May 15, 2013

Can you open a Photoshop CC file in CS6?

Over the last few days I’ve seen numerous questions about what data, exactly, is backward-compatible when opening a Photoshop PSD file in an older version of the app. The Photoshop team has worked to keep things as compatible as possible even with 20+ years of evolution. Just for reference, here are some points that might be useful to know.

  • Generally speaking, features that don’t depend on new functionality (e.g. bitmap layers) open just fine in older versions. (In theory an 8-bit layered PSD full of images should open in Photoshop 3.0, released in 1994.)
  • Photoshop makes a point of storing rasterized copies of layers (e.g. text) to avoid cases where the appearance could get lost (e.g. when a font is missing).
  • In cases where a previous version of Photoshop doesn’t support a newer feature, it tries to retain the appearance of the file, but the behavior may vary case by case. Some examples:
    • A Smart Object layer that depends on a newer version of Camera Raw would be retained as a Smart Object, but the older version of Photoshop wouldn’t be able to open & edit the layer’s contents.
    • Text layers retain their appearance, even if the underlying text engine has changed, unless you try to edit them. At that point you may receive a message saying that layout & appearance changes may occur.
    • For a major change that affects multiple layers (for example, 32-bit layers), the older version may need to try opening a flattened version of the file.


I should also note that the PSD format specification is freely downloadable from so that third parties can build their own readers/writers.

What about raw photos?

When you edit the settings of a DNG file using Camera Raw or Lightroom, you can opt to update the embedded JPEG data as well as the settings themselves.  This means, as photographer Peter Krogh likes to say, that a DNG file can serve as a “job jacket”: a container that holds your negative, your development instructions, and your print. (See “The DNG Advantage.”)

Posted by John Nack at 12:10 PM on May 15, 2013


  • 436543626 — 12:13 PM on May 15, 2013

    premiere.. AE?

    no way to use teh projects if you dont pay for CC-.. for all your life….

  • Matthew Rigdon — 1:58 PM on May 15, 2013

    What’s the preferred file format to use, PSD or TIFF? At one point, I seem to recall a post from Adobe (or someone who works very closely with Adobe) that stated that TIFF was recommended by the engineers. I can’t find that now, but I did notice that the performance help page for Photoshop notes that PSD files are limited to 2GB, while TIFF can be 4GB.

    TIFF is also supported by more third-party apps.

    A TIFF file saved by Photoshop supports all the same features as a PSD file, correct? Should I prefer one format over the other?

  • ProDesignTools — 2:19 PM on May 15, 2013

    Thanks John, this is very helpful, and important detail. Might also mention that setting the “Maximize PSD File Compatibility” option when saving helps even more.

    How about for the rest of the new tools? We already know about going from CS6 back to earlier versions, but how about any coming file format changes for other major CC apps?

    Thanks again.

  • Gus Mueller — 8:06 PM on May 15, 2013

    Whoa- the PSD spec is public now? When the heck did that happen? (yay?)

    [I got sick of handling the f’ing faxes. ;-) (Actually I don’t know how far back this goes. A little ways at least.) –J.]

  • Mike Chambers — 9:01 PM on May 15, 2013


    There are two items in the Creative Cloud FAQ that discuss this:

    -Can the new CC applications export to CS6?
    -Which CC applications support export to CS6?

    In particular, the first question contains a commitment by Adobe to continue to support the ability to export to CS6 from CC apps.

    mike chambers

    • ProDesignTools — 7:14 AM on May 16, 2013

      Thanks a lot Mike, glad to see these added to the FAQ.

      Any word yet on the video apps? In the past, these have usually been able to go back, so wondering if it will be the same for CC.

    • Daniel — 5:52 AM on May 20, 2013

      Mike, backwards compatibility to CS6 is irrelevant. The moment I use ANY new CC filters, tools, effects, etc. on my media file in the new CC version is the exact moment I am creating my own creative Intellectual Property with CC’s new filters, tools, and effects. This is why purchasing a Creative Suite that allows perpetual access to the media sources files I create with it (my IP) works legally and why getting cutoff from accessing my own IP does not.

  • Paul Rumens — 2:11 AM on May 16, 2013

    This has always been an awesome thing about Photoshop. As soon as a new version comes outi can start using it.

    Although I did have issues supplying a PSD to a client using CS5 as it used spot colors.

    I just wish that InDesign and illustrator did this.

    Both are a pain in the arse, I still get printers asking me to back save my artwork to CS2

  • Mike V — 5:04 AM on May 16, 2013

    So it’s a few years in the future and you have a PSD you have created in the latest version of CC.

    This files isn’t going to open at all in CS6.
    You will just get a dialogue box saying the file has been created by a newer version of Shop and can’t be opened.

    Why do I keep reading stuff about minor differences in rendering between versions?

    Am I missing something here?
    How is subtle differences in rendering the issue?

    When my subscription is about to run out, I am supposed to dig up my backups and open every single file I have ever created in CC and back save it as a flat CS6 TIFF to have any access to my files at all?

    Whatever, business is business, but Adobe has officially Jumped the Shark.

  • Matt Kuhns — 5:27 AM on May 16, 2013

    This is a great, informative post. I’ve noticed that Photoshop seemed to have a lot of “flexibility” with backward compatibility, but had not seen any formal explanation of what specifically defined it.

    Thanks for explaining this.

  • Tink — 6:19 AM on May 16, 2013

    LOL @ “commitment by Adobe”

  • Daniel — 5:40 AM on May 20, 2013

    You are trying to use CS6 as a scapegoat. Backwards compatibility to CS6 is irrelevant. If a new user signs up for CC and is on it for a full contractual year and then decides to cancel… now they can’t open their own media source (fla, ai, psd) files. CS6 is still irrelevant here, because the moment I use the new CC filters, tools, effects, etc. on my media file in the new CC version is the exact moment I am creating my own creative Intellectual Property with CC’s new filters, tools, and effects. This is why purchasing a Creative Suite that allows perpetual access to the media sources files I create with it (my IP) works legally and why renting to access does not.

  • Dave Cross — 6:05 AM on May 24, 2013

    Here’s a blog post on a quick test I did, moving from Photoshop CC to CS5.

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