here is the situation: i have some large source photos that i am applying adjustment layers to in Photoshop, then incorporating into Illustrator files.

i would like Photoshop to only save the info about what adjustments are applied and not store the source image data in the psd file, which i should think would result in a really small psd file.

this is important because i never change the source image, so it would only need to be stored and moved once by synchronization and version control software, while the psd could be edited freely without sync and VCS having to deal with a large binary changing.

i did some tests with Place Linked..., and the results seem totally counter-intuitive:

source.tif 15.9 MB

simply placing source.tif linked in a psd of the same size and saving results in

linked-1.psd 54.2 MB

a file that's multiple times the size of the source image.

turning off 'max compatibility' and image previews reduces size:

linked-2.psd 28 MB

but it's still larger than the source image.

anyone have any idea what's going on here? or how i can get Photoshop to exclude the image data?

for reference, the same canvas saved without placing the image clocks in at

blank.psd 1.1 MB

thanks in advance.

  • Be sure to kill layer masks or they will eat roughly 1/3 of yoir asset size, see even empty has pixels so those need to be allocated.
    – joojaa
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 13:40
  • @joojaa what do you mean "kill layer masks"? linked-1.psd and linked-2.psd are nothing but a new file with source.tif placed; i haven't explicitly added a mask anywhere. is a mask automatically generated? are layer masks a setting i need to turn off somewhere?
    – nrser
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 2:03
  • adjustment layers get masked by default.
    – joojaa
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 5:43
  • why not script creation of the template?
    – joojaa
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 6:00
  • @joojaa i hadn't added any adjustment layers, just placed the source image.
    – nrser
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 6:41

1 Answer 1


So, it depends. If you need your PSD to be the same canvas size as your source, you're out of luck. But in my experience it's unusual to want the full resolution of your source – you often use it much smaller.

If you know how big (and at what resolution) you intend to use the image in Illustrator, create the PSD at that size, and place the source using Place linked. The resulting PSD will be proportional to its canvas size, regardless of the size of the source.

If, later, you need to increase the canvas size of your PSD, you have that option, because the source remains linked, and your PSD is only ever as large as it needs to be.

Make no mistake, this is no "use a PSD as a set of adjustment layers only"-type solution, as that's not possible.

  • thanks... i think i see how i can use this: place the file, scale the canvas down, do adjustments and save that file as edit.psd (which produces a small psd). then, for each target resolution, open edit.psd, scale up to the target resolution, and save a copy 2014-08-07-export-XxY.psd to be placed in Illustrator, effectively using edit.psd as a proxy. since source.tif is linked, it seems it should scale back up just fine. the 'export' file will be big, but will never be edited, and i can mess around with edit.psd to my heart's content without straining sync and VCS.
    – nrser
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 2:17

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