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Photoshop definitely got it right with the PSD file format. It saves the complete state of a still-being-edited image so that you can close down and resume work later. When working with images, you should always keep a PSD copy around in case you need to make tweaks to the image later on.

The problem is that PSD is not an open format. While PNGs, JPGs, and BMPs can be opened in nearly every image editor out there, PSD is special — and it needs special support. But what if you don’t want to pay for a Creative Cloud subscription plan A Complete Beginner's Guide to Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud A Complete Beginner's Guide to Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud Do you find yourself overwhelmed by Photoshop? Are you unsure how to perform even the most simple tasks? In this guide, we take a look at the absolute basics of the Adobe software. Read More ?

Fortunately, there are free options available. Are they as good as Photoshop? No. As powerful or flexible? Far from it. In fact, most of these apps will only be able to view PSDs as flattened images — that’s the cost of free alternatives to proprietary software. But hey, maybe flattened image viewing is all you need anyway.

We’ll be using this business card PSD template that’s freely available on Freepik to show how each of the apps below can actually load, view, and even edit real PSD files.

1. GIMP

GIMP should honestly be your first stop when trying to open and edit a PSD file for free. Not only is it the closest counterpart to Photoshop itself, but it’s available across Windows, Mac, and Linux, so you can learn it once and use it on all of your systems.

open-psd-in-gimp

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And if it wasn’t clear, yes, PSD support is built right into the app. No need to fiddle with third-party plugins or anything.

  1. Go to File > Open…
  2. Find and select the PSD file.
  3. Click Open.

The nice thing about GIMP is that it can actually process the individual layers of a PSD file. The downside is that some layers are unreadable to GIMP, or need to be rasterized so that GIMP can work with them. Saving over the PSD could ruin the file if you intend to open it back up in Photoshop later.

GIMP is open source software, which comes with several benefits (like being able to peek at the source code whenever you want).

DownloadGIMP

2. Paint.NET

I’ve always respected Paint.NET because it knows exactly what it wants to be: an image editor that’s better than Microsoft Paint without being as bloated or intimidating to learn as GIMP and Photoshop. It’s bang in the middle.

open-psd-in-paint-net

But if you want to make it more powerful, you can — by installing various third-party plugins. And if you’re going to do that, there’s one plugin that you absolutely should use: the PSD plugin.

  1. Download the PSD plugin.
  2. Extract the ZIP file’s contents.
  3. Copy the PhotoShop.dll file.
  4. Navigate to the Paint.NET installation folder (mine is located at C:/Program Files/paint.net).
  5. Paste the PhotoShop.dll file into the FileTypes subfolder.
  6. Launch Paint.NET.

With the plugin installed, you should be able to open PSD files without a hitch. Note that even though Paint.NET can usually handle PSD layers just fine, you’ll run into occasional issues because Paint.NET doesn’t support all of Photoshop’s features.

DownloadPSD Plugin for Paint.NET

3. Photopea Online Editor

If you’ve never heard of Photopea before, you’re in for a treat. This lesser-known web app is basically like an online version of Photoshop or GIMP. It’s obviously not as good — web apps rarely get close to their desktop counterparts — but it’s still awesome.

open-psd-in-photopea

The layout is similar so you’ll feel right at home. Want to open a PSD file? It’s easy.

  1. Go to File > Open.
  2. Find and select the PSD file.
  3. Click Open.

And the cool thing is that Photopea can read individual layers, which is a level of feature that I’d never expect from a free web app. It’s great though, allowing you to edit your PSDs without charge no matter where you are. Just hop on with any computer.

WebsitePhotopea Online Editor

4. XnView

XnView is a freeware image organizer that lets you browse and order your image collections in various ways, as well as process them using basic image editing tools like color palettes, filters, effects, rotations, etc.

open-psd-in-xnview

The great thing about this lesser-known app is that it can read over 500 formats and export to over 70 formats, so not only is it useful for viewing images, but also converting them.

  1. Go to File > Open.
  2. Find and select the PSD file.
  3. Click Open.

When downloading, you can choose between three setup types: Minimal, Standard, and Extended. Minimal requires the least amount of disk space and is all you need to open PSDs. No need for add-ons, plugins, or anything like that.

DownloadXnView

5. IrfanView

IrfanView is similar to XnView in that its main use is as an image viewer and converter. It may not support as many formats as XnView does, but it supports all of the important ones — and that’s all that really matters, right?

open-psd-in-irfanview

While IrfanView can easily render flattened PSDs, it can’t edit or save them unless you export to a different format.

  1. Go to File > Open…
  2. Find and select the PSD file.
  3. Click Open.

We recommend keeping this app on your system. Use it as your primary image viewer and you’ll never be disappointed by it. The best part, at least for me, is that it’s extremely lightweight and fast. Plus you can further enhance IrfanView with some nifty plugins.

DownloadIrfanView

6. Google Drive

It seems weird to use Google Drive as a file viewer, but you absolutely can — and it works rather well. Check out our master guide to Google Drive to learn more about it, but the important thing to know is that PSDs are viewable through Google Drive on the web.

open-psd-in-google-drive

  1. Visit the Google Drive page.
  2. Click My Drive and select Upload files…
  3. Find and select the PSD file.
  4. Click Open.
  5. Double-click the file to view.

There are several other methods you can use to upload image files to Google Drive, but this is the easiest if you just want to view one single file. When would you ever use Google Drive for this? Maybe when you aren’t on your own PC and can’t install any other software.

WebsiteGoogle Drive

7. Go2Convert

This last option is not a way to view, open, or edit PSD files. It’s simply a way to convert PSD files into other formats like PNG and JPG. If that’s the entire reason why you wanted to open PSDs in the first place, then you might as well skip the middle steps.

  1. Click Select File.
  2. Navigate and select your PSD file.
  3. Click Open.
  4. Click Upload Now.
  5. Once the upload is done, you can choose dozens of formats to convert to. Optionally, you can even resize the image and pick what kind of compression to use (for certain formats).

Simple and straightforward. Nothing more to it.

WebsiteGo2Convert

Why Not Opt for Photoshop Instead?

These solutions definitely work, so if you’re happy with them, go on and keep using them. But if you intend to do serious PSD editing in the future, you really ought to consider grabbing a basic Creative Cloud subscription for Photoshop.

You can certainly get by with GIMP, but again, it has its limitations and quirks. GIMP is okay for casual users, but Photoshop is objectively better. Check out our comparison of GIMP vs. Photoshop GIMP vs Photoshop: Which One is Right for You? GIMP vs Photoshop: Which One is Right for You? Photoshop is the most popular image editing app out there and GIMP is the best free alternative to it. Which should you use? Read More for more details.

Which apps do you use to work with PSDs? Did we miss any good ones? Let us know in the comments below!

Originally written by Simon Slangan on 10th September 2012

  1. justago
    November 2, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Its kind of glib for MUO to recommend Photoshop in the Cloud. Photoshop is a professional program for professionals, and any casual user who can afford the outrageous pricing. And it is not just for photographers. Adobe said if you just want the photo editing portion of Photoshop, then get Photoshop Elements. But Elements does not have all the 'photo' features of Photoshop, despite their claim.
    In Canada, the cost of Photoshop in the cloud is around twenty dollars monthly when you add taxes. That's $240 per year, before any price increases. And the price for Elements keeps climbing with every release. And each release has a few minor additions or adjustments, making it an upgrade, not worth paying full price for. (My brother bought CS5 for $850, and Adobe said that was a discounted price because he owned Elements. What a rip.)

    There are other programs out there around the $100 price range that can do everything Photoshop does, and they, for the most part have free upgrades until a new version (at a discounted price) comes out. And not nearly the learning curve of Photoshop programs. And not nearly the memory hogs.
    ON1 Photo - they are also releasing ON1 Photo RAW in November which is 4 time faster and more effective than Lightroom. And must less than half the price. No monthly fees.
    Corel Paintshop Pro - Super program with free upgrades until the next version.
    Corel After Shot Pro 3 - equivalent to Lightroom, much cheaper.

    I have the above and have tried trials of other fine photo editing software. And they have plenty of free Tutorials, not like Elements. Too bad everyone keeps raving about Photoshop and Elements, both of which has enormous learning curves and little valuable support. (Even though I paid $149 for Elements, I rarely use it. I have three versions which I purchased and none of them are as good as other programs.) There are oodles of courses out there for Photoshop and Elements, and all for a price. That alone should tell you something. You need an expensive course to learn them? On top of the cost of the program.

    For basic, minor adjustments, no one needs Photoshop. Freeware programs such as Photoscape and Irfanview can do many photo tweaks, and easily.

    That's my rant, anwyay. I hope I haven't been disrespectful. Not my inention.

  2. Melanie
    November 2, 2016 at 6:16 am

    I use On1 Photo10 as a standalone program. It's powerful, cheap and supports layers.

  3. tjrostaf
    November 1, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    On the Mac, Graphic Converter opens PSD files.

  4. Larry
    November 1, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Hello Simon
    I enjoyed your reviews and they will be a help to me. Sometimes if you can get the simple straight of it in a short article it is best. I will put you on my white list and look forward to more. Thanks Larry Chitwood Resaca Georgia. 30735 United States

  5. Ehsan
    July 9, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    very nice

  6. lee
    May 22, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    firealpaca and medibang also can open/edit psd files!

  7. Michal
    April 27, 2016 at 8:10 am

    Thank you very much for your post. I was looking for how to open psd. file in the Paint.net and the Paint.NET PSD Plugin works great.

  8. bhavin
    April 6, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    GO2Convert is best solution. Thank you so much Dear Sir/Mam. Have good day dear.

  9. John
    April 4, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    Hi guys, do you know about Photopea? Just go to Photopea.com . It supports many features of a PSD file and you can save your work back to PSD.

  10. Shina
    March 16, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    This has been a tremendous help! Thank you so much! I think I will go with GIMP.

  11. Sleeper Deep
    February 14, 2016 at 4:52 am

    Just search "123" or "123 Photo Viewer" in Windows Store for Windows 8.1/10, it's the easiest way and also totally safe.

  12. Chloe
    February 2, 2016 at 8:05 am

    This article is extremely helpful. Just like a life-safer to me! Thank you so much!

  13. Sleeper Deep
    January 24, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    In Windows 8.1 or higher, you can use the app "123 Image Viewer HD" to directly open PSD files. As many other software, it requires the .psd file be saved from Photoshop with maximum compatibility.

  14. Ralph
    December 12, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Excellent Information....well done!

  15. BG
    September 28, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    The world of digital graphics is effectively dominated by Adobe, but some continue to insist certain non-Adobe, alternative graphic editors (GIMP) can open, edit and save PSD files with faithfulness to the original.

    Is this completely true, and if not, where does the comparison stop?

    The reason for asking is an Adobe-linked graphics professional has warned that PSD files cannot be handled transparently by GIMP or other non-Adobe editors. That is, GIMP or other editors will be unable to process the PSD file so that the results are indistinguishable from an Adobe graphics editor.

    • Paul Zee
      November 6, 2015 at 11:52 pm

      Hi BG,

      Unfortunately, the Adobe professional is ultimately correct.

      GIMP is a fantastic tool, and I use it in conjunction with Scribus to produce high quality results, however working round trip with Adobe .PSD files does not work reliably.

      For simple files that don't utilise certain functions available in Adobe, interacting with an Adobe generated .PSD in GIMP will be fine, however that generally isn't the case.

      There are incompatibility issues that prevent 1) all .PSD's being opened/ imported faithfully by GIMP all of the time, and 2) if GIMP updates the file, it may modify the file in ways that mean round tripping the file back to Adobe results in loss of some of the original Adobe elements within the .PSD.

      So, GIMP *may* be helpful in taking some original work done in Adobe, and converting it for ongoing futures use in GIMP (where you the abandon Adobe original going forward, converting to .xcf), however during that conversion process there will likely be complete loss of some elements and corruption or conversion of other elements. In some cases, having to recreate those elements in GIMP is going to be an acceptable outcome: in others it won't be.

      JohnP, Gary Dauphin, Dee and str8wak pointed out a specific list of known issues:

      - Adobe's Layer effects aren’t handled well (or at all) by GIMP.
      - There are also some differences between the tools in the way Groups and nested layers are handled.
      - ANY plugin generated effect must be “rasterized”.
      - Vector graphic elements in Adobe will be rasterized by GIMP on import, such as Text elements. This can be a problem if needing to scale artwork up or down for printing (GIMP doesn't currently support vector graphics: a tool like Inkscape or Scribus can).
      - GIMP has no support for CMYK format .psd files. This format is used by professional printers. You'll need to use a tool or service to convert the file to RGB first, then back again for printing.

      To limit some of the noted problems, you may want to get an Adobe user to flatten the elements in the original .PSD, and save an alternative version for you before attempting to import the file to GIMP. This may help eliminate some issues.

  16. str8wak
    October 12, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    The only problem with GIMP, for me, is the lack of CMYK support (yes, I know about seperate - doesn't work as good)... I use photoshop expressly for high res artwork to print... I would *LOVE* to use GIMP instead, but it just won't do the CMYK like PS... until it does, i'm stuck with adobe...

    *side question - anyone know if inkscape et. al., can do CMYK?

  17. Raymond Beets
    September 13, 2012 at 6:24 am

    Paint.NET also has a PSD plug-in that has been functioning well for me thus far.

  18. Saurav Azad
    September 11, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    paint .net is actually very good photo editor tool

  19. Samit Tandukar
    September 11, 2012 at 10:39 am

    zoner photo studio free can also open psd files

  20. Ahmed Khalil
    September 11, 2012 at 5:11 am

    Still PAINT.NET surprise me, i like this app so much, it can do alot of things fast and silent

  21. Ahmed Khalil
    September 11, 2012 at 5:09 am

    Their are many PS viewers avalaible for free too, with any of them you can open PS files with out Photoshop existance.

  22. Michael Jan Moratalla
    September 11, 2012 at 4:02 am

    again thanks for that I already downloaded the 2 said software above.

  23. xbalesx
    September 11, 2012 at 3:50 am

    Thank you for this...specifically the converter ideas.

  24. JohnP.
    September 11, 2012 at 3:24 am

    Layer effects aren't rendered well. PSD content should be flatten if you want them to be rendered like with photoshop. ANY plugin generated effect must be "rasterized".

  25. Deekshith Allamaneni
    September 11, 2012 at 2:46 am

    I feel GIMP is the best (at-least for me).

  26. IamAshMcLean
    September 10, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    I think you forgot Picasa. It's a good program for opening most of the Images. ;)

  27. Freecycle Me
    September 10, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    Thanks for the write up. I have tried all bar the last and I will continue with Gimp as it allows the best manipulation if not total.

  28. Gary Dauphin
    September 10, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    The only problem with GIMP, at least as far as I can tell with latest versions of both pieces of software, is that GIMP will not import the PhotoShop file AND keep its layers intact, even though GIMP fully supports layers.

    • Truefire_
      September 11, 2012 at 12:04 am

      I just opened a PSD file in the GIMP, and it kept all the layers... not sure what you did or didn't do.

      • fatihamzah
        September 11, 2012 at 3:29 am

        Sure, GIMP normally kept the layers. I think the best is GIMP for freely edit, also for open PSD files

    • Pavlo
      December 20, 2014 at 10:49 am

      My problem is that GIMP rasterizes text objects, so I must type content for web-pages myself... It is time consuming!

    • Dee
      January 3, 2015 at 1:13 am

      Yes, GIMP retains the layers as long as your opening the file in GIMP again, but try importing the file into Final Cut Pro, and the image is not longer layered...it's flattened.

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