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Personally, I love Photoshop’s PSD file format. It’s a way to save everything that’s going on in the image editor at a given moment, so you can pick up work later, or incorporate slight changes in an elaborate file without having to start from scratch.

However, a lot of people – image artists included – aren’t ready or willing to spend the money for this expensive image editing suite. Whether your friend send you an important file, or you downloaded a PSD file from the Internet, it can be a real chore to work with if you don’t own a copy of Adobe Photoshop yourself.

Luckily, there’s some free tools that allow us to work around this restriction; free applications that allow you to view and edit a PSD file in a familiar editing environment.

Paint.NET + PSD Plugin

Paint.NET is a great, free image editor. It’s no Photoshop, but nevertheless a very capable and user-friendly image editing suite. However, if you’re partial to the application, you might have noticed that it lacks the ability to work with PSD files. That’s where the Paint.NET PSD Plugin comes in.

open psd files without photoshop

After downloading, copy the PhotoShop.dll to the FileTypes folder that’s located in the Paint.NET application directory. The next time you run Paint.NET, the Photoshop PSD file will be recognised, and can be opened like any other file.

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GIMP

GIMP is a free open-source image editor, and is often said to be the closest thing to Photoshop, feature-wise. More complex than Paint.NET, it also sports a much steeper learning curve. If you’re new to GIMP, but interested in learning how to work with the application, we have a number of articles and tutorials to get you started.

open psd files without adobe

Similar to Paint.NET, GIMP can be extended by a wide array of plugins. However, for Photoshop PSD support, none of those are needed. GIMP supports the PSD file format out of the box, so you can jump right in after installing the application.

IrfanView

If you’re only interested in viewing the Photoshop PSD file, there’s no need to install a full-fledged image editing suite. Instead, take a look at IrfanView.

You may have heard of IrfanView before, or even used it. It’s been around for a long time, and although it’s starting to look something like a relic of a previous era, it has in no way been rendered obsolete as an image viewer.

open psd files without adobe

At only 1.5 MB in file size, it’s an incredibly compact and versatile image viewer. As a rule of thumb, if it’s an image file, IrfanView will know what to do with it. The same is true for Adobe Photoshop’s PSD file, which IrfanView can open by default.

Go2convert

If it’s just the occasional PSD file that’s thrown your way, it might not even be necessary to install anything at all. Instead, Go2convert is a website that offers to convert Photoshop PSD files on the fly.

open psd files without photoshop

To get started, just upload your PSD file to the website – no log in required. You then choose one of an incredible amount of different output formats, including most standard image file types. After giving the green light, an archive file will be generated for your convenience. Included in this archive are all the separate layers, and a single merged image.

What tools do you use to work with images? Was it included in this round-up? Let us know in the comments section below the article!

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

    very nice

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

    firealpaca and medibang also can open/edit psd files!

  3. 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.

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

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

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

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

  9. 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.

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

    Excellent Information....well done!

  11. 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.

  12. 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?

  13. 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.

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

    paint .net is actually very good photo editor tool

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

    zoner photo studio free can also open psd files

  16. 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

  17. 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.

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

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

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

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

  20. 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".

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

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

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

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

  23. 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.

  24. 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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