Many of you will have seen an image file extension around called a .PSD. This is an image file format which is native to the very well known Adobe Photoshop software. While most people tend to use JPEG, BMP or PNG files for their everyday tasks, a PSD file (Photoshop Document) can store a vast amount of extra information about the image such as layers, masks, color profiles, transparency, text, alpha channels etc. PSD files tend to be high quality reference images such as those used in website templates or for desktop publishing. They are also lossless meaning 100% of the image quality is maintained at all times where something like JPEG will subtly lose image quality after every save.
Since PSD files can be opened and edited by Photoshop, not everyone is willing to spend thousands of dollars on the Adobe Creative Suite just to edit a few PSD files. Even if there is are “free” versions of Adobe CS around on the internet, we would still be reluctant to install the few GB of software just because of the need to open and edit a few PSD files and then uninstall it once done.
So here are are a few graphics related tools which we found that are able to open PSD files without Photoshop.
Paint.NET is a free image and photo editor and is without doubt, our favorite free image editing program. While being easy to use, it has enough features to accomplish just about all of the normal tasks most people would need from such a program. It includes support for multiple layers, unlimited undo, a number of special effects, and importantly, the ability to allow user created plugins.
By default Paint.NET doesn’t support opening PSD files. You’ll need to download and install a Paint.NET plugin for loading and saving Photoshop files. Do take note that the plugin does not support every feature that can be included inside the PSD file format because there are quite a lot of them. The author of this plugin has implemented only the features which has it’s equivalent feature in Paint.NET or if it is useful for converting the image to the Paint.NET internals.
You need to download and install Paint.NET first. Then you have to download the psdplugin, unzip and copy the PhotoShop.dll to the “FileTypes” folder in the Paint.NET directory. By default it should be in C:\Program Files\Paint.NET\FileTypes. Now you can open PSD files. Make sure Paint.NET is not running while installing the plugin.
2. The GIMP
The GIMP, short for “GNU Image Manipulation Program”, is a free program for a huge number of image editing tasks such as photo retouching, image composition and image creation. It has been said many times that GIMP is about as close as you can get to Photoshop for a free program in terms of powerful features. We would have to agree, but that does also mean it has a steeper learning curve than something like Paint.NET. Although it can be used as a simple paint program, there is also an array of expert quality photo retouching tools, an online batch processor, a mass production image renderer, image format conversion and quite a bit more.
Like Paint.NET, GIMP is expandable with the addition plugins and extensions to do just about anything and enhance the program even further. Everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures can be easily scripted.
The good thing is, GIMP supports opening PSD files by default so there is no need to hunt down and install any plugins. All you need to do is just download and install GIMP. The PSD support is not perfect as of yet, though it is still quite good.
3. PSD Viewer
PSD Viewer is a free a simple tool that allows you to view .PSD, .AI, and .EPS files, with the added basic ability of file type conversion. You can resize the file and then save it back out as a JPG, PNG, BMP, GIf or TIF. There’s various panning, rotating and zooming options to view the file. The PSD support seems to be fairly good and can display multi-layered files although you can’t look at the individual layers. PSD Viewer works on XP and above and requires .NET Framework 3.
4. PNG PSD Viewer
This tool is quite similar to the PNG Viewer above although it’s designed to handle viewing both PNG and PSD files, with the ability to save them out as a JPG file. There is more of focus on viewing multiple files with the help of a slideshow in PNG PSD Viewer, and you can choose from 10 transition effects and set the preferred duration of each slide with zoom and rotate buttons available. Viewing support for PSD seems to be very good and it displayed all of our multi-layer images perfectly.
There more options to open and edit PSD files on page 2.
Apart from XnView being a very good image viewer with support for over 400 file formats, it’s the PSD file support which makes it worth a mention. In addition to being able to load and view the files, it can also view and split the PSD layers allowing you to view and save them individually. Although XnView can save images as a PSD file, it appears to be only as a single layer image, but still a big plus if you need the function.
XnView has a number of options most other good quality viewers / editors have such as reasonable editing and retouching functions, a number of effects and filters, screen capture and batch operations.
Although I’m not a fan of this quite as much as Paint.NET, PhotoFiltre is still a pretty good image creator and editor that can do just about everything the average user would need. This program also has a number of retouching functions and several standard and artistic filters. There is also the ability to use plugins in addition to an image browser and a TWAIN compatible image acquisition function.
PhotoFiltre is able to open PSD files by default although it appears to open as a flat image and doesn’t seem to keep many of the PSD format’s extras. To open a PSD file in the file dialog, you have to change the drop down from “Common images” to “Photoshop (*.pdd,*.psd)”
You can find out more about and Download PhotoFiltre from the website.
IrfanView is a very fast and compact freeware image viewer and converter for Windows systems from 9x right up to Windows 7. The program has been around forever and looks a little bit dated these days, but that’s where it gets its speed and low system requirements from, because there’s absolutely no bloat.
While it supports a large number of image formats by default, you can also download a plugins pack which adds another huge load of extra formats and other multimedia functions. There are built in options to play slideshows, batch convert images, basic editing functions, and more importantly for this article, IrfanView has support for Adobe Photoshop Filters.
If you only want to view a PSD file, IrfanView is definitely a program to have a look at and because it’s small, works well on just about all systems.