What is a PSD format

The 7 best ways to open a PSD file without Photoshop

Photoshop definitely got it all right with the PSD file format. It saves the full status of an image that is still being edited so that you can finish work and continue later. When working with pictures, it is a good idea to always keep a PSD copy in case you need to make changes to the picture later.

The problem is that PSD is not an open format. While PNGs, JPGs, and BMPs can be opened in almost any image editor, PSDs can only be opened by certain apps that know the file format. Your best bet Pay for a subscription to Adobe Photoshop CC.

Or use one of the many free options. Are they as good as Adobe Photoshop? No. In fact, most of the following apps can't really edit PSDs. You can only view PSDs as flattened images. That's the cost of proprietary software. But if you only need flattened image viewing anyway, then you should definitely try these options.


If you're trying to open and edit a PSD file for free, GIMP should be your first port of call. Not only is it the best free alternative to Photoshop, but it's also available on Windows, Mac, and Linux so you can learn it once and use it on all of your systems.

And if it's not clear, yes, PSD support is built right into the app. You don't have to work with third-party plugins or anything else.

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

The beauty of the GIMP is that it can actually process the individual layers of a PSD file. The downside is that some layers are unreadable for the GIMP or need to be rasterized in order for the GIMP to work with them. Saving to the PSD can ruin the file if you later want to reopen it in Photoshop.

GIMP is open source software that offers several advantages (e.g. being able to view the source code at any time).

Download: GIMP (free)

2. Paint.NET

I've always respected Paint.NET because it knows exactly what it wants to be: an image editing program that is better than Microsoft Paint without being as bloated or intimidating as GIMP and Adobe Photoshop. It's right in the middle.

However, if you want to make it more powerful, you can install various third-party plugins. And if you do, there is one plugin that you should definitely be using: the PSD plugin.

  1. Download the PSD plugin.
  2. Extract the contents of the zip file.
  3. Copy that PhotoShop.dll File.
  4. Navigate to the Paint.NET installation folder (mine is under C: / Programs / paint.net).
  5. Paste that in PhotoShop.dll File to Data types Subfolder.
  6. Start Paint.NET.

With the plugin installed, you should be able to open PSD files without any problems. Although Paint.NET is usually good at handling PSD layers, there are occasional problems because Paint.NET does not support all Photoshop features.

Download: PSD plug-in for Paint.NET (free)

3. Photopea Online Editor

If you've never heard of Photopea, something is in store for you. This lesser-known web app is essentially similar to an online version of Adobe Photoshop or GIMP. It's obviously not so good that web apps rarely get close to their desktop counterparts - but it's still useful.

The layout is similar so you will feel right at home. Do you want to open a PSD file? It's easy.

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

The great thing is that Photopea can read individual layers, a level of functionality that I would never expect from a free web app. However, it's great that you can edit your PSDs for free regardless of your location. Just get started with any computer.

Website:Photopea online editor

4. XnView

XnView is a freeware image organizer that allows you to browse and organize your collections of images in a variety of ways, as well as edit them using simple image editing tools such as color palettes, filters, effects, rotations, and more.

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

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

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

Download: XnView (free)

5. IrfanView

IrfanView is similar to XnView in that it mainly serves as an image viewer and converter. While it doesn't support as many formats as XnView, it does support all the major formats - and is that all that matters?

While IrfanView can render slightly flattened PSDs, it will not be able to edit or save them unless you export to another format first.

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

We recommend keeping this app on your system. Use it as your primary picture viewer and you will never be disappointed. The best thing about me is that it's extremely easy and fast. You can also further improve IrfanView with some useful plugins.

Download: IrfanView (free)

6. Google Drive

Using Google Drive as a file viewer may seem strange, but you absolutely can - and it works pretty well. You can find out more about this in our Master Guide to Google Drive. However, it is important that PSDs can be viewed on the web via Google Drive.

  1. Visit the Google Drive page.
  2. click My ride and choose Upload data…
  3. Find and select the PSD file.
  4. click to open.
  5. Double-click the file to view it.

There are several other methods to upload pictures to Google Drive. However, this is easiest when you only want to view a single file. When would you ever use Google Drive for this? When you are not on your own PC and cannot install other software.

Website: Google Drive

7. Go2Convert

This last option is not a way to view, open, or edit PSD files. It's just a way to convert PSD files to other formats like PNG and JPG. For this reason, if you ever want to open PSDs, you can skip the middle steps.

  1. click Select file.
  2. Navigate and select your PSD file.
  3. click to open.
  4. click Upload now.
  5. Once the upload is complete, you can choose dozen of formats to convert. Optionally, you can even resize the image and choose what type of compression to use (for specific formats).

Easy and uncomplicated. Nothing more about it.

Website: Go2Convert

Why not use Adobe Photoshop?

These solutions definitely work. So if you are satisfied, keep using them. However, if you are looking to do some serious PSD editing in the future, then you should definitely consider subscribing to Adobe Photoshop CC.

You can certainly get by with the GIMP, but there are limitations and quirks here as well. GIMP is fine for casual users, but Photoshop is objectively better. Check out our GIMP vs. Photoshop Comparison GIMP vs. Photoshop: Which One Is Right For You? GIMP vs Photoshop: Which One Is Right For You? Photoshop is the most popular photo editing app, and GIMP is the best free alternative to it. Which one should you use? Read More

Learn more about: Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, Image Editor.