Final Photoshop files tend to be heavy. This can be frustrating when you need to upload or download a PSD file yet you’re pressed for time. While many designers resort to lowering the resolution of their Photoshop files, but that reduces the quality of the file at the same time. This can be problematic, especially in jobs where image quality is a priority. If you’re looking for how to reduce Photoshop file sizes without losing quality, the tips in this article would be helpful. However, we strongly advise that you duplicate your work before experimenting with the tricks we have provided.
1. Optimize Layer Structure
Are you always wondering why your PSD files are so large? If so, check all the invisible texture layers that were not used in the final version of your design. It’s okay to work with PSD files that contain several elements in the beginning. However, all of these extra layers that are not needed in the final design should be deleted before you export your finished file.
2. Crop Oversized Layers
A simple but great way to reduce file size in Photoshop is to use the crop tool. The textures, colors, or even graphics that extend outside of the original area of your canvas all contribute to the final size of the Photoshop file. So, deleting parts of a document that are off the canvas area can significantly decrease the size of a PSD file and save space. However, you can still make changes to all the layers afterward. Simply use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to select the canvas, click the layers you have in the Layers panel, then navigate to Image > Crop.
3. Constrain Proportions
When resizing a file in Photoshop, the Constrain Proportions function prevents it from being distorted. With this option checked, the original aspect ratio — the width and height balance — of the file is maintained. However, if you’re free to uncheck the Constrain Proportions box if you ever want to distort an image by adjusting width and/or height.
4. Add a Solid Color Layer on Top
One of the simplest ways to make a Photoshop file size smaller is to put a solid color layer on top of your Layers panel. While adding a solid color layer can decrease file size, your file will have no preview in other applications. Photoshop’s previews are heavy, so including this layer will save you as much space and time as possible. Simply use the Shift + Ctrl + N shortcut to create a new layer on top, fill with a solid color, and save your PSD file. Alternatively, if you have a simple PSD file, you can hide all the layers to reduce size instead of adding a solid color layer. However, you might need to inform the recipient of this file to make the layers visible once they receive it.
5. Scale Styles
When making files smaller in Photoshop, many designers fail to consider the original composition of the file. After resizing an image in Photoshop, you need to make sure that any text or effects that have been newly introduced into the image scale proportionally. To do this, simply ensure that the Scale Styles feature is enabled by ticking the checkbox. Going forward, you won’t have to deal with text and effects that are not of the same proportion as your resized image.
6. Rasterize Smart Objects
Smart objects are layers that contain data from raster or vector images. They retain an image's source content with its original characteristics and allow you to apply Photoshop filters to the layer in a non-destructive way. By rasterizing a smart object, you take away all the code that makes up the different functions of the object. As a result, you’re making the file smaller to save space. However, after rasterizing a smart object, you will not be able to edit the filters or placeholder content.
7. Merge or Flatten Layers
If you’re dealing with a multi-layer design in Photoshop, merging these layers would greatly reduce the file size. However, it will be difficult to go back to your original file later on. Merging layers is a permanent change so only use this option when you won’t need to edit the individual layers anymore. To merge layers, simply select all the layers, then navigate to Layer > Merge Layers. Flattening, on the other hand, performs a similar function as merging layers in Photoshop. Flattening layers also limits your ability to make future edits to your file. Nonetheless, you will find it to be helpful whenever you don’t want a recipient to make changes to certain aspects or layers of a PSD file.
8. Create Adjustment Layers
Instead of duplicating a layer in Photoshop, using Adjustment layers is a way to save space. This is because whenever you duplicate a layer, you also copy its file size. However, Adjustment layers simply work from the original layer. Rather than duplicate a layer only to apply adjustment filters in the end, you can create Adjustment layers and change the blend mode to screen. In Photoshop, simply go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer and select the layer you need.
9. Save the File as a Layered TIFF
Saving your design as a layered TIFF file significantly reduces the file size. Although it might take you more time to save as TIFF, you can rest assured that all the layers and smart objects in this file will be fully editable. The downside is that not all applications support layered TIFF files. To save a project as a layered TIFF file in Photoshop, simply follow the steps below:
- Navigate to File > Save As and select the .tiff file format.
- Set Image and Layer Compression to ZIP
- Click on OK to apply.
10. Enable Preserve Details 2.0
Preserve Details 2.0 is an improved Photoshop feature that is designed to detect and retain important details and textures when you’re resizing an image. It’s one of the most effective ways to achieve high-quality enlargement without over-sharpening edges or losing overall image quality. One fascinating application of this technology is that it’s able to preserve harder-edged details such as logos and text. To enable Preserve Details 2.0, go to the Preferences menu in Photoshop, click on Technology Previews, then check the option that says Enable Preserve Details 2.0 Upscale. Whenever you select Preserve Details 2.0, you’ll see a Noise Reduction slider that can be used alongside the preview area on the left side of the screen to reduce noise and improve image quality.
11. Resample Image
Whenever you reduce or enlarge an image size in Photoshop, you affect the original proportion with regards to pixels per inch and dimensions. That is why Photoshop has a Resample Image function that determines whether pixels will be created or removed within the image during any resizing process. When Resample Image is not enabled, any increase in resolution (Pixels/Inch) will result in a decrease in dimension to reflect the change. Although the number of pixels per square inch will change, the total number of pixels remains the same. However, when Resample Image is enabled, you’ll find five different options that Photoshop uses to change resolution and dimensions to keep an image smooth during resizing.
- Nearest Neighbor (preserve hard edges) – Although this type of interpolation is fast, it’s basic and worse at preserving details than any of the other methods of interpolation.
- Bi-linear – This is preferable for unsampling because it only adds pixels by averaging the color values of the surrounding pixels.
- Bi-cubic (best for smooth gradients) – While this method of interpolation is slower than Nearest Neighbor or Bi-linear, it uses complex calculations of surrounding pixels to deliver smooth tonal graduations. However, it doesn’t generate the best compression.
- Bi-cubic Smoother (best for enlargement) – This is a version of Bi-cubic that reduces the appearance of hard edges that can be introduced by pixelation in enlarged images.
- Bi-cubic Sharper (best for reduction) – While Bi-cubic Smoother is designed to be applied to images that require enlargement, Bi-cubic Sharper is applied to images that require a size reduction.
There you have it — 11 different methods that you can use to reduce file size without losing quality in Photoshop. As we have suggested in the article, it is always helpful to retain an original PSD version with all your layers intact. This can save you from unnecessary difficulties especially if you regularly use the Merge or Flatten functions in Photoshop.
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Do you have other methods that can be used to reduce a Photoshop file size without quality loss? Don’t hesitate to drop them below.