How to Save a PSD File for an Older Version of Photoshop

Enabling backward compatibility

Photoshop screenshot

You might be wondering, "how do I save a Photoshop file for an older version?" In a recent discussion forum, a user asked, "Does anyone know how to save a file in Photoshop CS2, so that it can be open in Photoshop 6?" Our answer relates to backward compatibility when opening files from any newer version of Photoshop using an older version of Photoshop.

How to Save a Photoshop File for an Older Version

This is a rather puzzling question. If you have the current version of Photoshop with its extensive feature set why would you want to open that file in an older, discontinued version of the application? With the advent of the CreativeCloud subscription service with free access to constant updates, the need to do this sort of thing is, quite frankly, a thing of the past.

One other thing to keep in mind is that many of the older versions of Photoshop simply won't run on today's computers. Your first clue will be the fact, if you want to install the older version, your computer may not have a floppy or even a CD drive.

Having said that, there are still a couple of options available to you but you need to be aware neither will maintain the layers or effects applied to the image you are working on. If you are unwilling to sacrifice this work, then you are simply out of luck.

  1. There is an option in Photoshop preferences called Maximize PSD File Compatibility (under menu Edit > Preferences > File Handling). You will want to make sure this is this area at the bottom of the File Compatibility area is set to Always or Ask. Turning this option on, however, results in larger file sizes. If you only need this feature occasionally, you can set it to Ask and Photoshop will ask you if you want to maximize compatibility every time you save a file. When this option is used, the layers are saved along with a flattened composite of the image. A common Best practice is to never check the Don't Show Again checkbox when you see Photoshop Format Options dialog box when you save an image. You never know which version of the application the next person to open the image may be using.
  2. The easiest way of saving a file for an older version is to simply flatten it by saving it out as either a jpg, gif or png image. All of the effects and so on added using the newer version will be baked into the resulting file. Just be aware there is absolutely no way to save a .psd file from the current version – Photoshop CC 2017 – that can be opened in CS2, CS 6 or any of the CS versions of the application and expect things like Content-Aware Fill or Camera Raw to be there.

    Ramifications of Opening Newer PSD Files With Older Software

    Still, when you open a newer Photoshop version file in the older Photoshop version, the new features of Photoshop will not carry over when the file is opened in a version that did not contain these features. If the file is edited and saved from the older version, the unsupported features are discarded. This is why, in many cases, the adage "It is easier to open down than to open up" is important.

    For instance, there are some new blending modes that were added since Photoshop 6 came out. If you used any of these in your file and then edit it in the older version, the image may look different. Other new features like smart objects, certain effect layers, layer sets or groups, layer comps, etc. won't carry over. You might want to make a duplicate of your file and simplify it as much as possible before trying to open it in an older version.

    The same applies when opening Photoshop files in other non-Adobe software that read PSD files.