The Ultimate Guide to Saving Photoshop Files as PDFs (2023 Edition)

If you regularly work with Photoshop, knowing how to properly save and export your files is crucial. One of the most useful formats to save Photoshop projects in is PDF, or Portable Document Format. PDFs are versatile, easy to share, and maintain the layout and resolution of your original file. In this in-depth guide, we‘ll walk through exactly how to save a Photoshop file as a PDF, step by step. I‘ll also share pro tips I‘ve learned over years of working with this powerful program to help you master the PDF export process.

But first – why would you want to save a PSD as a PDF in the first place? Here are a few key benefits of using the PDF format:

  • PDFs maintain the exact layout, fonts, and graphics of your source file. The PDF will look the same on any device.
  • PDFs can be password protected to prevent unwanted changes or edits to the file.
  • Most PDFs are compact in size and easy to email or upload.
  • PDFs can be viewed on virtually any computer or mobile device without needing special software.
  • Interactive elements like links, forms, and buttons can be included in PDFs.

Essentially, saving as a PDF makes your Photoshop project more shareable while preserving the integrity of your original design. Now let‘s dive into the steps for saving a PSD as a PDF in a few different versions of Photoshop.

How to Save as PDF in Photoshop 2023

In the latest 2023 release of Photoshop, Adobe has made some interface tweaks, but the core process of saving as a PDF remains the same. Here‘s how to do it:

  1. With your Photoshop project open, go to File > Save As. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Shift+Ctrl+S (Windows) or Shift+Command+S (Mac).

  2. In the Save As dialog box, choose where you want to save the file and name it.

  3. Next to Format, click the dropdown menu and select "Photoshop PDF (*.PDF)".

  4. Click Save. This will bring up the Save Adobe PDF dialog box with options for your PDF export.

  5. Choose a preset from the Adobe PDF Preset menu at the top depending on how you plan to use the PDF. For example, choose "High Quality Print" for PDFs intended for printing or "Smallest File Size" for PDFs to be shared digitally.

  6. Under Options, make sure "Preserve Photoshop Editing Capabilities" is checked if you want to be able to open and edit the PDF again in Photoshop. Leave it unchecked for a smaller file size.

  7. Configure any other settings as needed, such as security (to password protect the PDF), compression, or output.

  8. When you‘re finished, click Save PDF at the bottom. Your Photoshop file will export as a PDF.

Saving as PDF in Older Photoshop Versions

If you‘re using an older version of Photoshop, like 2020 or earlier, the process for saving as a PDF is very similar. The main difference is the interface and location of some options may be slightly different.

In Photoshop 2020 and earlier, go to File > Export > Photoshop PDF (rather than File > Save As). Then follow the prompts to choose your PDF settings and save the file.

The Adobe PDF Presets and other options are generally the same across versions, so you can still choose the appropriate preset for your needs and configure settings like compression and security.

Pro Tips for Photoshop to PDF Conversion

Having walked through the steps, here are some of my top tips for getting the best results when saving Photoshop files as PDFs:

  1. Choose the right preset. The Adobe PDF Presets offer a quick way to optimize your PDF for different uses. For example, choose "Press Quality" for professional printing, "High Quality Print" for at-home printing, "Smallest File Size" for digital-only PDFs, or "PDF/X-4" for PDFs intended for commercial reproduction.

  2. Compress wisely. PDFs support both lossy and lossless compression to reduce the file size. When choosing compression options for your PDF, consider the intended use. Lossless compression (like ZIP) is best when you need to maintain the original quality, while lossy compression (like JPEG) can yield smaller file sizes but may reduce image quality.

  3. Embed fonts. If your Photoshop project includes text, embedding the fonts in the PDF will ensure the text looks correct even if someone viewing the PDF doesn‘t have those fonts installed. In the Save Adobe PDF dialog box, make sure "Embed Fonts" is checked under Options.

  4. Keep editing capabilities if needed. Preserving Photoshop Editing Capabilities when saving as a PDF means you‘ll be able to open the PDF again in Photoshop and continue working with layers and editable elements. This results in a larger file size but is useful if you anticipate making more changes later.

  5. Use PDF security for sensitive files. The Security options when exporting a PDF allow you to set a password to restrict opening, printing, or editing the PDF. This is a good idea if you‘re saving confidential or proprietary material as a PDF.

  6. Consider flattening layers. If your Photoshop project has many layers and you don‘t need to preserve editability in the PDF, flattening the image before saving as a PDF can significantly reduce the file size. Go to Layer > Flatten Image to merge all visible layers into a single background layer.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Even following best practices, you may sometimes run into issues when saving Photoshop files as PDFs. Here are fixes for some common problems:

  • Text looks pixelated or blurry in the PDF: Make sure "Embed Fonts" is checked in the Save Adobe PDF options. You can also try flattening the image before saving as PDF.

  • PDF file size is too large: Reduce the file size by choosing a preset like "Smallest File Size," compressing images, flattening layers, or lowering the resolution (for PDFs not intended for printing).

  • PDF doesn‘t open: This may happen if the PDF is corrupted. Try re-saving the original Photoshop file as a PDF. Make sure you have the latest version of Photoshop installed.

  • Photoshop crashes when saving as PDF: Restart Photoshop and try again. Corrupted fonts or incompatible plugins may cause crashes. You can try updating Photoshop or starting it in Safe Mode (hold Shift while launching) to disable plugins.

If you continue to have issues saving Photoshop files as PDFs, reach out to Adobe support for more advanced troubleshooting.

When to Use PDF vs Other Formats

We‘ve covered how to save Photoshop files as PDFs, but how do you know when to choose PDF over other common formats like JPEG, PNG, or TIFF? Here are some guidelines:

Use PDF when:

  • You need to preserve the exact layout and appearance of your Photoshop design
  • The file includes text that needs to stay sharp and editable
  • You want to protect the file with a password or prevent edits
  • You need a versatile format that can be viewed on any device

Use JPEG when:

  • You need a small file to use online (for a website or social media)
  • The project is a photograph without text
  • Losing some image quality is acceptable

Use PNG when:

  • You need high quality but a small file size
  • The image has transparency
  • The image is a graphic or logo rather than a photo

Use TIFF when:

  • You need the highest possible image quality and don‘t mind a large file size
  • The image will be professionally printed
  • You need to preserve layers in the saved file


Saving a Photoshop file as a PDF is a skill every designer should know, and hopefully this guide has helped demystify the process! We‘ve covered everything from the basic steps to pro tips, troubleshooting, and how to choose between file formats. With this knowledge, you‘re ready to start exporting PDFs from Photoshop like a pro.

Remember, taking a moment to thoughtfully configure your save settings will ensure you get the best possible PDF output for your needs, whether it‘s for professional printing, digital sharing, or long-term archiving. Don‘t be afraid to experiment with different presets and options to find what works best.

I‘d love to hear how these tips work for you, or if you have any PDF tricks of your own to share. Feel free to reach out in the comments. Now go enjoy the added flexibility and versatility that saving Photoshop files as PDFs can offer in your creative workflow!

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