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Layered Files: PSD vs. TIFF

by Nibbles Skribbles on 2 February 2012
in Designer Tools & Tips,Mac Only Pin this scrappy stuff!

When I first started my digital scrapbooking adventure, I didn’t know much about file types, file size or just how much hard drive space my new hobby would take up. I slowly learned these things, invested in an EHD and got my stuff organized. I’ve learned plenty over my years (like every little bit helps) and I’m sure I’ll be back to share some of my tricks….but today I want to focus on the difference between layered TIFF files and layered PSD files.

Adobe programs (like Photoshop and Photoshop Elements) can open either file type. A PSD file is a Photoshop file, and only the Adobe software can open these, a TIFF file is more universal and I know that some other scrapping software programs can open these in the layered format. This is why a lot of templates come in both versions. But, the biggest difference between the two is space. TIFF files are smaller than PSD files – and they still maintain the quality as well as layers and all effects applied to layers just like a PSD file does.

Let’s take a look at this layout I did using my Mr. & Mrs Kit of my husband and I on our wedding day.

With the high-quality photo and lots of layers and shadow effects applied to them, the PSD file comes in at 223.7MB. (To see this information on a Mac, right click on the file and select Get Info).

I’m going to open the file and re-save it as a layered TIFF file. After selecting Tiff as the file type in the Save As menu, a window of options will pop up. The image below will show you what options I use, but you can look into what they mean and make your own decisions if you’d like.

Now that my layered file is saved as a TIFF, let’s look at the difference in size. Remember our PSD was 223.7MB…

Only 129.8! That’s a difference of 93.9 MB – multiply that by all of the layered files on your computer (layouts, templates, etc) and you can save yourself GB after GB of space!

Hugs, Mandak
Nibbles Skribbles 
Products available at: theStudio PU and theStudio CU

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carol 3 February 2012 at 1:36 am

Thank you so very much. How interesting and informative…


2 Juli 3 February 2012 at 6:17 pm

Thanks Manda, it is actually because of you that I am now saving all the TIFF files. I read your posts awhile back about you converting all your psd files to tiff and it really made me think! I appreciate it!


3 renee 3 February 2012 at 10:02 pm

Thank you, this is very usefull!


4 Pssequimages 6 February 2012 at 1:46 pm

Also makes it so non Photoshop users can view the file.


5 Donna 10 March 2012 at 5:03 pm

So, does this mean that a TIFF file is essentially the same thing as a PSD file (keeps the layers, etc), but, it takes up less space?? If you realize you’ve made a mistake and/or want to change something on a TIFF file, can you just open it up, make your changes & then save it again? It’s not that I have a huge # of finished layouts to store yet, but, I’m gonna need all the room I can squeeze out of my computer for all the digi goodies I’m buying : O !!!


6 Pssequimages 10 March 2012 at 5:59 pm

As a Photoshop instructor, I really encourage you to store your kits AND your finished files on external hard drives (or external media of some sort, with backups as you wish them.
NO, a tiff file is not a psd file, even though Adobe systems “invented” the Tiff file (Aldus Systems actually did, but merged with Adobe in 1994) Tiff stands for Tagged Image File Format. You can use compression on a tiff file (the same as a jpg) but you should not. You should retain highest quality in a saved Tiff or PSD file.
PSD as you know stands for Photoshop Document–but because tiff (unlike jpg) has the capability of saving layers, there is a similarity.
You can get the jist of this if you think about the ways you can save camera raw images, for example. If you save a camera raw photo as a dng, instead of the native format it comes off your camera (in my case NEF–Nikon format) — is readable everywhere if saved as dng, and there are those who would suggest that various proprietary formats like NEF (even psd) will go by the wayside being replaced ultimately by dng as a “standard”–same with tiff–it was developed to be a “standard”
The file size difference is notable because it’s half of some other formats! And if you are working in Photoshop, when you bring the tiff file back in, you HAVE maintained ALL of the attributes of each layer and can just take it from there for additional tweaking.


7 casey massey 10 March 2012 at 7:46 pm

this is an amazing discover for me…thank you so much for sharing this information. I am blown away that I have been unaware of this for all these years….casey


8 Witchy 13 May 2012 at 4:49 am

May I reccomend another step in this process of saving files and disk space ? I have found that if I make my topmost layer a white layer (fill the layer with white) you will reduce the file by almost a third, a file size of 90MB for example will come down to 60MB just by having the top layer as a white layer ? I can’t explain why (maybe because there is less data (even though there is plenty of data under the white layer)), try it and see what results you get, I use a PC not a Mac so I have yet to find out if this method works for a Mac. I also save it as a .psd file because I have found that saving as a .tiff file isn’t really than much smaller on a PC compared to the .psd


9 Brian 22 May 2012 at 12:55 pm

I was fascinated by the file size difference, but I had to investigate further since I always save my layered files as PSDs. I assumed that Photoshop had some hidden features that would better preserve the original document and any layers to the document.

I noticed that your file comparison of the PSD v. TIF is a comparison of an uncompressed PSD file to a LZW compressed TIF file. This is probably the reason for the reduced file size. I never use compression when saving any TIF files since the reason for using such files is that they are uncompressed. I’ve read that the compression algorithm for LZW does not affect the integrity of the images; however, it seems to affect the compatibility with output. Check out the link below for more info on this discussion:

Everything else I’ve read about PSD v. TIF stated that an uncompressed TIF file will normally be larger than the PSD because it embeds a flattened version of the file for viewing in any application.

It is personal preference how you handle saving your layered files, but for file integrity, I think that a layered PSD is still the way to go. Another benefit of the layered PSD is that provides compatibiliy with other Adobe apps like Illustrator and InDesign.


10 Dona 1 November 2012 at 7:52 pm

You’re certainly correct in what you’ve stated about the LZW compression method. However, no one should be sending layered files of any type to a printer, whether your own in-house printer, or to a printing service or shop. You should always save an ADDITIONAL file, in jpg format, of your final layout for sending to print. That file will naturally compress to the level you specify (10-12 for high quality) and be of a size which will print quickly on your own printer or which will RIP quickly with outside printing services. Persnickity Prints, for example, allows other file types as well as jpg for uploading to print, but you’ll find the layered tiff files take way too long to upload. PSD files are not supported for upload. After you’re done printing, you can delete the jpg file. It can always be recreated for another print job. ALWAYS save and archive the layered psd or tiff file of your layout.


11 Carolyn 19 June 2012 at 9:47 pm

Hello and thank you so much for your Elements Basics tutorials!! I’ve had PSE for almost two years and I’m finally beginning to like it. I have been looking for an alternate software source to MS PowerPoint to create with and your four basics tutorials have convinced me that PSE is the one I need. I have previously been using iPSE mostly for cropping alpha sheets, etc and not much else. (A tutorial for cropping alpha sheets would be nice. :)
All the best, and thanks again.


12 Jody 14 September 2012 at 5:43 am

Thanks so much for this post Manda!! I had posted in the tutorials section of the forum for help with saving tiff files and what the option settings should be and Min gave me the link to this post. It really helped answer my questions :-)

thanks again
Jody :-)


13 Mike 8 September 2013 at 5:37 am

IMO the best format to save files in is uncompressed TIFF. With the layers saved in RLE. Yes this creates a bigger file but the whole load and save process is much much faster on modern systems. Problem with compression is that its very very slow ( I guess it single threaded). Who cares that the files are bigger when hard disks are so cheap these days. I care more about how fast I can work. Mike


14 paula kolarik 6 October 2013 at 3:30 pm

Hello! Thank you for your Elements tutorials!
I’ve only had my PSE for about a month or two and I love it but had been up in the air on which software to buy until i saw your tutorials! They assured me that- PSE- is what i needed for almost all of my digi needs.

Thanks again


15 Simi Xiamara 9 February 2014 at 2:59 pm

THANK you for your posting. I am just now starting my journey into digital layouts & scrapbooking along with digital banners & book covers. So I am very techno unsavvy & appreciate any & all help


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