After editing/retouching a photo in Photoshop, if I want to store that file long term with the edits, what are the advantages/disadvantages of storing it in TIFF vs. PSD format?

There's a somewhat-related question that debates storing RAW vs. TIFF, but assuming I've decided I want to store the edited file (not the RAW), that doesn't address TIFF vs. PSD.


8 Answers 8


The short answer is: save it as a TIFF.

PSD may once have been considered the more "native"/modern Photoshop format, but no longer. Jeff Schewe (the Photoshop Guru's Guru) advised way back in August 2007 on the Luminous Landscape forums that choosing TIFF over PSD was his strong recommendation. I quote:

Look, I'll make it REAL simple...

TIFF = Good
PSD = Bad

Here's some more detail from that forum posting, but I encourage you to follow the link and read the rest of it:

PSD is now a bastardized file format that is NOT a good idea to use. Even the Photoshop engineers will tell you that PSD is no longer the Photoshop "native" file format. It has no advantages and many disadvantages over TIFF.
TIFF is publicly documented, PSD is not. That makes TIFF a preferred file format for the long term conservation of digital files.
And, let me be blunt, anybody who thinks PSD is "better" than TIFF is ignorant of the facts. If Adobe would let them, the Photoshop engineers would tell you to quit using PSD.

  • 4
    I never even knew that TIFF could save a Photoshop file with all it's editable elements in tact. Adjustment layers, blending options and all that. Jun 2, 2011 at 23:27
  • 14
    @Nick: TIFF is ultimately just a container format, much like many RAW file formats and DNG. As such, it can contain pretty much whatever you want to stuff inside of it if you use private tags. Layers are really just storing each photoshop layer as a separate image subfile. Each subfile may be of a different type, depending on the image contents. Ironically, Adobe even owns the TIFF format, so why they don't just ditch PSD and go with TIFF anyway is beyond me.
    – jrista
    Jun 3, 2011 at 1:32
  • Same here - I'm totally surprised to learn that TIFF is not a flat image format...
    – ysap
    Jun 3, 2011 at 1:34
  • You've sold me jrista. I might actually do some experimenting when I'm near Photoshop again. The idea of using an open format like TIFF over PSD is alluring indeed. Jun 3, 2011 at 2:09
  • 2
    TIFF has to be the most godawful nonstandard 'standard' I've ever had the misfortune to encounter in my life. Mainly because of it being a container format you have no clue what's actually inside it or if your application will open it unless you know that file was created in the same specific version of the app on the same platform. Obviously there are some common content formats, but it's entirely possible to create TIFF files that are entirely unusable without breaking the 'standard'... Ugh! (And yes I feel better for a little rant.) Aug 13, 2013 at 21:58

TIFF is more widely supported. Many programs don't deal with PSD because the format is very complicated. TIFF on the other hand is like a "standard" image format along with JPEG and PNG.

Both TIFF and PSD can preserver layers information. Both of them can handle 16 and 32 bit image. However PSD can contain much more than that. Since it is the native format of Photoshop, it can have many photo-editing metadata like layer styles, layer folders, snapshots, custom channels, and even editing histories (though histories may make the file really big).

Personally I'll just save TIFF, because it's not likely that I'll have, say, a hundred layers, and a complex layer structure. But if I'm designing, I probably want to have as much metadata as I want, and also tons of layer styles, which leaves me no choice but PSD.

EDIT: according to @Conor Boyd and @ysap etc., TIFF can actually contain as much information as PSD does. So ya, go with TIFF. However, note that TIFF's being a general purpose image format does not mean that every image viewer can read all the information stored in any TIFF image. A "baseline" TIFF reader, for example, may only render the first layer in the image. This behavior is allowed by the TIFF standard.

  • 1
    PSD is no longer considered the "native" Photoshop format; see my answer and references below.
    – Conor Boyd
    Jun 2, 2011 at 21:27
  • Hmm, interesting. I know TIFF is probably the most flexible image format in the universe, but I never thought it can contain as much information as PSD. Good point.
    – MetroWind
    Jun 3, 2011 at 1:20
  • 1
    +1 for pointing out that not every image viewer can read all the information in every TIFF.
    – Conor Boyd
    Jun 3, 2011 at 3:46
  • @Conor: Your posted answer is good, so it is no longer "below" ;-)
    – awe
    Jun 17, 2011 at 12:30
  • @awe: thanks, but I can't edit my comment. ;-)
    – Conor Boyd
    Jun 19, 2011 at 21:31

Great question, horrible answer, especially from the guy who say TIFF-GOOD PSD=BAD This is from the adobe site. Key words are in the 1st paragraph Only PSD and PSB support ALL PS features. Good to be informed

Photoshop format (PSD)

Photoshop format (PSD) is the default file format and the only format, besides the Large Document Format (PSB), that supports all Photoshop features. Because of the tight integration between Adobe products, other Adobe applications, such as Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects, and Adobe GoLive, can directly import PSD files and preserve many Photoshop features. For more information, see Help for the specific Adobe applications.

When saving a PSD, you can set a preference to maximize file compatibility. This saves a composite version of a layered image in the file so it can be read by other applications, including previous versions of Photoshop. It also maintains the appearance of the document, just in case future versions of Photoshop change the behavior of some features. Including the composite also makes the image much faster to load and use in applications other than Photoshop, and may sometimes be required to make the image readable in other applications.

16‑bits-per-channel and high dynamic range 32‑bits-per-channel images can be saved as PSD files.

  • Could you link to where this is from on the Adobe site?
    – mattdm
    Aug 14, 2013 at 2:37

If the picture has been edited in Photoshop then I would store it as PSD since it is the Photoshop native format. This was you can always go back to the picture and alter any previous changes/layers without any trouble.

  • TIFFs support layers in exactly the same way as PSD, so there is no advantage on that front.
    – Conor Boyd
    Jun 2, 2011 at 21:28

TIFF supports layers.

PSD supports every single feature of Photoshop.

If you do heavy editing and image compositions in Photoshop, don't be surprised when you find that TIFF will not keep your layer styles, smart layers or any of the hundreds of features Photoshop has.

PSD is certainly more complex than TIFF, exactly because it keeps all the original data from Photoshop. In the same sense JPEG is simpler than TIFF.

PSD files by default contain a composite image in them, so many simple apps can display a PSD file without decoding the complex format.


There are several misconceptions here. Let me clear them up:

1. TIFF is open, PSD is closed.

False. While PSD is proprietary format, it is documented and a lot of competing products are using it.

2. TIFF is easy to read, so many apps read it. PSD is complex.

False. TIFF is a container format. Both TIFF and PSD contain a flattened version of the whole document. That is why a lot of simple apps read both formats easily. TIFF can contain a lot of different information, but that does not mean that it is easier for an app to read and compose it than a PSD file.

  • 3
    A link to where the PSD format is documented would support your answer considerably.
    – Conor Boyd
    Jun 9, 2011 at 3:37

what bugs me about PSD is you can take an original jpg image, do nothing but save it as a psd, no additional layers, make no changes, and the file quadruples in size - even when you choose to not maximize compatibility. I started saving all my layered files as tiffs. Unless you're importing into another adobe product and need to keep some of the editing capabilities in those programs, tiffs work great. You can save with a little jpg compression, get much smaller files and the layers, channels, even adjustment layers all remain intact with a tiff.


I would still store the RAW file, this is essentially your negative. Advances come out in Adobe's technology which might allow you to re-process and old RAW file and produce an image you're happier with (recent improvements in noise reduction being an example).

Anyway, to your question - I think this might be a personal preference thing. I like to store the RAW and the PSD as I find it more convenient for future use and access.

  • 5
    You haven't really addressed the question, which is the difference between PSD and TIFF, not between raw and TIFF.
    – Conor Boyd
    Jun 2, 2011 at 21:29
  • He didn't ask what the technical differences were, but the advantages / disadvantages. I talked about RAW but I also gave MY reasons for storing psd rather than TIFF. little harsh with the down vote tbh
    – JamWheel
    Jun 5, 2011 at 23:00
  • The OP asked what the advantages were between PSD and TIFF. Your first para simply recommends storing the raw, which wasn't what the OP asked (granted the OP implied not storing the raw, but I don't read that as part of the question, and would have been better responded to as a comment). Your second para simply gives your personal preference without explaining why, other than it's "more convenient" - the other answers here explain why there is no difference between PSD & TIFF from a convenience point of view.
    – Conor Boyd
    Jun 6, 2011 at 21:34

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