Learn To Install Photoshop Actions Into PS CS-CS5+ The Best Way

Learn to Install Photoshop Actions the Easiest and Best Way

There are many ways to install Photoshop actions into Photoshop.  While there is not a wrong way, there is one method that helps them “stick” better.  We often get support questions asking, “What happened to my actions?  They vanished from the actions palette.”  The most common reason for this is using the “double click” installation method, where you literally click on the .atn file and it opens in Photoshop.  I do not know why it has this imperfection.  Most people love this method since it takes the least effort, up front anyway.

A better, more reliable way to install actions into the full versions of Photoshop is the following:

  1. Save the actions you want to install on your computer.  You can create a folder on your desktop and name it “actions” or move them to another easy to find location.
  2. If this file says .zip, you need to use unzipping software to unzip it.  Just do a quick Google search if you do not have any software for this purpose.  It is often free. Once unzipped, you will see a file with the extension .atn. This is the important file. Make sure to back up your actions file on an external hard drive or DVD. This way if you lose it due to hard drive failure or if Photoshop has problems, you can quickly reinstall.
  3. Open Photoshop.
  4. Make sure your “actions” palette is open.  If not, go to WINDOW – ACTIONS.
  5. In the actions palette, navigate your way to the top right corner, and click on the lines.  This will initiate a drop down box. actions palette
  6. Next, click on “load actions” in the drop down menu.
  7. load actionsNow navigate your way to where you saved the .atn file on your computer. Highlight the action you wish to install.  Then click “open.”action installation
  8. Your actions will now appear in the actions palette and are ready to be used. If you want to practice before buying any, download some of our free Photoshop actions today.

Below is our Installing Actions video I recorded many years ago with more details on installing and also using actions in Photoshop:

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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      • 3

        Angela Minshall says

        That has happened to me twice now. After the initial freak out, I remember how to go back and retrieve them. SO glad to know there is a way to keep that from happening! The scariest part for me was having to make sure I actually got ALL of them back on! I now have a list of all actions I buy and also all of the freebies. I’ll keep that list but it sounds like I won’t have to be referring to it again! Thanks Jodi!!

  1. 5

    Janneke M says

    Thanks Jodi! Good tip. I have another actions question though — do you know how you can organize your actions palette AFTER you’ve loaded the actions in? Let’s say I have some favorites from different action sets that I go to over and over again. Can I move them into their own folder according to my workflow? My palette is SUPER messy and it would totally help knowing how to organize stuff bettire (if you can at all).


  2. 6

    Cindy says

    What if when I get to the actions part there is no actions folder. I have downloaded actions before and got them into my actions player on elements 9 but now there is no folder there. What can I do?

  3. 7

    Serge says

    Best way to add action (also brushes, gradients, tool preset etc) – just double click on the atn file from any location (even removable usb drive)
    When you re-open Photoshop again, you can find the action in the action palette
    you can move action to the trashcan without deleting from the hard drive
    Do not load so many actions in the action directory
    And make a back-up of your favorite actions

  4. 8


    Hi Jodi,

    Thank you for all the awesome information on photoshop actions. I am a total novice photographer so I apologize in advanced if this seems like a no-brainer question. I am interested in purchasing some editing software. I want to be able to use the photoshop actions that I see so often discussed on the web. Does it matter what editing software you purchase when using actions (Say Elements Vs. CS5) or can you do the actions in any?

    Thank you for your answer!

  5. 10


    Hi Jodi,
    I have installed an action, but when I try to use it nothing happens. It shows in the palette, but i’m not able to play them. any suggestions?

  6. 12


    Thanks for the big help. Now, I can edit pictures with great effects that I can truly use in my blog. I am just starting to learn navigating photoshop, so for the meantime I loaded the retro and hipster actions.

  7. 13


    Hi! I have PS CX2, and I can follow all of these instructions, but when I open the file I created- the one with the actions in it- nothing appears. At least, not when I do it through photoshop. They are there when I click on the file from my desktop without photoshop. Also, if I try the double click on the .ATN file, it will bring up photoshop as if it was about to load- but then nothing happens. It’s like it can’t read, or even recognize, action files. I’ve tried your free actions, poineer woman’s free actions, and it is not reading any of these. Any ideas on what to try next?

  8. 14

    Tara Fowler says

    The actions I bought and downloaded are in Jpeg. The tutorials I’ve watched says the format had to be a .act instead of jpeg. I’m completely confused and I cannot load anything.

    • 15


      actions are .atn files. jpgs are an image format. The only item we sell that is jpg format are the textures, which are not actions. Those are applied on top of an image and adjusted via blend modes. What set are you referring to?

  9. 16

    david says

    I just bought the skin action set. It is a .atn file. When I go to load it, it says, “Could not load the actions because the file is not compatible with this version of Photoshop. I have PS CC 2015. I have tried it many times and I keep getting the same box with the same dialog. Any help is apprecieated.

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