Want to record edits you make to a photo, then replay those edits on another photo for quicker photo editing? Well, thanks to Affinity Photo’s Macro feature, you can do exactly that! Macros are the Affinity Photo equivalent to Photoshop Actions – which performs the same function, allowing you to automate your image editing. In this tutorial, I’ll show you everything you need to know to create macros inside of Affinity Photo to speed up your workflow. Watch the video version below, or scroll past it for the full article version.
First, you’ll need to open your photo. You can do that by going to File>Open, then searching for the photo you want to open on your computer.
Double-click on the photo you want to use (red arrow in the example image above), and it will open in Affinity Photo (or click the “Open” button – blue arrow in the image above).
Note: if you’re using a RAW photo, you’ll need to click the “Develop” button inside the Develop Persona. The Macro panel is not available in the Develop Persona. Clicking the Develop button will open the image inside the Photo Persona.
Once your photo is inside Affinity Photo and the Photo Persona, open up the Macro panel by going to View>Studio>Macro (red arrow in the image above).
This will bring up a new panel to the right of your Tools Panel labeled “Macro” (outlined in green in the image above).
To start a new macro recording, click the red record icon (it’s labeled “Start recording” when you hover your mouse over it – green arrow in the image above). Once this recording button is clicked, the Macro panel will continue recording edits you make to your photo until you click the “Stop recording” button. You can tell when the macro is recording because the Start recording button will be grayed out, and steps will begin appearing in the macro panel as you make edits.
Almost everything can be recorded as a macro, including image adjustments, scaling your document or performing transformations, adding new layers, adding effects, and more. There are, however, some things that cannot be recorded as a macro. If you come across an action that can’t be recorded, the little Affinity “Assist” feature will pop up on your screen letting you know that that particular action can’t be recorded.
So, I’ll click the “Start recording” button, and will begin making edits. For starters, I’ll navigate over to the Adjustment panel (red arrow) and add a levels adjustment to my image (blue arrow).
You’ll see that when I do this, the very first step that appears in the Macro panel is the action “Add Levels Adjustment” (green arrow).
Next, I’ll make some small tweaks to the levels. I’ll adjust the black level, white level, and gamma. As I do this, you’ll see a second macro step is created labeled “Set adjustment parameters” (blue arrow in the above image). I’ll then exit out of the levels adjustment dialogue. (For more details on how to use the Levels tool, I recommend checking out my Affinity Photo tutorial on the subject.)
Next, I want to adjust the saturation and lightness of my image, so I’ll click on the “HSL” adjustment in the Adjustment panel (blue arrow). When I do this, another step is recorded by the Macro panel – this time labeled “Add HSL Shift Adjustment” (red arrow).
I’ll then decrease the saturation of my image, and increase the luminosity using the respective sliders. Once again, a step is created in the Macro panel labeled “Set adjustment parameters” (red arrow). I’ll exit out of the HSL adjustment panel.
As I mentioned earlier, you can perform pretty much any action and have it be recorded by the Macro panel. So, I can do more than just add adjustments to my image.
To demonstrate this, I’ll now add the Unsharp Mask Live Filter to the image. To do this, I’ll go back to the Layers panel (blue arrow in the image above).
Next, I’ll click on the “Background” layer, which is our main image layer, to make it our active layer (red arrow). When I do this, a dialogue will pop up clarifying what action I’m trying to perform (outlined in green above). This is essentially making sure the Macro panel records the right action. I’ll choose the first option, “Select layer named ‘Background,’” then click “Select.” The macro records this action as a step labeled “Set current selection.”
Now, I’ll click the “Live Filters” icon at the bottom of the Layers panel (red arrow). From here, I can select the “Unsharp Mask” filter (blue arrow).
This action is recorded as the step “Add unsharp mask blur layer.” If you’re following along, you’ll know the next macro step that will be created will be something to do with setting parameters.
I’ll now make adjustments to the unsharp mask filter. As I do this, the third step for this process is created (all three steps for the unsharp mask filter are outlined in green in the image above) – though it is simply labeled “Unsharp Mask.” This is our parameter step for this live filter. I’ll exit out of the Unsharp Mask filter once I’m finished making my adjustments.
As I mentioned earlier, you can perform ALMOST any action and have it recorded as a macro. One exception to this is trying to draw a gradient on a layer with the Gradient Tool (red arrow). Rather than recording all my steps, I simply get a message from Affinity Photo’s assistant that this action can’t be recorded (green arrow).
Once I’ve recorded all my steps, I’ll hit the “Stop recording” button (red arrow in the image above). The Macro panel will no longer record edits I make to my image.
Now that all of our steps are recorded, it’s time for the MOST IMPORTANT step of this process: saving your macro. To do this, click the “Add to Library” icon (red arrow in the image above). This will bring up a dialogue box to set a name for your new macro (outlined in green). I’ll name this sequence of steps “Basic portrait edit.” You can choose a category from the dropdown if you’ve created any (more on that momentarily). Click OK to create the Macro.
Once you click OK, the “Library” panel will pop up next to your Macro panel (red arrow in the image above) and will now display your new macro (green arrow) alongside default macros that come with Affinity Photo. You’ll also notice that below the name of each macro (in my case “Basic portrait edit”) it shows the number of steps you created for your macro in brackets (in my case there are 7 steps).
If you want to organize your macros by category, you can do so by clicking the little hamburger icon in the top right corner of the Library panel (red arrow) and choosing “Create new category” (blue arrow).
By default, the new category will be called “Macros” (red arrow in the image above). You can change this by clicking the hamburger icon in the top right corner of the category (blue arrow) and choosing “Rename” (green arrow). I’ll rename mine to “Portrait Macros.” Click OK.
I can now click and drag the Basic portrait edit macro into this new category (red arrow).
Now that we’ve created a new macro, how do we use it? Well, it’s simple.
Start by opening another photo (File>Open, select the photo file from your computer, then click the Open button. Hit “Develop” if it’s a RAW image). Once your new image is opened into Affinity Photo, simply double-click on the macro in the Library panel (red arrow) that you want to apply to your current image. It will automatically apply all the steps you recorded during your photo editing process to the new photo (remember that the “Basic portrait edit” macro I created has 7 steps). If you’re Library panel isn’t displayed by default, go to View>Studio>Library to bring it up and perform this step.
Once the macro has run on your new image, you’ll notice there are now the same adjustment layers and live filters on our new image over in the Layers panel (outlined in green in the image above).
So what if you wanted to edit the steps in your macro, or make adjustments to any of the settings from the original macro recording?
You can do this easily by right-clicking on the macro and going to “Edit macro” (red arrow in the image above). Note that you can also rename or delete the macro via this right-click menu.
The original steps from your macro recording will now display once again in the “Macro” panel. Here, you can either uncheck a step to remove it (green arrow), or click the gear icon to tweak your settings (red arrow). For example, I can remove the step where we add a levels adjustment to the image by unchecking the first two actions.
Next, I can tweak the amount of desaturation we added to the photo by clicking the gear icon next to the “Set adjustment parameters” option (red arrow) for the HSL adjustment, then drag the Master Saturation slider from -10% to -5%. Don’t be intimidated by all the sliders here – simply read each one to see which you need to adjust based on the setting you are trying to change. To make things real simple, just look at the first three sliders that start with the label “Master.” These sliders allow you to make global adjustments to the hue, saturation, and lightness of your image. All the other sliders correspond to either the hue, saturation, or lightness of each color channel in the image (red, green, and blue are the three color channels in your image).
If I want to preview my new steps, I can click the “Play” button next to the Stop recording button. This will apply all the edits to my image based on the steps in the macro. I can hit ctrl+z to undo this action.
To save these changes, click the “Add to Library” option once again (red arrow), which will bring up the “Add Macro” dialogue box (green outline). I’ll have to create a new name for this macro. Note that you cannot save over an existing macro, though you can create a new macro and delete the old one. I’ll name my new macro “Basic portrait edit 2” and put it under the “Portrait Macros” category (blue arrow).
This new macro will now appear in the Library tab under the Portrait Macros category (red arrow).
I can navigate back to the Macro panel and perform a variety of other actions. The “Reset” button (red arrow) will remove all the recorded steps and allow me to start from scratch on a new macro recording.
The “export” button (blue arrow) will export the macro to any location I choose on my computer, and the “import” button (green arrow) allows me to import macro files (Affinity uses .afmacro as its macro filetype). These features make it easy to share macros you create with other users, or use macros created by someone else.
Once you’re done with the Macro and Library panels, simply go to View>Studio>Macro and View>Studio>Library to close them out.
That’s it for this tutorial! Check out my other Affinity Photo tutorials to master this amazing program!