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

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. This way, 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.

A screenshot of Photoshop preferences with the Maximize Compatibility section highlighted

The easiest way to save a file for an older version is to flatten it by saving it as either a jpg, gif, or png image. The effects added with the newer version are included in the resulting file.

Open Newer PSD Files With Older Software

When you open a newer Photoshop PSD file in an older Photoshop version, the new features of Photoshop don't carry over when the file is opened in a version that doesn't contain these features. If the file is edited and saved in the older version, the unsupported features are discarded.

Adobe Photoshop CS2 in Windows XP

For example, some new blending modes were added to Creative Cloud since Photoshop 6 came out. If you use 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, and layer comps don't carry over. Make a duplicate of the file and simplify it as much as possible before opening it in an older version.

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

Some programs offer a Save as PSD option. Each program saves a specific version of a PSD file. Unless you know specifically which version of Photoshop the PSD save as option was optimized for, you may encounter compatibility problems opening those documents in old versions of Photoshop.

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