Actions, Overlays, and Presets : What is the Difference?

Actions, Overlays, and Presets : What is the Difference?

Jackie Acosta
2 minute read

Have you ever wondered what the difference between actions, overlays and presets are? What exactly do they do to your images?

Have you ever thought to yourself there has to be a faster and easier way to edit your pictures? 

Below, you will find tips on editing your images as well as what the difference is between actions, overlays, and presets are. 

Adobe Photoshop Actions

Photoshop Actions are recorded editing steps in Adobe Photoshop that are saved as an ATN file and can be installed into other users' Photoshop software (this can depend on the version of the software). For example, Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud, Adobe Photoshop CS Version 6, and in some cases Adobe Photoshop Elements. 

These editing steps are saved as layers where they can be adjusted to suite a wide variety of images. Sometimes you can run multiple actions on a single image for a fun effect.

Actions Presets Overlays

The Autumn Collection

The Autumn Collection


Fall Photoshop Actions The Autumn Collection contains ten customizable fall actions to give your images creative richness and depth. These actions include warm tones, cooler tones, and also include a BONUS set of four natural light sunburst actions. Autumn Morning Autumn Breeze Breakfast… Read More

Here is an example of running an action and an overlay together on an image. Overlays are explained below. 

Lightroom (or ACR) Presets

Photoshop actions are often confused for Presets, but these two files are very different. 

Presets are made for Adobe Camera Raw (a filter within Adobe Photoshop) or Lightroom. These files are:

  • XMP files for newer versions of Lightroom (and ACR) 
  • LR_Template files for older versions of Lightroom
  • DNG files for Lightroom Mobile App

Presets auto enhance an image without any layers to adjust. It is usually run as is and adjustments can be done to add to it or take away from it afterwards.

Here is an example of what presets do to images. 

Creative Edge Presets were used in above video.

The Creative Edge Presets

The Creative Edge Presets


The Creative Edge is the ultimate workflow for both Photoshop ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) or Lightroom users. This set contains 10 Simple Solutions that give your images a slight enhancement for a clean edit, 5 Exposure Corrections, and includes 25 Creative Edge presets… Read More

Overlays for Photoshop

Overlays are high resolution images that can be merged/applied to your images. This can only be done in Adobe Photoshop (both Elements and CC). For a super easy example on how to add these cool effects, be sure to check out this blog post.

actions overlays presets

Pro Member Subscription

Pro Member Subscription


Want immediate access to a growing library of creative photo editing tutorials? How about digital backgrounds, sky overlays, actions, and behind-the-scenes videos from photo sessions and workshops?This is your chance to learn from a pro photographer with over two decades of… Read More

Are you curious how to get started with Adobe Photoshop? The majority of my editing takes place in Photoshop first and then sometimes I edit in Lightroom as well. Both of these programs are amazing and you can check them out below.

(This is an affiliate referral link) 





« Back to Blog