Have you ever been working on a complex, content-heavy document in Photoshop and noticed that when you go to save your progress, the file saves with the PSB format rather than the PSD one? It can be quite confusing to users who have not come across the file type before.

But there is no need to worry- PSB files are incredibly similar to PSD files yet are simply better suited towards certain documents. Both formats preserve the same elements of the document you are working on, such as layers, colors, tones, shapes, and more. They are both native to Photoshop.

The primary difference between the formats becomes clear when we look at the limiting properties of the files they support: the PSD format can only be used to save files smaller than 2GB, whereas documents of up to around 4 billion GB can be saved with the PSB extension.

The PSD Format: Main Features and When it Should be Used

By default, Photoshop will choose to save your files as PSDs. So, what is this format? Well, documents saved with this file type are completely editable. Photoshop preserves the integrity of your file, meaning that layers, colours, smart objects, and effects stay unaltered. In other words, the next time you open the PSD file, it will look exactly the same as when you closed it.

Most Photoshop users save their work as a PSD file whilst they are still working on it. This is a great way to save your progress without committing to exporting your design as a finalised, flattened image (such as a JPEG).

In terms of when you should use this file format, you will probably find yourself saving files as PSDs a lot more often than you will be saving documents as PSBs. Since most files are small enough to be saved as a PSD, this is the most sensible option to choose if your document fits within the size constraints. PSD is a commonly used file format, so documents saved with this format can be opened by lots of other programs, making them versatile and letting you employ a seamless multi-program workflow.

Maximum File SizeMaximum DimensionsAre PSDs Supported by Other Programs?
2 GB30,000 X 30,0000 pixelsPSDs are not only supported by Photoshop but are also supported by other programs. Due to the file type’s popularity, PSDs may be opened in other programs such as Adobe Illustrator and InDesign.

The PSB Format: Main Features and When it Should be Used

Unlike the PSD format, PSB is not selected by default as the format with which Photoshop saves your files. Standing for ‘Photoshop Big’, PSB is used as the format for larger Photoshop documents.

It is just like the PSD file type in that it preserves the layers, colours and other original properties of your Photoshop document. The only difference is that it can support larger documents.

The file size limit for the PSD format is 2GB. Above this, you could choose to save your files as TIFFs, but this only supports files of up to 4GB in size. Beyond this limit, PSB is the only format you can use that offers the same features as regular Photoshop documents. You can save files of up to an impressive 4.2 billion gigabytes as PSBs! For a full comparison of TIFFs and PSBs, feel free to check out our article on the topic.

Maximum File SizeMaximum DimensionsAre PSBs Supported by Other Programs?
4.2 billion GB300,000 x 300,000 pixelsYou can open PSBs in some other programs, but it can be tricky to do so since the files are often too big to be handled efficiently by external applications. They also cannot be opened in Adobe Illustrator and InDesign (to do this, you would have to convert the file into a different format)

Main Similarities Between the File Types

Now that we have covered the main features and capabilities of both the formats, let’s take a look at the primary similarities between them.

The most obvious similarity is that both file types are inherent to Photoshop and can be used to save the progress of whatever file you are working on in the program. They let you preserve the layers in your document rather than flattening it to an image, and they don’t alter any of the file’s properties such as the file information and transparency. This means that you can keep making changes to the file after you have saved it.

Both can be used in other programs (although in most cases, it is easier to open PSDs in other pieces of editing software since they are less heavy to handle) and each of them can be opened in Photoshop to be converted into other formats such as PDFs, JPEGs, and PNGs.

Main Differences Between the File Types

Whilst the file formats have the same effect and are used for the same purpose, there are a few differences between them. Let’s take a look at those now.

Maximum File Size2 GB4.2 billion GB – it is very unlikely that you will ever actually reach this limit.
Maximum Canvas Dimensions30,000 x 30,000 px300,000 x 300,000 px
How You Can Save a File with the FormatHead to File > Save As and PSD will be selected by default.Choose File > Save As then click on PSB from the dropdown file format menu.
Support from Other ProgramsThe PSD format is widely supported by other applications.The PSB type has not existed for as long as the PSD has, and it is therefore less widely supported. It can still be opened in some programs but for particularly large files this will be difficult.

As you can see, there really is not much of a significant difference between the two formats. There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to deciding which file type to use- it simply depends on the size of your document in Photoshop. If it is greater than 2GB than you should save it as a PSB file. If it is less than 2GB, then you are okay to save it as a regular Photoshop document.

Want to find out more about how to differentiate between PSB and PSD files? Then check out this video by PHLEARN which discusses everything you need to know about the most common file formats that you might come across in Photoshop, including PSD and PSB!

About the Author Betchphoto

Captivated by the digital world and particularly attracted by everything related to creativity, Martin is an amateur photographer and digital marketer who has more than 10 years of experience with Adobe Photoshop. Check his about page here

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