Choose a File Format for Photoshop CS5 Images - dummies

By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith, Fred Gerantabee

When you choose File→Save for the first time in Photoshop Creative Suite 5 (or you choose File→Save As to save a different version of a file), you see at least 18 different file formats to choose from in the Save As Type drop-down list. Here are a few formats that are best for the typical workflow you may face.

Wonderful and easy Photoshop PSD

If you’re in an Adobe workflow (you’re using any Adobe product), you can keep the image in the native Photoshop PSD format. By choosing this format, transparency, layers, channels, and paths are all maintained and left intact when placed in the other applications.

If compatibility with older versions of Photoshop is an issue, choose Edit→Preferences→File Handling (Windows) or Photoshop→Preferences→File Handling (Mac). Choose Always from the Maximize PSD and PSB File Compatibility drop-down list. This choice saves a composite (flattened) image along with the layers of your document. (The PSB format is used for saving large Photoshop documents, measuring more than 30,000 by 30,000 pixels.)

Leaving the Maximize PSD and PSB File Compatibility drop-down list set to Always creates a larger file. If file size is an issue, leave the drop-down list set to Ask and use the feature only when you need to open the Photoshop file in older versions of Photoshop.

Photoshop EPS

Virtually every desktop application accepts the Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) file format. It’s used to transfer PostScript-language artwork between various applications. It supports vector data, duotones, and clipping paths.

When you choose to save in the EPS format, an EPS Options dialog box appears. Leave the defaults alone and click OK.

Alter the settings in the EPS Options dialog box only if you’re familiar with custom printer calibration or if you need to save your image to a specific screen ruling. Screen rulings (lpi, or lines per inch) are usually set in a page layout application, such as Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress.

Photoshop PDF

If compatibility is an issue, save your file in the Photoshop PDF (Portable Document Format) format. PDF files are supported by more than a dozen platforms when viewers use Acrobat or Adobe Reader. (Adobe Reader is available for free on the Adobe web site.)

What a perfect way to send pictures to friends and family! Saving a file in the Photoshop PDF format supports your ability to edit the image when you open the file by choosing File→Open in Photoshop.

If you’re planning to send a layered file by e-mail, choose Layer→Flatten Layers before choosing to save the file as a PDF. This command cuts the file size considerably.


The Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) flexible bitmap image format is supported by most image-editing and page-layout applications widely supported by all printers. TIFF supports layers and channels, but has a maximum size of 4GB. We hope your files aren’t that large!


The Photoshop Desktop Color Separation (DCS) 1.0 and 2.0 formats are versions of EPS that enable you to save color separations of CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) or multichannel files. Some workflows require this format, but if you’ve implemented spot color channels in an image, using the DCS file format is required to maintain them.

Choose the DCS 2.0 format unless you receive specific instructions to use the DCS 1.0 format — for example, for reasons of incompatibility in certain workflows.