How to Prevent Photoshop from Flattening Layers When Converting the Color Profile

When you convert color profiles in Photoshop, it will flatten all the layers by default. If you don’t want the layers flattened, here’s the simple fix.

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By default, when you go to change the color profile (or color space) of a document in Photoshop, it will flatten all the layers. If that’s not what you want, there’s a really simple fix. But it’s not one that exactly leaps out at you, unless you know it’s there.

When you go to convert your color profile from, say, AdobeRGB to sRGB or from AdobeRGB to ProPhoto, you’re given several options on the popup screen. (Save your file first, then Edit > Convert to Profile)

The very bottom option is “Flatten Image to Preserve Appearance.” By default, it’s checked. Uncheck that to stop the layers from flattening during the color profile conversion.

Convert to Profile1

You’ll then get another popup, this one asking whether you want to rasterize the smart objects. This really depends on how complicated your smart objects are, but for simple smart objects the “Don’t Rasterize” option works well.

Convert to Profile2

And that’s it. As I said, it’s not complicated, but it’s much easier if you know that the option exists.

David Coleman / Photographer
by David Coleman

I'm a professional freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. More »

7 thoughts on “How to Prevent Photoshop from Flattening Layers When Converting the Color Profile”

  1. Now, my only problem is that it won’t allow me the option to check or uncheck the “flatten image” box. It’s unclickable. Why is that?

    Reply
  2. Is there a way to unflatten your layers once you’ve already saved a file as an srgb? Looking to edit work I’ve already saved as srgb and can’t seem to unflatten / show the layers again to edit. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
  3. How on earth did you get there? This looks like it is for mac and I can find nothing for windows. Beating my head against a wall for over an hour on this. I just want a color font on a black and white image??? OMFG!!! Why is this so hard???????

    Reply
  4. Just wanted to THANK YOU! That was an easy fix… but it also made the biggest difference to my finished-file and the evening art project on the horizon ;)

    Reply
  5. Whoa, thanks! This saved me quite a headache, it seemed so unusual that you could not change the color profile once you worked on an image (in my case, a black and white scanned image I wanted to add some color highlights to).

    Reply

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