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

Enabling backward compatibility works, but not always perfectly

Given the many structural changes to the way Adobe built Photoshop over the years, the question of backward compatibility among PSD files is more complicated than with most other applications.

The procedures outlined below work for all currently supported versions of Adobe Photoshop for Creative Cloud for Windows and macOS.

How to Save a Photoshop File for an Older Version

Photoshop file handling preferences

Set the default option in Photoshop preferences called Maximize PSD and PSB File Compatibility (under menu Edit > Preferences > File Handling). This setting is persistent, so you'll only need to set it once.

Ensure that 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, set it to Ask and Photoshop will ask you if you want to maximize compatibility every time you save a file. When this compatibility option is invoked, the layers are saved along with a flattened composite of the image.

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.

Ramifications of Opening Newer PSD Files with Older Software

Adobe Photoshop CS2.

When you open a newer Photoshop PSD 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 example, some new blending modes were added to Creative Cloud 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.

Some programs offer a "save as PSD" option. Each program saves a specific version of a PSD file, so unless you know specifically which version of Photoshop the PSD save-as option was optimized for, you may encounter compatibility problems trying to open those documents in very old copies of Photoshop.