post is based on what I’ve learned in the last few weeks, and I’ll definitely use them again in the future.

Adjust the process for your needs
As said, everyone’s designs and methods are unique, and the above Actions will work best for you by experimenting and seeing which steps are useful and which aren’t.

To be continued!

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