While, JPEG is a very popular digital image file format, the TIFF file format is more versatile and can offer a higher quality image. TIFF is also one of the most commonly accepted file formats for images destined for the printed page. Saving a TIFF file presents a number of options in the “Save” dialogue box, some of which are fairly arcane and a trifle confusing. Read on to find out what all the options mean and how, when and why to use a TIFF file.
To save a file as a TIFF in Photoshop, choose “File> Save As…” and choose the TIFF option, which should appear at the bottom of the list.
The compression options at the top of the resulting dialogue box are very useful, as they allow you to really reduce the size of the saved file without compromising image quality. The “LZW” option is probably the best choice, as it’s “lossless” and does a good job of compressing the file. The only exception to this is when the picture being saved has a lot of detail, like lots of bare tree branches. This data won’t compress as well as something that has a lot of clear areas; a clear blue sky, for example. In the case of a very detailed image, the “ZIP” compression option may offer superior compression. The “JPEG” compression option should probably be avoided, as it is a “lossy” strategy for saving and therefore not very high-quality.
Now that TIFF files can be saved with layers in Photoshop, there’s really little reason to use the PSD (Photoshop) format, because TIFF can compress the files without damaging them and the saved file will be smaller than a comparable PSD file. Note the options at the bottom of the dialog that deal with how layers are dealt with in terms of compression. Again, stay away from the lossy option of “JPEG” here.
The “Pixel Order” options of Interleaved and Per Channel options are relatively new (previously, Photoshop only wrote “Interleaved” TIFF files). The idea is that the “Per Channel” pixel order allows for faster saves and slightly better compression, but it’s sometimes not as compatible with other software packages that read TIFF files. So, it’s best to use “Interleaved” if you don’t know where the file is going. If it’s only staying on your own computer and you’re using it only in Photoshop and other Adobe products, there is some value in getting the slightly faster file save and slightly smaller file size of saving with the “Per Pixel” order. But… go with “Interleaved” for a project that’s going “outside.”
The “Byte Order” option has been around for a long time. It’s a holdover from when the TIFF file standard wasn’t so “standard” (some people used to say that “TIFF” stood for “Thousands of Incompatible File Formats.” For the record, it really means “Tagged Image File Format”). The option to save in Mac or PC byte order is there because “back in the day” software that read TIFF files needed to have different formatting if the files were going to be read on Macintosh computers or Windows computers. This is no longer the case and pretty much every software package that reads and writes TIFFs on either platform does so regardless of the byte order that the file is saved with.
Another option is the “Image Pyramid” checkbox. This is there to include compatibility for software packages that can use “multiresolution” files. Oddly, Photoshop isn’t one of those; it opens a file at the maximum resolution every time. But some software (like InDesign, for example) can display only the needed resolution at a given time. If there’s an “image pyramid” saved with the file, then you’re saving the multiresolution file. If you don’t use much software other than Photoshop, don’t worry about it.
Next, there’s a checkbox for “Save Transparency.” If you have a file that has a single layer and some transparent areas on that layer, this option will save an image with that transparency intact. In the screenshot above, it’s grayed out because the image that was being saved didn’t have any transparent areas.
Lastly, there is a “Layer Compression;” a set of options for saving images that contain layers (grayed out in the screenshot above). They’re fairly self-explanatory, in that “RLE” (Run Length Encoding) saves more quickly, but produces larger saved files. Using the ZIP option will take longer, but should result in smaller file sizes. The third option will discard the layers and save a copy of your file.
There you go… TIFF Files; a great alternative that offers higher quality files than JPEG and, with compression, smaller file sizes than PSD.