Photoshop – difference between baseline standard, optimized and progressive?

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I’m using Photoshop to save my painting in JPG format by using the “Save As…” dialog (as opposed to save for web). Towards the end, I get the option to choose from three file formats, and I’m wondering what the difference between these is? The options are:

  • baseline standard
  • optimized
  • progressive

I think progressive is the one used for web, but I’m not certain. I’m simply trying to save the file in the highest quality possible.

-Jim G


First off, our answer applies to the latest version of Photoshop (our link gets you a discount).

  • Baseline (Standard)
    • Pro: Compatible and recognizable by most wev browsers.
    • Con: Does not display the image until your browser has fully downloaded it.
  • Baseline (Optimized):
    • Pro: Reduces file size by optimizing colors in the image (ie. only using those necessary).
    • Con: Not supported by all browsers (but it is supported by virtually all those in use today).
  • Progressive (Scanning):
    • Pro: Downloads the images in passes, or “scans,” allowing it to be viewed before it’s completely downloaded. The first scan will be blurry and low resolution, and with each scan the image quality improves.
    • Con: This is an outdated technology that played a large role with low bandwidth internet (think dial-up and DSL) back in the day. It’s hardly necessary given today’s high speed connections.

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Still there is an unanswered question about the quality. Some argue that it’s “better” to save in progressive rather than standard, but that pretty much depends on what you want to do. So far in image editing everything and anything that reorganize, compress, redispose or reinterpret information in any way will cause a loss in quality, and I suppose that still is a valid point. So, less fiddling around with the original image info (standard) will probably lead to better quality while more fiddling around with original image info (optimized or progressive) leads to less. Probably, so feel free to dismiss or confirm. I mean in your daily use, who cares? But if you bag a five digit account for a company blip you might wanna play it safe.

Someone already pointed that out. I didn’t see that and I can’t see any delete/remove buttons. Sorry…

Progressive should be the default when publishing on the web. There are more people online today with low bandwidth speeds than at any time in history. Many in developed countries still don’t have broadband connections.

Sounds good, I’ll choose baseline standard. Thanks!

Alex Schenker (Admin)

Since you’re shooting for the highest image quality possible, I would choose baseline standard. This will make the least amount of changes to your image. Optimized compresses the image to save space, and progressive loads the image one line at a time, as opposed to loading the entire image at once.