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The Best Tricks to Reduce Photoshop File Size

Creative Market March 31, 2021 · 6 min read
When you’re sharing PSD files with a client or preparing them for sale on a site like Creative Market, file size matters. Saving megabytes wherever possible helps you save time on the upload and the person on the other end save time on the download, so it’s a critical step. But how do you go about it? Today, we’ll go over all the best tricks for quickly reducing your Photoshop file sizes. Before you do any of these, save your work and duplicate it. Do not do these to the original document as they can reduce your editing capabilities.

1. Put a Solid Color Layer on Top

This is the craziest and most highly effective trick I’ve come across, and I found it entirely by accident. I recently downloaded a pack of large PSDs only to find that when I looked at them in Finder, they appeared to be blank. However, when I opened them up in Photoshop, all the promised layers were present, there was simply a solid white layer on top. Why on Earth would someone do this? reduce-psd-file-size As I experimented with the files, I quickly found the answer. It turns out, deleting that layer made the file size increase substantially! Photoshop’s high-quality file previews are surprisingly weighty, so simplifying them as much as possible saves you tons of space on huge files. Obviously, the downside here is that you lose the nice file previews in applications like Finder and Bridge. If you need a no-brainer, quick way to cut down a PSD before you upload it though, it’s a great trick. If you’re interested in more tricks, beyond file downsizing, head over here for a list of awesome Photoshop tutorials that you never knew could be so easy. Tip: Instead of adding a layer on top, you could simply hide all the layers. This can get tricky though if you have a complex PSD where some layers should be hidden while others should be showing.

2. Only Keep the Essential

I know this one sounds kind of obvious, but it’s easy to forget some of the junk that accrues as you create your document. Hidden layers used to trace a design? Delete them. A layer for your color palette? Delete it. Notes and measurements? Delete them. When going through, ask yourself, “Does the recipient of the file need to see this?” If the answer is no, then delete it.

3. Merge/Flatten Layers

The idea here is simple, a PSD with 100 layers is much larger than a PSD with ten layers. Be careful though, flattening layers is destructive and greatly reduces your ability to make changes to your file. Only flatten the PSD that you’re sending to a client, printer, etc., and only flatten layers that will never need to be edited by the person receiving the file. reduce-psd-file-size Sometimes, flattening is actually a good precaution before sharing your files. There are tons of cases where you don’t want the person who receives the file to be able to change certain aspects, and flattening any critical layers is the best way to ensure that making changes is more work than they care to tackle.

4. Apply Layer Masks

Layer masks are a complex tool that eat up plenty of 1s and 0s. They’re essentially extra layers that can hide in plain sight. Right-click on a mask, then apply it and you’ll reduce your file size. reduce-psd-file-size

5. Crop Oversized Layers to Document Bounds

Even the graphics and colors you leave off the canvas add to your file size. Make sure to delete anything in the document that is off the canvas. Of course, this only saves space if you have overhang in your document. As a quick fix, hit Command-A to select all, then go to Image>Crop. reduce-psd-file-size

6. Rasterize Smart Objects

When you rasterize a smart object (Layer>Rasterize>Smart Object), you’re taking away its intelligence, which saves space. All the code that makes up the different functions of the object are now deleted from the file, thus making it smaller. This one isn’t too complex, but it is commonly forgotten. reduce-psd-file-size

7. Use Adjustment Layers

This is probably the most technical of all, but it can help you immensely if you use duplicate layers to blend two photos together. When you duplicate a layer, you also duplicate the file size of that layer. Adjustment layers work from the original layer, so it saves space. Normally, you just duplicate a layer and then use blend the screen. Instead, you should create an adjustment layer and change the blend mode to screen. reduce-psd-file-size

Will This Confuse Buyers?

There are lots of reasons you might want to shrink a PSD’s footprint. Perhaps your Dropbox or hard disk is filling up and you need a way to cut back on some of your heavy files, or maybe you’re sending the file from one of your own machines to another and want to make the transfer quick and painless. Where you really have to be careful though is when you’re prepping a PSD for sale on a site like Creative Market. Just because a trick is effective in reducing the file size, doesn’t mean it’s the best option for your customers. For instance, the white layer trick above is potentially very confusing to a buyer. As one of our commenters pointed out below, even with clear instructions for how to deal with it, it might lead to lots of refund requests or support emails. Use your own discretion and always be very careful to structure your PSDs to be as user-friendly as possible. All of the tricks here are a tradeoff, so while they have the upside of reducing file size, there are serious downsides as well. If all you’re looking for are ways to further optimize your workflow, make sure to check out this article we wrote featuring incredibly useful Photoshop plugins.

How Do You Reduce Your PSD File Size?

While all these tips are helpful, the best way to make sure your file is a sendable size is to take it into consideration from the very beginning. If you can plan ahead for as many obstacles as possible, then you’ll get through any problems with a breeze. Perhaps our list of incredibly common Photoshop fails to avoid can help. Hopefully, you learned something new about reducing your Photoshop file size in this post. If not, then share some of your own tips and tricks below.
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