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REVIEW: One-Click - Automated Instant Art Effects - Volume 1

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Old 05-19-2007, 11:55 PM
DannyRaphael's Avatar
DannyRaphael DannyRaphael is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Near Seattle, Washington, USA
Posts: 6,300
REVIEW: One-Click - Automated Instant Art Effects - Volume 1

Company: Pencil Pixels
Product: One-Click - Automated Instant Art Effects - Volume 1
Format: Photoshop actions
Compatibility: Photoshop 7, CS, CS2
Platforms: Windows or Mac

One-Click - Automated Instant Art Effects - Volume 1 is a collection of Photoshop actions that enable one to convert images into “art” with a single click. There are 20 main actions, 15 variations based on them and three utility actions (edge, texture, selection) for a total of 38 in the set.

These are the action names:
  • 60's Poster
  • Apply Styles Poster
  • Blueprint
  • Chalk on Cardboard
  • Color Chalk/Cardboard
  • Color Foil
  • Color Foil Soften
  • Color Marker Drawing
  • Crinkle Edge
  • Etch
  • Gold Metal Poster
  • Hammered Steel
  • ITSO Leroy Neiman
  • ITSO L. Neiman Contrast
  • ITSO L. Neiman Styled
  • Metal Gold & Pewter
  • NotePaper
  • Parchment Overlay
  • Pencil #1
  • Pencil #2
  • Pencil #3
  • Pencil #4
  • Pixels Base Color
  • Pixels on Gold
  • Rough Color Drawing
  • Rough Pencil
  • Rough Pencil Shading
  • Selection Edge Mask
  • Sepia Etch
  • Sepia Sketch
  • Shine
  • Steel Poster
  • Styled Poster Art
  • Thin Pencil Shading
  • Tintype
  • Tintype Smoother
  • Watercolor Hard
  • Watercolor Soft
  • Watercolor Vivid
  • Wet Pencil Shading
OC-AIAE-V1 is distributed in .zip format and contains the following.
  • The action set file (.atn)
  • “ReadMe-Hints” (in .doc and .txt format)
  • Custom Layer Styles (.asl)
  • A brief video file that illustrates the possibilities of applying one of the sketch actions to each frame of a film clip. The “before” film clip file is also included.
Installation is straight forward. Load the .atn and .asl files into Photoshop and you’re ready to go. For those unfamiliar with this procedure it is explained in the ReadMe-Hints file as well as at

It doesn’t get much easier than this:
1. Open a subject image
2. Play the desired action

  • All actions performed flawlessly under Photoshop 7.01 under Windows XP SP2.
  • Once started each action applies its steps start-to-finish without interruption. No informational messages are displayed and there are no dialogs to adjust command settings or options.
  • Something I especially like: The first step in each action duplicates the original image and all changes are applied to the duplicate. The original file is untouched.
  • Each action assigns “Pencil Pixels One-Click” as the name of the duplicate document and populates the Job Name field in File > File info… dialog with “Photoshop® Action by Pencil Pixels©2007 -" I wish the name of the action used was recorded as well. That would make it easier at a future date to answer the question, “What action did I use to create this effect?”
  • Steps at the end of each action flatten the image and purge history states.
Trial (demo) versions of programs like Photoshop and Painter and plugins like Akvis Sketch or Alien Skin’s Snap Art are programmed to expire after a fixed number of days, which allows one to perform a comprehensive evaluation. Other applications and plugins are programmed so some commands (notably Save) and other functions are grayed out, allowing one to do a limited evaluation. The purpose of both models is to balance the desire of most prospective buyers to try the software before making a financial commitment with the developers’ desire to collect revenue for their hard work.

Unfortunately neither option is possible with Photoshop actions, including this collection. Actions cannot be partially disabled or set to expire after so many days. So, purchasing actions from any source, not just these folks, is frequently based on one’s experience using actions for a given purpose.

Fortunately there are numerous examples at the Pencil Pixels site to illustrate the various effects on different base images. (See FREE sample information below.)


Q: Do these actions use standard (built-in) Photoshop filters?
A: Yes.

Q: Can the actions be modified so I can apply custom settings to a given image?
A: Technically, yes. These are standard Photoshop actions, which can easily be modified. Keep in mind that adding pauses to make on-the-fly setting adjustments undermines the maximum productivity afforded by the “one click” architecture.

Q: Can these actions be applied using the Batch command?
A: Yes, with slight modifications.

To prevent an accumulation of leftover open files in Photoshop’s window the following steps would need to be appended to any of these actions invoked by the Batch command:
  • Select > All
  • Edit > Copy
  • File > Close (do not save changed)
  • Edit > Paste
  • Layer > Flatten
Q: Be honest: What did you think of these actions?
A: Before I answer, let me say I’ve written literally hundreds of actions, many of which do these types of photo-to-art transformations. While some people like to apply actions to images of flowers, scenery, cars, architecture, etc., my personal interest is transforming people shots, mainly head and shoulders portraits.

That said I REALLY LIKE the results some of these actions render. My favorite in the collection is “Styled Poster Art” followed by “Watercolor Soft,” “Color Marker Drawing” and “Rough Pencil Shading.”

Others I kept going back to include:
  • ITSO Neimen Contrast
  • Pencil #2
  • Pencil #4
  • 60’s Poster
  • Blueprint
  • Hammered Steel
Q: You named 10 out of 38 actions. Is that all you liked?
A: Think of it this way: When you buy a cookbook you won’t necessarily like all recipes equally. Over time some will rise to the top as favorites which you will use over and over.

Actions are like Photoshop recipes. For the particular work I do, the ones cited above are the ones I would use regularly. Keep in mind my favorites will most likely not be your favorites and that actions that don’t work well on people render very favorable results on non-people images.

Q: Do you have examples of manipulations of people shots?
A: Indeed I do. Check out this pBASE gallery:

This gallery includes numerous examples including two images against which all actions in the collection were applied. Some results are pleasing; others not so great. Note that while a particular action can yield favorable results on one image, the same action applied to a different image may not be satisfactory.

Q: Did you do any preprocessing on these images before applying the actions?

A: No. Generally speaking, however, if one “smoothes an image” by applying Photoshop’s Noise Reduction filter or plugins like Noise Ninja, Neat Image, etc. before playing an action, the result is usually more pleasing.

Q: Did you do any post processing on these images?
A: No. But that’s not to say you cannot or should not. Resulting images can be further manipulated or modified to any degree you like, for example, sharpen, add saturation, enhance contrast using Levels or Curves, tweak in Corel Painter, etc.

Keep in mind doing post processing of any kind increases production overhead if that is a consideration.

Q: I just checked out some of the examples at the PP site and your pBase gallery. Will these actions work as well on my images?

A: Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the quality of your images in terms of composition, focus, lighting, background, etc. If you apply any action to a lousy image, you’ll probably get a lousy result.

If you are not sure if the photo is suitable or would like to see an effect applied to one of your images, request a FREE sample image.


Q: I see there are several actions with “pencil” in their name. How are these different?
A: The differences can be subtle. Check the various examples in the pBase gallery and judge for yourself.

Q: There are tons of free actions on the net from sources like AtnCentral, Mike Finn, DPReview, RetouchPRO, etc. Why not use these actions instead?
A: I am familiar with most of the actions at these particular sites. On a whole I prefer the results of the cited PP actions over the freebees. Your mileage will vary.

Q: Who will benefit the most from these actions?
A: Judging by the asking price, I would speculate target customers already earn (or intend to earn) income from their graphics services. If you’re looking for an off the shelf tool that will quickly produce unique artistic effects with minimal pre and post production effort, then these are worth a look. The investment would be recouped just a few sales.

Casual hobbyists, who post artwork at venues like RetouchPRO, Innographx, Digital Nuts, DPReview, etc., may find it difficult to justify the cost.


Like the look, but don’t have the time or desire to “do it yourself?” No problem. The nice folks at PP offer a service where you provide the photo and they do the work.

See Art Service on this page:


Comments, questions welcome.


Thanks to Joe at Pencil Pixels for the opportunity to review these actions.


Last edited by DannyRaphael; 05-20-2007 at 02:23 PM. Reason: Fix a couple typos.
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Old 05-20-2007, 07:03 AM
Janet Petty's Avatar
Janet Petty Janet Petty is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Mid-South
Posts: 2,164
Blog Entries: 1
Re: Review: One-Click - Automated Instant Art Effects - Volume 1

You have given a thoroughly researched and informative review. Your pbase gallery offers superb examples of each style. If nothing else, my interest in this product has certainly been tweaked; and Pencil Pixels has just been added my my rather extensive wish list.

Thumbs up Danny.

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Old 05-20-2007, 01:02 PM
lkroll's Avatar
lkroll lkroll is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Alabama
Posts: 4,685
Re: Review: One-Click - Automated Instant Art Effects - Volume 1

Thanks Danny; they have some cool and free Styles too.
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