How to Install Actions in PSE 11

tutorial on how to install actions in photoshop elements 11

Photoshop Elements 11 was released in late September with major changes to the layout of the full edit (not called “Expert”) mode. In addition to those changes, they added a new panel/palette – the Actions panel. After  years of requests by users to make installing actions easier, Adobe listened and you can now add actions easily and without having to leave PSE to do it.

The first thing you need to do is open your PSE 11 and click on Windows, then Actions. Or, you can click on the “More” icon in the bottom right-hand corner, then on Actions.

A box with several tabs will pop out, opened to the Actions tab. To load/install actions look at the top right-hand corner of the box, and click on the little triangle with lines beside it. A menu will open and you click on ‘Load Actions.’

Your Windows Explorer or Mac Finder will open and you must navigate to where your actions are located. If all your actions are individual actions (that is the only way PSE actions could be made/used in previous versions), then you will have to install them one at a time.

Owners of Everyday Elements actions are in luck! In your download, I provided a Photoshop version which is one .atn file. You can load that one action file and have all the actions you had before but in a combined set. (Even though it says Photoshop, all my actions are made to play in both PSE and Photoshop.) I explain about this more in the video tutorial below.

The next image is what an action set looks like in PSE 11’s action panel. There will be a yellow folder with a triangle beside it. Click on the triangle and the actions in the set will show. To play an action simply click on the name then hit the big triangle icon in the top right-hand corner (next to the trash can icon).

If you want to install your actions so that the thumbnails show and use them the way actions were used in previous versions, you can do that too. Simply copy/paste the .atn, .png, and possibly metadata.xml files into the Photo Effects folder and restart your Photoshop Elements. Not sure of the file path to take? My previous tutorial on loading actions has file paths for both PC and Macs.

To find/use the actions, click on Effects, then Effects again, and finally the drop down menu. My actions are grouped in categories, so if you have those you will see the set names there. If you have only individual actions you need to click on Show All to see all the actions.

I really appreciate that Adobe allowed us to have the best of both worlds. If you are new to Photoshop Elements, then your action-loading experience will be much easier and painless compared to previous versions. However, if you are upgrading from an older version and want to use the thumbnails, they kept that option available to you.

Below is a 15 minute video tutorial showing how to install actions through the action panel/player and also how to install via the Photo Effects folder. If you are reading this in a blog reader or via email, click HERE to view the video.

Wondering what an action is? An action is a recording of edit steps. Someone created it in a version of Photoshop (PSE cannot record actions) and when you play it, the steps they took play out in your Layers palette of PSE. To see tips about using actions, check out this post.

About Amanda

I am passionate about helping others learn how to use their DSLR cameras and editing programs. More information about me can be found at my About page, or by visiting my personal blog.


  1. Thanks Amanda. I will install PSE 11 tonight and try this. LOVE your website. It’s been so very helpful in learning PSE and I’ve recommened it to others on Clickin Moms.

    • Lisa,
      Congrats on PSE 11! I hope the tutorial helps make things easy-peasy for you. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

      Thank you for sharing EE with readers at Clickin Moms. That is a great forum, full of helpful, supportive women.

  2. Hi Amanda. Thanks for the tips! I just purchased the Florabella Colorplay actions and was able to easily install them into PSE 11. However, I prefer the thumbnails so I can better follow the tutorials. I followed your instructions and was able to generate a Florabella Thumbnail in the photo effects folder. However, I am unable to get past the one general thumbnail to access the actions. I really don’t understand how to use them without the icons. Any advice? Thanks.

    • I love the florabella actions as well. Downside is that since she doesn’t group them…the part of the video where you have to add each one individually? yeah, you have to do that. So under effects, go to “load effect”, then select the .atn file (one at a time) and then they will be there. Super tedious.

  3. Thank you for this tutorial! I can’t wait to refer back to it after Christmas – I know my husband bought me PSE 11 for Christmas (I told him it was on sale, so he bought it that second) and I’m really looking forward to upgrading from my PSE 4. I was never successful at installing actions in PSE 4, so I am really excited to try that out!

  4. The part where you are customizing the panel to the right (at the end) my panels look nothing like that. I have big buttons for layers, effects, graphics, favorites…right to the left of the “more” folder on the bottom. Any clue as to how to start like you have it?

    • Ashley, my panels look like yours too-big buttons for layers, effects, etc. Amanda-how do we get our panels to look like yours? Maybe a preferences setting?

      • ok, just figured it out. Go down to more (lower left) and click “custom workspace.” It should now look like Amanda’s video.

  5. Amanda Simmons says:

    Amanda, I have found you so helpful in starting my business, but here I am stumped. Once I click “Load Actions” I don’t know where to navigate to find the actions to download. I am a little confused, and would appreciate your help.

  6. I work mainly with Lightroom ♥ I have Elements 12
    How do I install actions in pse12?

  7. Will the actions work on Photoshop Elements 13?


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