I was reading a few articles about how people saved their working files and it got me thinking about my own method. I used to save everything as a PSD, but recently I have started saving my working files as TIFF's. I use Windows, so I don't know if it's different for Apple users but with a PSD, all I can see is that "PSD" icon. But a TIFF file shows up as a normal image (that I can edit), so I found it really great when I have a lot of working files for one project and could just quickly preview it without opening the program.

That being said, I am no expert in which method is better. And I know a lot of people here are pretty seasoned users in all things Adobe, so I was wondering what your two cent on the whole topic is?

Is there really any difference to saving it as a PSD or TIFF? Is there something I should specifically know about saving my files as a TIFF rather than a PSD?

  • I think this is only an issue for Windows users. I'm on a Mac and I have no issue previewing or seeing thumbnails for PSD, AI, EPS, PDF...pretty much anything
    – Manly
    Jan 25, 2018 at 19:37
  • Note that even on a Mac Photoshop files failed to preview correctly for the first couple iterations of the CC apps. They fixed that somewhere at some point - either Apple or Adobe.
    – Scott
    Jan 25, 2018 at 20:21
  • There are like stand-alone preview apps and explorer extension things that help out with that. One of them being SageThumbs. I'd explore those before switching from psd to tif.
    – Joonas
    Jan 26, 2018 at 0:11
  • PSDs still don't preview properly on Mac if they're multi-layer. I just store a small jpg next to the PSD as my 'thumbnail substitute'. 350MB psd, 150k jpg, barely notice the drive space it needs.
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 25, 2018 at 15:18

4 Answers 4


Any more a Photoshop saved TIFF with transparency is actually a dual format file - A Tiff Preview image + underlying PSD data. (The same way Illustrator files are actually .ai and .pdf in one file).

Note saving a flat tiff results in a standard tiff, no PSD editing capabilities. The difference is the transparency and layers within a tiff.

For general purposes it may not make a great deal of difference. Although the layered Tiff may be a bit larger in file size due to the storage of the additional Tiff preview along with the actual Photoshop editing data.

However.... where there could possibly be a problem regarding file reliability. When a file, any file, has a corruption issue, many applications (especially Adobe apps) will try and salvage as much data as it can from the format. Often dumping data which is seen as corrupt or superfluous.

If you save layered files as tiff.. you run a much greater risk of the Photoshop Editing data being dumped due an issue with the file itself. It will be seen as superfluous data which isn't mandatory for the tiff format. That could mean you lose editing capabilities by saving a file as a tiff. (This is the same reason I wouldn't ever save my .ai files as .pdf files -- the ai data runs a greater risk of being truncated.)

Of course, if you have a solid backup system this may not be a major issue. I, personally, have found a bad file.. gone to my back up only to realize the bad file was backed up as well. Leaving me to search backup archives or tertiary backups with the hopes the good file still exists in some backup somewhere.

For my money, a preview icon isn't worth the potential issues associated with file stability.

  • Thank you for the explaination, @Scott! I actually didn't know about the dual format file thing. But yikes, thinking of a corrupted file is enough to send me back to using the .psd format. I rather stay safe, so thank you for the tip. If I may go slightly off topic, you mentioned that an Illustrator file is both an .ai and a .pdf in one file. So what exactly is the purpose of .eps? Because I realised that when downloading vectors for example they always come with both an .ai and an .eps format. And if you don't mind me asking, what IS a solid backup system in your opinion?
    – Eliza Beth
    Jan 26, 2018 at 19:13
  • EPS is merely a bit more universal, but it is a flat file format . See HERE for a more in-depth answer to that. I have a triple redundant backup... nightly backup to 2 separate hard drives (2 in case a backup drive fails), then a weekly back up to a 3rd hard drive (so if both nightly fail I only lose a week at most). Then I actually have a 4th backup that keep stored off-site and update about once a quarter, in case the other 3 fail due to the apocalypse. Might seem like overkill, but better save than sorry. Hard drives are cheap.
    – Scott
    Jan 26, 2018 at 20:34
  • Thanks for the link to the EPS info, I'll go check it out. Wow, that's a lot of back ups. But you're right, better save than sorry and hard drives are cheap compared to loosing all your hard work if you have some apocalyptic computer failure. Haha I got to go change my back up methods... Haha what do you mean by storing off-site? Are your other hard drives connected to your computer and not those external hard drives? @Scott
    – Eliza Beth
    Feb 5, 2018 at 22:05
  • Off site = Some other physical location. I keep a quarterly back up in a bank's safe deposit box. That way if my home burns down, explodes, sinks, gets sucked into another dimension, it doesn't kill my business as well. Honestly, what I have may be overkill, but I learned my lesson early on. Rebuilding months or years of files is way more work than you can bill for merely because a backup failed. I'd rather have multiple redundant files than be missing that one necessary file that takes 40 hours to reconstruct.
    – Scott
    Feb 6, 2018 at 3:41
  • Wow okay it never crossed my mind to put it off site in a safe deposit box or something. I hardly think it's overkill though. You are absolutely right. It is better to have multiple copies rather than miss something important should one day something... anything... happens. Thanks for explaining and the advice. I gotta get my back ups started! Haha
    – Eliza Beth
    Feb 10, 2018 at 20:05

Nowadays, .psd and .tif are pretty much interchangeable. Adobe's Help still recommends psd "To preserve all Photoshop features (layers, effects, masks, and so on), save a copy of your image in Photoshop format (PSD)", but I don't know what obscure situation would absolutely require a psd.

I still use .psd, but it's mostly out of habit. In the early versions of Photoshop, .psd was for editing and .tif was to output n image without destructive compression (ex: .jpg or .gif), as well as to be able to import it in other software (for example Quark XPress, long before InDesign). Then they added non-destructive compression to .tif files, and later on they added the possibility to preserve layers in TIFF files, although we still had to flatten out layers before sending it to the press. By that point we are at Photoshop version 6 or 7; fast forward a few years and a few versions later, Photoshop handles .tif just like .psd, and you can directly import a .psd in almost anything.

So I would say using .tif is fine, especially if it helps your workflow. If you do something with many layers, filters and modifications, or if you might change Photoshop versions within a project you might want to back up as .psd just to be sure.

Also, Adobe Bridge will show thumbnails psd files and is a great way to browse your files; it might be worth looking into. By the way, Mac OS natively displays thumbnails for them as well, but for some reason Windows still doesn't.

  • Thank you for your answer. After reading all the replies here I decided to go back to using the .psd format. Just to stay on the safe side. I've installed a codec AND I'll get into the habit of using Adobe Bridge. Haha I do find it really strange how Mac shows a preview but Windows doesn't. It is so strange.
    – Eliza Beth
    Jan 26, 2018 at 19:08

It depends what you want to do with the images.

If you need to preserve all Photoshop editing capabilities such as layers, editable text, layer effects, etc, then save as PSD.

If the image is for print, and won't require further editing, save as CMYK TIFF. Full Photoshop editing capabilities are not preserved in TIFFs, except for layers.

There are codecs available for Windows systems to show thumbnails for PSDs in Explorer. If you search google for "Windows PSD codec" you'll find them.

  • Thanks for the codec tip and the explaination (I don't know how to tag here....) I got myself one and my folders have never looked more clear. Haha
    – Eliza Beth
    Jan 26, 2018 at 18:57

People seem to have already answered pretty well, but the only situation in which I found it was absolutely better to use TIFF was when working across programs (specifically, for importing files into Sketchbook Pro for further editing). This also helps if you're working with other people in a production and they have different preferences in terms of their programs, or if you want to be able to work on something like a storyboard where you need to quickly flip between files.

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