How to Save Images for the Web in Photoshop

One of the more critical functions that Photoshop offers is the Save for Web/Devices feature.

Why use it? While you could just save your file in a standard method, such File / Save As, the Save for Web/Devices feature does crucial three things.

  • It optimizes the file dimensions (for example: 150 px X 150 px) allowing it to fit into web pages cleaner and look better and less distorted.
  • It optimizes the file size (for example: 23 kb) allowing it to download faster.
  • It saves in the RGB (or monitor) format as opposed to the CMYK (print) format.

This tool works great for outputting Twitter icons, Facebook profile pics, product files, blog images and source files for favicons.


Open Your Source File

File/Open Photoshop
Screenshot by Bryan Haines

To get started, you’ll need to go to File/Open to open your file. It can be in any format – jpg, gif, psd, png or others. As long as Photoshop can open it, you can output it for the web.

Saving Your File for the Web

File Save Photoshop CS5
Screenshot by Bryan Haines

We are going to skip ahead to saving for the Web, assuming that you’ve made whatever adjustments you require. Obviously, if you need to edit the image, do that first and continue with this step later.

Go to File / Save for Web/Devices and click. It is about halfway down the drop-down menu.

This process doesn’t change your original file at all. You are creating a new file. Once you complete this tutorial and return to your original image in Photoshop you’ll need to save that file if you’ve made any changes to it. It’s important to name your new image different than your original one. Often simply adding _web to the file name will work well. (example: filename_web.jpg)

Adjust Comparison View to 2-Up

Side by Side Comparison Photoshop CS5
Screenshot by Bryan Haines

Depending on your settings, you may need to adjust the view here. What you want is a left and right comparison of your image. The left side will show the original, the right will show the image quality at the current settings.

If you look along the top of the window, you’ll see the following options: Original, Optimized, 2-Up, 4-Up. For most purposes, 2-Up is what you’ll want.

Set Your Viewing Size to 100%

Adjusting view to 100% in Photoshop CS5
Screenshot by Bryan Haines

To ensure you are viewing at 100% check the option in the bottom left corner of the screen.

It’s important to remember that if you view your image a higher than 100% it will look grainy or possibly even indecipherable. Always work with the image at 100%.

Chose File Dimensions

Choosing File Dimensions in Photoshop CS5
Screenshot by Bryan Haines

Dimensions for the web are almost always in pixels (px). It is important to keep the proportions correct. Beside the image box is a small image of a chain link. What that does is scale the width when you adjust the height. For example, an image that is 600px by 400px. If you reduce the width to 300px, the file will automatically scale to a height of 200px. If it is unchecked the image will be distorted.

You also have the option to scale the image by percentages.

Chose the File Type for Export

Choosing the File Type for Export in Photoshop CS5
Screenshot by Bryan Haines

In this option, the type of original file doesn’t matter. You can choose whatever file you need.

Note: to begin the process you’ll need to click on the image on the right. The image needs to be selected to be processed.

The most common is jpg for the web – it is the smallest file format which means it downloads faster for your site visitors. If you have transparency chose png-24. If you don’t know what transparency means you should chose jpg.

Choose Image Quality

Choose Image Quality in Photoshop CS5
Screenshot by Bryan Haines

Each of the three jpg options (High, Medium, Low) have preset quality settings – which can all be manually adjusted. If you are viewing at 100% you can decide what quality you need. To adjust the level of zoom, see Step 5. The image will look the same online as it does in the preview window.

If you chose anything other than jpg you can skip this step.

Save Your File

Save your File in Photoshop CS5
Screenshot by Bryan Haines

Once you have made the necessary adjustments you are ready to save the file. Click “Save” and chose the folder and file name you want for this new image.

Congratulations! Your new file is ready to be used online.