Photoshop PDF vs PDF – What’s the Difference?

PDF format is a fantastic creation. Sending a file to someone as a PDF allows a more secure transfer as their ability to alter the file is limited.

A Photoshop PDF is no different from any other PDF. It has been saved / exported from Photoshop as a PDF – Portable Document Format. It can be altered if the receiver has also got Photoshop.

Where would we be without PDF files. There are amazing as a means of sending files. It doesn’t matter what program the file was created in as long as the end user has Acrobat Reader. So why do people get excited about Photoshop PDFs? Read on to find out why?

Creating a PDF

The benefits of a PDF are enormous. By saving a file ass a PDF this enables the end user to view the file as you created it. If you save a Photoshop file as a .jpg or .psd format, the person you are sending it to may not have Photoshop and won’t be able to open it.

PDF is a cross platform format. Adobe Acrobat Reader is a free download. Your file won’t alter in any way as you transfer it. PDFs also allow you to add password protection which means your PDF can’t be altered without leaving a trace.

Although there is no difference between a Photoshop PDF and any other PDF, in the viewing of a file, there are subtle differences depending on which program is being used to create the PDF.

The main difference between Photoshop PDF and other program PDFs is that Photoshop generates an Image. That’s not to say it can’t be edited or have links included within the file but the PDF will be larger when exported through Photoshop.

PDF Size Too Big

Photoshop PDFs tend to be much larger than standard PDFs created in InDesign or Word. There are a couple of ways to reduce the size for PDF output but make a note of what you are doing and don’t overwrite the original file.

The first option is to save it without editing capabilities.

This means you basically are turning off all access to layers within your files. It’s never a good idea to send editable files to third parties anyway, unless it’s a close working colleague.

The other option is to complete this task within your Photoshop file.

Open your Layers Panel and Flatten / Merge all Image Layers.

By flattening your layers and unchecking Preserve Editing Capabilities your file size will reduce enormously.

Please ensure you use the Save A s / Save A Copy as this can’t be reversed.

Preserve Color – Data Layers

When exporting your Photoshop PDF you are given an array of options. This will determine whether your end user can edit or just view your file.

  • It also determines whether the colors stay consistent when opened elsewhere.
  • If your layers remain intact.
  • If you wish to compress your file.

Each of these options is very dependent on where your file is going. If you are sending the file as a proof to someone then you want your PDF to be as small as possible with no editing capabilities. You can also compress your file in a number of ways through changing Image Quality or Downsampling.

Color Consistency

These will all reduce the size of your output file and allow it to be sent easily without having to Zip it.

If on the other hand you are sending your file to print or to be included in a print file then your output options need to be of the highest quality.

You must select High Quality Print. This will ensure that everything downsamples to 300ppi. PDFX-1a ensures that all your fonts appear correctly and that your Marks and Bleeds are as they should be and that your Colors are CMYK (or Spot).

You can still maintain control of your file as Preserve Editing Capabilities will not be available when printing High Quality and PDFX-1a is enabled.

Less Secure

Comparing Photoshop PDFs with other PDFs ie InDesign or Word, the danger of Photoshop PDFs is that you can send your file to a third party and unless you have unclicked Preserve Editing then they can Right Click and Open with Photoshop. It’s also a good idea to flatten your image before you send it and then they can’t mess around with your layers, if they do have Photoshop on their system.

This means that if they have Photoshop they have the ability to edit your file. Who wants anyone messing with their work, right? But this is not the case for Word and InDesign. You can’t right click and edit them in the original program or format.

For this reason, although I would say all PDFs are the same, no matter how they were initially generated, Photoshop PDFs are slightly more risky out there in the ether. You definitely need to apply the proper securities to your PDF file. Either flatten your image or attach a Password Protection to your file.

Here are some other posts you might find useful:

Can I edit a PDF from mail?

Can I edit a PDF in Photoshop?

Why is my InDesign PDF so large?

Tara Cunningham

My name is Tara. I am a Graphic Designer for the last 25+ years. Designing everything from Wedding stationery to Magazines. I have been using Adobe products since I was in college and know all the tips and tricks that make life a little easier when completing a project. Hopefully you will find the answer to your question on

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