I've been asked to provide layered Tiff files from Illustrator. However, when I re-open the Tiff in Illustrator, it's just a flat image, which I'd expect but then why is the client asking for it in layers or am I missing a step?

  • 2
    It is a bit of a weird request. Wanting layers indicates the desire to be able to edit, but wanting tiff, which is a raster format, indicates that the vector graphics must be rasterized and therefore not entirely editable anymore.
    – Wolff
    Jul 29, 2021 at 10:51
  • 1
    Just explain to the client that the file is a vector, Illustrator, file not a Photoshop file and a tiff would actually degrade the quality... but you can send an editable Illustrator file. (Hopefully you're charging appropriately for delivering editable files).
    – Scott
    Jul 29, 2021 at 11:56
  • Maybe time to educate your client about the difference between vector and raster graphics. Sounds like they are confused. And yes you are right, Illustrator can't export layered TIFFs. It just flattens them. It can however export a layered PSD, but every object would need to be on a separate layer (not just sub-layers), and of course, each layer would be rasterized.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jul 29, 2021 at 12:41
  • Not clear from the question, but they may be asking for an alpha channel to be included in the TIFF (if applicable).
    – Yorik
    Jul 29, 2021 at 15:14
  • Thanks for all your help everybody! We've cleared things now. The client thought I'd designed the pattern in Photoshop, which will export layers to Tiff and and now I'm sending a layered PDF from Illustrator.
    – Loopmoth
    Jul 30, 2021 at 8:24

2 Answers 2


Layered Tiff files are essentially a bastardized, Adobe-proprietary, setting for the TIFF format.

If one chooses Save As in Photoshop for a file containing layers, and then chooses the Tiff format, there is an option to save Layers....

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These layers inside the TIFF will only be seen by Adobe products. Layers are not part of the standard TIFF specification.

Opening a layered TIFF file in non-Adobe software merely presents a flat TIFF based upon the appearance of a flat file. (As if layers were flattened in Photoshop before saving the TIFF.)

Adobe is odd in that they add Adobe-only specifications to some formats while ignoring other, globally allowed, specifications. For example, with Photoshop one can save a layered TIFF files, but Photoshop doesn't understand or save the common, allowed, specification of multi-page TIFFs.

For vector files in Illustrator, there is no method of saving a layered TIFF. Illustrator can export/save a TIFF, but only a flat TIFF. If one needs a "layered TIFF" and all that is present is Illustrator artwork, then either the AI file would need to be exported (with layers) to Photoshop, or objects manually copy/pasted and reconstructed in Photoshop - and then a layered TIFF saved using Photoshop. As far as I'm aware, only Photoshop is capable of saving "layered" TIFFs.

Truth of the matter is, one probably should take the opportunity to educated the client a bit and explain that you have a vector file, which is generally more editable than a Photoshop file and you can provide that as opposed to a Layered TIFF.

Clients will tend to try and speak to the designer's level if they have a little knowledge. Chances are the client is merely aware that Photoshop is often a tool used by designers. So, they ask for what they've received in the past, not necessarily what's most appropriate.


Tiff files are not vector based and is very similar to .psd (Photoshop files). You will need to open it in photoshop to see if the layers are exported correctly (not sure if Illustrator flattens tiff images on export). If so you maybe have to export layers separately and combine them again in Photoshop.

  • I see, thank you. I think the confusion I have comes form the fact that I've designed my repeat tile in Illustrator and the client has presumed I used Photoshop, where a layered Tiff can easily be generated, but I think I can export to PDF and maintain the layers.
    – Loopmoth
    Jul 29, 2021 at 11:32

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