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No more bad TIFFs: Make the right choices to ensure a successful save

Added on Sunday 27th of March 2005 12:09 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


TIFF, Save, Compression, Cross-Platform, Options, Image Pyramid


TIFF is ubiquitous across the image-editing industry, but the options for saving this format are far from standardized. In fact, many users simply ignore the TIFF Options dialog box when it’s presented—but, this can cause problems down the road. We’ll explain why it’s important to pay attention to your TIFF options and what you can do to ensure the most compatible TIFF file.


To expose the inner workings of the TIFF format, we’ll

       Delve into the extensive range of TIFF options available so you know which ones are important.

       Explain how to choose from the myriad of options in the Save As dialog box.

       Make smart selections to suit your needs in the TIFF Options dialog box.



Most design studios, from big to large, utilize a cross-platform environment. Perhaps it’s to run a back-end server or simply pass files from one person to another, but platform compatibilities do arise. The TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) format helps to assuage many of these incompatibilities, but little problems can still crop up. For example, we often save a support file on a Mac but then archive the file on a Windows machine. Guess what? No thumbnails, both in Microsoft Explorer and Microsoft Word. Only after some serious testing did we find the right mix of TIFF options to make it work as we wanted. As the inspiration for this article, we want to show you how to make smart choices when saving a TIFF to ensure that your file is ready for action wherever you use it.


Save right and it could save you

First things first—what are TIFFs good for? TIFFs were created to offer a file format that not only was cross-platform, but would also work in almost any image-editing application. If that isn’t enough, TIFF offers these (among others) advantages:

            Flexible color space. Supports CMYK, RGB, Lab, Indexed Color, and Grayscale.

            Layers. Saves layered Photoshop files, but you can only access the layers in Photoshop. If you open the file in another application, only the flattened file opens.

            Huge file size. Allows for 4 GB files in CS, 2 GB in earlier versions.

            Alpha and Spot Channels. Saves different types of channels for printing or layout use.

            Annotations. Preserves any notes made using the Notes tool, although these Notes are only visible in Photoshop.


Don’t get into a TIFF

While there are standards for just about everything these days, there are always many more exceptions to any rule. In the case of TIFF, using the default settings isn’t always the best choice unless you don’t have any idea of how the file will be used. If you know which operating system or application, whether the file is destined for the web or print (or both), or if file size is an issue, you can make intelligent choices that will keep you and the receiver of your file working smoothly. But first, you have to save your file.


To save a file as a TIFF:

1.          Select File > Save if the file hasn’t been saved before or File > Save As if it has.

2.          In the Save As dialog box, name your file and choose your saving location.

3.          Select TIFF from the Format pop-up menu.

Now, you can make several saving selections based on the composition of your file using the Save section of the Save As dialog box, as shown in Figure A. If these elements aren’t present in your file, these options will be unavailable.

            Alpha Channels. Good for using an alpha channel as a clipping path in a layout application like Adobe InDesign.

            Layers. Useful if you’re unsure if the receiver will have Photoshop. Otherwise, the file opens flattened and can be printed and manipulated in other applications without a problem.

            Annotations. As mentioned earlier, saves any notes made with the Notes tool.

            Spot Colors. Saves any spot...