Photoshop provides a number of features to help you use images in other applications. Because of the tight integration between Adobe products, many Adobe applications can directly import Photoshop (PSD) format files and use Photoshop features like layers, layer styles, masks, transparency, and effects.

Prepare images for page-layout programs

How you prepare an image for a page-layout program depends upon the file formats the program recognizes:

  • Adobe InDesign 2.0 and later can place Photoshop PSD files. You do not need to save or export your Photoshop image to a different file format. Transparent areas are displayed and printed as expected.

  • Most other page-layout programs require you to save the image as a TIFF or EPS file. However, if the image contains fully transparent areas, you must first define those areas using a clipping path. Check the documentation for your page-layout program to determine the best format for importing Photoshop images.

If the page-layout program cannot place Photoshop PSD files, follow these steps:

  1. If your image contains a transparent background or areas that you want to be transparent, create a clipping path around the opaque areas of the image. Even if you have deleted the background around the image, you must define the area with a clipping path before converting the file to TIFF or EPS format. Otherwise, areas that are transparent may appear as white in the page-layout program.
  2. Choose File > Save As.
  3. In the Save As dialog box, choose the appropriate format from the Format menu. The format you choose depends on the final output for the document. For printing to non-PostScript printers, choose TIFF. For printing to PostScript printers, choose Photoshop EPS. Then click Save.
  4. In the TIFF Options or EPS Options dialog box, set the following options. Leave any remaining options at their default settings, and click OK.
    • TIFF Options dialog box: set Image Compression to None.

    • EPS Options dialog box (Windows): set Preview to TIFF (8 bits/pixel) and Encoding to ASCII85.

    • EPS Options dialog box (Mac OS): set Preview to Mac (8 bits/pixel) and Encoding to ASCII85.


    If the layout program displays transparent areas as white, try printing the document. Some layout programs do not display clipping paths properly but print them as expected.

Use Photoshop artwork in Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator can both open or place Photoshop files; you do not need to save or export your Photoshop image to a different file format. If you place an image into an open Illustrator file, you can incorporate the image as if it were any other element in the artwork, or you can maintain a link to the original file. Although you can’t edit a linked image within Illustrator, you can jump back to Photoshop, using the Edit Original command, to revise it. Once saved, any changes you make are reflected in the version in Illustrator.

  1. If the image file is open in Photoshop, save it as a Photoshop (PSD) file, and close the file.
  2. In Adobe Illustrator, do one of the following:
    • To open the file directly in Illustrator, choose File > Open. Locate the image in the Open File dialog box, and click Open.

    • To incorporate the image into an existing Illustrator file, choose File > Place. Locate the file in the Place dialog box, make sure the Link option is not selected, and click Place.

    • To place the image into a file but maintain a link to the original, choose File > Place. In the Place dialog box, locate the file, select the Link option, and click Place. Illustrator centers the image in the open illustration. A red X through the image indicates it is linked and not editable.

  3. If you opened or placed the image without linking, the Photoshop Import dialog box appears. Choose the appropriate option as follows, and click OK:
    • Convert Photoshop Layers To Objects to convert the layers to Illustrator objects. This option preserves masks, blending modes, transparency, and (optionally) slices and image maps. However, it does not support Photoshop adjustment layers and layer effects.

    • Flatten Photoshop Layers To A Single Image to merge all the layers into a single layer. This option preserves the look of the image, but you can no longer edit individual layers.

Create transparency using image clipping paths

You can use image clipping paths to define transparent areas in images you place in page-layout applications. In addition, Mac OS users can embed Photoshop images in many word-processor files.

You may want to use only part of a Photoshop image when printing it or placing it in another application. For example, you may want to use a foreground object and exclude the background. An image clipping path lets you isolate the foreground object and make everything else transparent when the image is printed or placed in another application.


Paths are vector-based; therefore, they have hard edges. You cannot preserve the softness of a feathered edge, such as in a shadow, when creating an image clipping path.

Photoshop With and without clipping path
Image imported into Illustrator or InDesign without image clipping path (left), and with image clipping path (right)

  1. Draw a work path that defines the area of the image you want to show.


    If you’ve already selected the area of the image you want to show, you can convert the selection to a work path. See Convert a selection to a path for instructions.

  2. In the Paths panel, save the work path as a path.
  3. Choose Clipping Path from the Paths panel menu, set the following options, and click OK:
    • For Path, choose the path you want to save.

    • For Flatness, leave the flatness value blank to print the image using the printer’s default value. If you experience printing errors, enter a flatness value to determine how the PostScript interpreter approximates the curve. The lower the flatness value, the greater the number of straight lines used to draw the curve and the more accurate the curve. Values can range from 0.2 to 100. In general, a flatness setting from 8 to 10 is recommended for high-resolution printing (1200 dpi to 2400 dpi), and a setting from 1 to 3 for low-resolution printing (300 dpi to 600 dpi).

  4. If you plan to print the file using process colors, convert the file to CMYK mode.
  5. Save the file by doing one of the following:
    • To print the file using a PostScript printer, save in Photoshop EPS, DCS, or PDF format.

    • To print the file using a non-PostScript printer, save in TIFF format and export to Adobe InDesign, or to Adobe PageMaker® 5.0 or later.

Print image clipping paths

Sometimes an imagesetter cannot interpret image clipping paths, or an image clipping path is too complex for a printer, resulting in a Limitcheck error or a general PostScript error. Sometimes you can print a complex path on a low-resolution printer without difficulty but run into problems when printing the same path on a high-resolution printer. This is because the lower-resolution printer simplifies the path, using fewer line segments to describe curves than the high-resolution printer does.

You can simplify an image clipping path in the following ways:

  • Manually reduce the number of anchor points on the path.

  • Increase the tolerance setting used to create the path. To do this, load the existing path as a selection, choose Make Work Path from the Paths panel menu, and increase the tolerance setting (4 to 6 pixels is a good starting value). Then re-create the image clipping path.

Export paths to Adobe Illustrator

The Paths To Illustrator command lets you export Photoshop paths as Adobe Illustrator files. Exporting paths in this way simplifies the task of combining Photoshop and Illustrator artwork or using Photoshop features with Illustrator artwork. For example, you may want to export a pen tool path and stroke it to use as a trap with a Photoshop clipping path you are printing in Illustrator. You can also use this feature to align Illustrator text or objects with Photoshop paths.

  1. Draw and save a path or convert an existing selection into a path.
  2. Choose File > Export > Paths To Illustrator.
  3. Choose a location for the exported path, and enter a filename. Make sure Work Path is chosen from the Path menu to export the path.
  4. Click Save.
  5. Open the file in Adobe Illustrator. You can manipulate the path or use the path to align Illustrator objects that you add to the file.

    Note that the crop marks in Adobe Illustrator reflect the dimensions of the Photoshop image. The position of the path within the Photoshop image is maintained, provided you don’t change the crop marks or move the path.

Photoshop is an OLE 2.0 server, which means it supports embedding or linking an image in an OLE container application (usually a word-processing or page-layout program). For example, you can insert Photoshop files and selections into other OLE applications, such as Adobe PageMaker, Adobe FrameMaker, and Microsoft Word, using copy and paste or other methods.

  • Linking lets you place a link in the OLE container file that refers to the Photoshop file on the hard drive.

  • Embedding lets you insert the Photoshop file into the OLE container file.

    After the image is in the container application, you can double-click it for editing in Photoshop. When you close the image in Photoshop, it is updated in the container application.

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Copy a selection in Photoshop, and insert it in your OLE container application using the application’s Paste Special command. Refer to your word-processing or page-layout application documentation for more instructions. Pasted selections can only be embedded, not linked.

    • Use your OLE container application’s Insert Object command to insert a new Photoshop image or existing Photoshop file as an OLE-embedded or OLE-linked object. Refer to your word-processing or page-layout application documentation for instructions.

Insert an unlinked screen-resolution bitmap into an OLE application

  1. With the Move tool , drag a selection to the OLE container application. When you drop the object, it appears as a 72‑ppi bitmap, which cannot be automatically updated in Photoshop.

Modify and update a linked or embedded image in an OLE application

  1. Double-click the linked or embedded image in your word-processing or page-layout application to start Photoshop (if it is not already running), and open the image for editing.
  2. Modify the image as desired.
  3. Do one of the following:
    • For embedded images, close the file, or choose File > Update or File > Close & Return to [application name].

    • For linked images, save and close the file.


    You can also modify linked files without first opening the container document. The linked image is updated the next time you open the document in its OLE container application.

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