Automated scripts save time and improve workflow in all creative fields. Adobe products like Photoshop offer scripts called actions that automate a process several times at the click of a button. There are exclusive Photoshop action websites but many of them cater to photographers.
I’ve collected a handful of actions geared directly towards UI designers, icon designers, and product designers building interfaces for web and mobile. All of these actions are completely free to download for multiple uses. Be sure to check the details before downloading to make sure everything runs on your version of Photoshop.
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Starting with iOS 7, the Apple design team introduced a milky-glass blur effect. This can be replicated in Photoshop but requires a bit of layer manipulation.
Designer Matt Smith created iOS 7 blur actions to replicate the effect on any top layer. If you have trouble getting the actions to run you can download an accompanied PSD file with the frosted glass layer already applied.
Bjango is a creative studio building apps and open source projects for designers. The site publishes handy articles for PS users and offers a full GitHub repo of actions that you can download for free. These actions include various nuances for building designs in Photoshop.
The list includes a toggle for pixel snapping on & off, auto-duplicating an entire canvas, centering in a selection, and even cropping a Dribbble-sized shot from a document. The Bjango Actions collection is currently in v4 with dozens of actions, scripts, and OS X workflows.
Here’s a really cool effect created by Albanian designer Vasjen Katro. With his action titled ScreenShot Photoshop you can take a flat mockup and automate a skew with implied lighting. This creates the effect of a screen tilted to the side and looks like a photograph of a monitor.
This is perfect for skewed perspective shots to display interfaces in a unique fashion. Although this may not help you design better, it can improve your presentation.
Exporting a design requires time, but it can be made simpler with Luis da Silva’s PSD to PNG export. This converts a full PSD file into a PNG from Photoshop’s action panel. From what I can tell this works for all versions of Photoshop from CS to CC.
Ever wanted to see how your mockup looks in a browser window? Thanks to the Browser UI action it’s now just a click of a button.
This particular action does have a premium option but the free version includes more than enough features. Every browser window renders in the OS X style but the windows can stretch to fit whatever canvas you need.
Retinize It is a free Photoshop action for building retina copies of icons and interface elements. You just select a layer(or layer group) and run the action. Graphics can be named and exported with custom @2x and @3x size requirements.
Note this does not work very well on raster graphics. Try to use shapes and vector elements, or imported smart objects, to keep quality consistent when sizing up.
Layer exporting is another manual task that nobody really wants to do. This PSD to SVG export action takes the mundanity out of exporting vectors and graphics for the web.
Note this action was built for Photoshop and Illustrator but only supports versions from CS5 or higher.
Here’s another browser templating tool but with a flat UI. If you don’t want to go with the Mac-styled browsers then try this PS browser action instead.
Rasterized document elements work best, although it’s just as easy to flatten all contents onto a new layer and use that instead.
This is one of my favorite actions because it’s so practical for graphic displays and presentations. UI designers will enjoy this magnifier action created by Mario Semeš for interface magnification.
It plants a magnifying glass on top of a Photoshop document with a blur effect applied elsewhere. This is a great way to focus on one particular element or effect, and could be useful for team projects or online tutorials.
Digital designer Geof Crowl built a custom collection of iPhone 6 actions for organizing graphics from a PSD into retina dimensions. Mobile app designers typically work with shape layers so this should fit right into any typical design workflow.
Here’s a unique concept built by the creative agency ENVOY. Since Photoshop has a great “save for web” option, the ENVOY team built this action specifically for iOS export. There are similar scripts like this but it’s worth adding another one into the mix.
Artista is a Photoshop action for manipulating photos and digital designs. Custom actions can be applied to layers or to the entire document as a whole. This particular action set allows designers to build interesting media styles like energetic lines and paint canvas-styled filters. Check out the sample previews to see what’s possible.
Although GitHub is typically associated with dev projects, it’s possible to find great design resources like this GUI Automation Toolbox. In the toolbox you’ll find scripts for Photoshop and Illustrator. These can help with exporting graphics and rebuilding layer groups.
This may be a somewhat experimental Photoshop action but it can be incredibly powerful. Pixel2Vector by Michael Tzscheppan is a free action pack that converts pixel layers into vector shapes. The action supports Photoshop CS3+ and it can operate as a plugin for CS5+. I love this concept because it can help designers quickly turn raster shapes into editable elements.
Moscow designer Aram Mirzoyants released his long shadow actions for free on Dribbble. You can download and use these actions for any layer from vector shapes to text and icons. This will auto-generate a 3D shadow effect with the option to lean shadows in various directions at differing lengths.
The isometric conversion action Mapita is a way to build 3D-looking artifacts in Photoshop. It doesn’t work great on every design but flat graphics can be brought to life with this free PS action (including a sample PSD file).
Here’s a custom wallpaper generation script for Photoshop users. It can export at various sizes for different screen dimensions while keeping quality intact. Wallpapers are not specifically relevant to UI design, but this script is just too cool to leave out of the list.
I’m confident these actions offer enough resources to improve at least part of your daily design workflow. But if I missed any quality Photoshop actions please feel free to add them in the comments area.