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The Ultimate Guide to Installing Actions in Photoshop Elements


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The Ultimate Guide to Installing Actions in Photoshop Elements: Troubleshooting Manual (© 2011, MCP Actions)

Installing actions into Photoshop Elements is not, as we all know, the easiest task. Many people think that learning how to use PSE is easier than installing actions, and that’s saying something.

Two absolute things about actions for Elements are:

  • There is always a way to get the actions installed.
  • There might be lots of roadblocks along the way.

Start by watching the appropriate installation videos for your version of Elements. There are two ways to install actions in Elements, the Photo Effects method and the Actions Player method. Most MCP Actions should be installed using the Photo Effects method, unless indicated in the included PDF.


Here are some of the most commonly encountered problems installing actions in Elements and their solutions.

  1. Start here first. Look in the Photo Effects folder indicated in your installation instructions for your version of Elements and your operating system.  Does it have any folders in it?  Unless you have Elements 5, you should have no folders inside Photo Effects.
  2. Elements will accept some folders in Photo Effects, but will stop working when you install “one too many.”  For optimal performance and speed, you should only have files that end in ATN, PNG, XML or thumbnail.JPG.  Delete or move any instructions, terms of use, or illustration files from Photo Effects.  Move any ATN, PNG or XML files from subfolders into Photo Effects, and delete or move the subfolders.
  3. Rename Mediadatabase per the installation instructions, open Elements and check for your actions.

Some Common Issues and Solutions to Installing actions in Elements:

1 ) Elements crashes every time I open it after installing actions.

  • Open Elements from Start/All Programs rather than the desktop shortcut.
  • OR, reset PSE’s preferences when you open it. Do this by holding down control+alt+shift (Mac: Opt+Cmd+Shift) while opening Elements. Keep those keys depressed even if you have to click on the Edit button in the “Welcome” screen. Do not release the keys until you get a message asking if you want to delete the Preferences/Settings file. Say yes, and release the keys. Elements will open properly now.

2 ) After installing my actions, my new actions don’t appear in the Photo Effects palette.

  • You need to reset the Mediadatabase.db3 file. The installation instructions that came with your action should tell you how to find it. If you rename Mediatadatabase.db3 to MediadatabaseOLD.db3, this hides the database from Elements. The next time it opens, it will build a new database. This rebuilding process is what imports your new actions. After Elements opens successfully with your new actions, you can return to this folder and see that Elements has, in fact, created a new Mediadatabase.db3. At this point, you can delete the file whose name you changed to OLD, because you no longer need it.
  • One point about resetting this database – when opening PSE for the first time after resetting it, it can take a LONG time to open. Anywhere from 2 minutes to 20 minutes. Even 30 in rare cases. Do not touch Elements, or even your computer, until Elements finishes processing. Wait until the hourglass cursor and progress message disappear. Even if Elements tells you it’s not responding, don’t touch it. It will respond, eventually.

What happens if you don’t wait? That brings me to my next topic:

3 ) After resetting Mediadatabase, all my other actions disappear.

  • PSE was interrupted while rebuilding the Mediadatabase (see prior topic). If you close Elements because you think it’s “not responding,” Elements will open with an incomplete database and it will look like all you actions (including your old ones) have disappeared. To fix this, return the folder with Mediadatabase.db3 in it. Delete that file, and any “old” versions. Reopen Elements and walk away from your computer. Seriously. Don’t touch it until PSE is finished rebuilding, once and for all. If you let it complete its processing, all your actions will appear where they should appear.

4 ) I can’t find Photo Effects (Mac).

  • When installing actions, start your navigation path on the Mac HD icon on your desktop or inside the Finder. Do not start in the path for your specific user account.

5 ) I can’t find Photo Effects (PC).

  • Program DATA is not the same as Program FILES. Try your navigation path again.

6 ) I get messages like this:

Could not complete your request because the file is not compatible with this version of Photoshop.

Could not complete your request because there is not enough memory (RAM).

  • You have installed a file into your photo effects folder that doesn’t belong there. The only file types that should be in Photo Effects are files that end in ATN, PNG , thumbnail.JPG, or XML. (In versions 5 and prior ONLY, you can have a psd file.) You should have no subfolders in Photoshop Effects (versions 6 and up). You receive those messages because you are clicking in the Effects palette on files that aren’t actions. Delete these files out of Photo Effects to end this message.

These messages could also be caused by thumbnails whose names are slightly different from the name of the action. See the “black boxes” topic below.

7 ) I get this message: The object “layer “Background” is not currently available.

You should run most actions on images that are flat – meaning that they only have one layer. This layer’s name should be background. If your image isn’t flat, flatten it by right clicking on a layer in the Layers palette and selecting “Flatten.”

8 ) I have black boxes in my Effects palette:

This could be caused by several items:

  • You have installed an action that should be installed via the Action Player into the Effects palette. Check with the instructions that came from the maker of the action on where to install it.
  • The maker of the action you are trying to install did not provide you with a thumbnail to install along with your action. This thumbnail is usually a PNG file. If you double click on actions of this type, they will run properly even without a thumbnail.
  • The name of the PNG is not EXACTLY the same as the name of the ATN (action) file (except for the PNG or ATN suffix). Rename the PNG to the same name as the action to solve this issue.


Once you have your actions installed properly you may come across issues using them. Please read this article with 14 troubleshooting tips to get your PSE actions working properly.

After reading this document, if you still have technical concerns regarding installation or usage of MCP’s Elements actions, please contact us for assistance. Please give a detailed explanation of your issue, list of actions you’re installing, your operating system, your version of Elements, and include a copy of your receipt showing payment. MCP offers phone support for any actions you buy from our store.  We offer these technical guides and videos to support free Photoshop actions.

* This article may not be reposted or reproducted in whole or part without the consent of MCP Actions. If you wish to share this information, please link to it:


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  1. kerry macLeod on March 10, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Hurray! Thanks soooo much, what a great guide for the technically challenged like moi. I am buying the new version of Elements this weekend as my poor old computer can’t run the full new PS5…I plan on buying MCP actions right after to start playing with things. I’ll let you know how it goes.k

  2. Tracey on April 12, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    I have PSE 4.0 (Windows 2000- I know, archaic)….I know that you only mention the actions being available for versions 5 and up. I was however able to get your mini fusion to install (using the path C>Program Files>Adobe>Photoshop elements>Previews>effects) and deleting the Cache folder…Some “steps” like curves seem to be not available in version 4, but I am able to continue to execute the action…I was also able to install and use the Pioneer Womans Set 1 that you converted, but not Set 2…..

  3. Susan on May 12, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Thank you so much. This covered the smallest and most common missed details when downloading. Especially for another technically challenged idividual. I’m very very new to your site, and I’m already so very very impressed. Thank you again.

  4. Pam on August 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    I downloaded the MCP free mini fusion actions and am trying to install them (using windows Vista). When I try to open up the folder to get to all the actions (ATN files) that I am supposed to copy, my computer says there is no program to open them. It wants to use notepad. What program do I need to have to open the ATN files so that I can copy them to my PSE 7? I would really love to purchase a bundle of the actions, but not if I can’t get them to work. Please, someone help me!

  5. Pam on August 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    I have an icon on my desktop that is named “file-1-18” (this is what I got when I clicked download from the e-mail). When I right click there is no save option, just open. I copied the file to my documents, but when I try to open the folder to get the list of all the actions, it does nothing. I hate being so stupid!

  6. Pam on August 8, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    If someone could tell me what the default program is when an atn. file is opened, I could change mine. Mine is Adobe Photoshop Elements 7.0 Editor, so when I try to open it up to see all the action files in preparation for installing them into Elements, I get my PSE editor, not the list of action files.

  7. Whitney on September 25, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    Are there instructions for downloading actions in PSE 10? I had no trouble with my PSE 5 but can’t find a “Photo Effects” file folder in my PSE 10 stuff…

  8. Elizabeth on January 18, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    This is in response to test for the blog replies.

  9. george on February 20, 2012 at 1:33 am

    where does one install the actions in PSE10? confusing

    • melissa on June 11, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      did you ever figure it out? I am still having trouble:/

  10. Kaitlyn on March 15, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    I am having tons of trouble… I’ve searched and searched and I can’t even find ‘Program Data’.

    • Carah on April 18, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      Me too! If you got it figured out, let me know!

  11. Dana on March 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    You fixed my action issue! I have been struggling for days with this. Thank you so much for the informative post!

  12. Andee on November 6, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    I’m a PSE9 user on a Mac. When opening the PSE 7, 8, 9, & 10 folder for the freebie High Definition action I only see a .atn. You said in the instructions that I should also have a .png & a .xml.PSE 7, 8, 9, & 10 folderMCP High Definition Sharpening.atnIn the PSE 6 folder I see ALL of these optionsHigh Definition Sharpening.atnCrystal Clear Web Resize and Sharpening.atnHigh Definition Sharpening.pngCrystal Clear Web Resize and Sharpening.pngHigh Definition Sharpening.xmlCrystal Clear Web Resize and Sharpening.xmlIs the PSE 7, 8, 9, & 10 folder incomplete?

    • Erin Peloquin on November 6, 2012 at 8:24 pm

      Hi Andee. It sounds like you’re not looking at the instructions for Elements 7 and up. Can you confirm that? Thanks, Erin

  13. Andee on November 7, 2012 at 6:40 am

    I’m attaching a screen shot so you can double check me. Thanks for looking into this.

  14. Andee on November 7, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Oops, you were asking if I was reading the correct instructions. Sorry. I’m actually reading How to Install and Access Actions in Photoshop Elements 8 and Up for Mac Using the Effects PaletteErin Peloquin Œ© 2012

  15. Roy on November 18, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I have Adobe Photoshop Elements Editor 10 for Mac. Is this the same as Adobe Photoshop Elements? I cannot get the effects to load like they should. I renamed and removed the mediadatabase files, but they are not rebuilding like they should. I have followed all the instructions provided. Any help is appreciated.

    • Michael on December 23, 2012 at 9:49 pm

      Did you ever figure this out? I’m having the same problem. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  16. Brittany on April 25, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    How do you get your actions to view as thumbnails? I have PSE 11. Thanks!!

  17. Katja on June 16, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    I also have PSE 10 and cannot find the Photo Effects folder… :/

  18. Charlotte on July 21, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Hi Jodi,Thanks for all the help! I still am not able to load my actions, though. I’ve tried many different things and nothing is working. Any help?Thanks,Charlotte

  19. jessica c on August 23, 2013 at 9:52 am

    THANK you so much – I have been searching for months and months for my photo effects file.. the hard drive trick did it!

  20. nicole thomas on August 24, 2013 at 12:12 am

    can i delete the action files off my computer once they are loaded into my elements 11?

  21. marinda on October 26, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Thank you for this blog! I was scared thinking I was going to mess something up, and lose everything, but it worked for the most part. Some how it moved one action under a different file vs. deleting the empty file. I can live with it.. Again thanks so much. Marinda

  22. Leslie on November 11, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    I’m getting stuck on the installation during the navigation from Library->Application support-> the problem is that under Adobe, there is no arrow to select photo effects. In fact, Adobe Photoshop elements wasn’t there at all…just a free trial of Lightroom. I copied Photoshop elements to that section, but there is no arrow to continue to “photo effects”. I feel like I keep hitting a brick wall. I’ve already call Apple Care and they were unable to help, hope you can! Thank you!

    • Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions on November 11, 2013 at 6:04 pm

      If you have purchased our products we include a PDF but also you can contact our support desk.

      • Leslie on November 11, 2013 at 6:12 pm

        I think the problem is that it is Elements 10 Editor purchased through the apple app store. Still not sure how to fix it though:(

      • Leslie on November 13, 2013 at 9:32 am

        I did purchase the actions through your website and I’ve gone over this process several times now. Like I said, I’m working with Elements 10 Editor, I don’t know if that makes any difference. The only difference in the installation navigation pathway is instead of going from Adobe->Photoshop Elements>8.0….I have to go from Adobe->Photoshop Elements 10 Editor->right click to open “Package Contents”, then ->application data->Photoshop Elements->10.0 and so forth. It appears that everything has been done correctly. There were no media.database files under us, so I opened the other choices and deleted the ones that were there. Otherwise, everything is the same, but when I open Elements the actions do no appear under the effects tab. Please help! I feel like i’m so close!Thanks,Leslie

        • Erin Peloquin on November 13, 2013 at 11:37 am

          Hi Leslie. As it says on our product pages, our actions don’t work in Elements purchased from the Mac app store. It just doesn’t support the installation of many actions. If you have other questions, you will get faster response if you submit them via our support desk – click contact at the top of this webpage.Thanks,Erin

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