I'm looking for a lightweight psd viewer that allows me to turn on/off layers.

I currently work at a web-design firm and at some points in the project lifetime we need to compare the resulting website with the layout designed by our graphics team. These layouts are in a single PSD with each part/component of the layout in a separate layer. Due to this the file-size catapults to +100Mb sizes sometimes which is no problem for the graphics team with their workstations ... but for us developers ...

What i'm looking for is a way to open this psd and toggle some layers without actually firing up photoshop and loading the file. I have netbeans, firefox, chrome and several other apps running simultaneously and when firing up photoshop and loading the 100Mb file the system almost grinds to a halt.

Edit: I'm using OSX

  • +1 for the layer support question. Can you elaborate on which OS you're on? (Though I'd like to hear solutions for both (both as in ChrisR apparently has Photoshop and it doesn't support other than Windows and OS X)) Jan 25, 2011 at 10:20

4 Answers 4


Given you already have Photoshop, it sounds like you need a machine of similar spec to your graphics team.

I'm not sure that anything which allows you to open a complex, layered Photoshop file and fully supports its layer effects compositing would be significantly more lightweight - it's not simply turning a stack of raster images with alpha transparency on and off.

Another option could be for your graphics team to output a simplified version of the artwork at key stages, with multiple layers merged as far as possible.

(If the artwork was for print, the simplified artwork could be reduced resolution, but that's probably not appropriate for website layouts.)

  • I'm fully aware that a psd isn't a simple stack of layers but you aren't going to tell me Photoshop itself brings no overhead. OSX preview loads my word docs in a jiffy while word itself is well ... alot slower at viewing my docx files.
    – ChrisR
    Jan 25, 2011 at 23:43
  • +1 for the simplified merged down version though ... only obstacle is convincing the graphics team to make such a file for me :)
    – ChrisR
    Jan 25, 2011 at 23:44
  • I recently learned that Preview will open PSD files. However, you can't toggle the visibility of layers, so the file needs to be saved with the correct layers enabled.
    – Andrew
    Aug 15, 2014 at 19:45

Gimp did seem to work well for just looking through the .PSD layers. There is also a modification of Gimp to be more like Photoshop called Gimpshop: http://gimpshop.com/, if you prefer it to feel more like Photoshop.


This answer may be late but it is something you want.

We have created a small online tool: Simple PSD (http://psd.keyangxiang.com) could solve your problem.

  • It has layer support -- choosing, measuring, exporting layers as PNG, JPG, or SVG files.
  • It can open 1GB+ size psd file
  • It is fast -- all parsing happens on your machine with graphic card acceleration, no need upload psd file , no backend even -- Pure Javascript
  • It is a web app -- any operation system that has a browser (Chrome / firefox) can use it.
  • It is free.

There are lots of other features to explore.

We have used this for a while ourselves. It is a perfect tool bridge designers and developers.


The GIMP supports Photoshop layers. I accidentally discovered that the other day.

Granted, it's The GIMP so not everyone's cup of tea, but an open source option.

This is the one I've been eyeing: http://www.pixelmator.com/

It claims to have full PSD layer support and looks like a rather well design program.

EDIT by donquixote: (no reply button to be found for me) GIMP does support layers, but it will show them in a flat list, not the tree hierarchy you know from Photoshop. I am looking for an alternative myself..

UPDATE (Jan 2014): In recent versions, GIMP does now show layers in a hierarchy.

  • Not to mention GIMP might not be the lightest of the bunch, and perhaps Pixelmator has too much other features to be used just as a viewer. ChrisR has Photoshop after all. Jan 25, 2011 at 18:25
  • AH! Didn't catch that on first read. Hmm...well, seems like the ultimate solution might be investing in more RAM. ;)
    – DA01
    Jan 25, 2011 at 19:05
  • Yea well i'm on a macbookpro Dualcore with 4G ram ... and unlike the designers i have 3 to 4 other rather heavy apps running for development so hardware upgrades aren't an option i'm afraid.
    – ChrisR
    Jan 25, 2011 at 23:41
  • @donquixote...do you mean Pixelmator (you said 'psd'). I've been using Pixelmator for a while. It does support layers, but not Photoshop's layer effects...which means it really doesn't fully support layers. :/ Keeping my fingers crossed that v2 will fully support them.
    – DA01
    Sep 12, 2011 at 19:36
  • @DA01 sorry I meant GIMP, not Pixelmator. And I recently found they added support for layer hierarchies. Which is great!
    – donquixote
    Jan 3, 2014 at 13:27

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