What to do when photoshop abruptly corrupts your layers on your file

December 14, 2017

Don’t touch anything

Just wanted to get that out of the way really quickly! Before you start freaking out, just leave it alone.

I write this coming off of a short freakout while I was working on an illustration. I was minding my own business, doing the usual, when suddenly after using one of the adjustment tools, photoshop decided it was going to corrupt every visible layer on my file.

This is not the first time this happened to me.

The first time I noticed this happening was in 2012 while working on my senior studio project in Photoshop CS5. I have not experienced it before then; it had corrupted a single layer on “Stellar Directions” as I was working on it. The culprit at the time? I had gone to use the gaussian blur filter. I saved the file, not knowing what else to do at the time, and came back to the same layers being corrupted. Luckily it was only one layer at that time — not all of them. I took my computer in to the tech lab at my school and had him reformat my harddrive and reinstall photoshop.

The second instance it happened to me on “In Wolves’ Clothing” in 2016. It corrupted a couple of layers on that file but ultimately it looked a bit cool so I kept it. No harm, no foul.

Photoshop Corruption on Individual Layer
Not sure what happened, but it turned white to black and black to white, then inverted all my masks and also added weird blocks to things.

I’ve had a few more instances on my laptop where it’s ruined other smaller files — luckily no illustrations up until now — and it does not seem to have anything to do with one computer versus another. For reference, I’m running Adobe Photoshop CS6 on a 2010 iMac running OS 10.11, and also Adobe Photoshop CS5 on a 2011 MacBook Pro running OS 10.10. Both of these machines it has happened on.

I thought it was just the gaussian blur filter and cringed every time I went to use it. This time, it happened when I went to play with the levels slider. I’ve never had this happen in my years of working with CS3, and it happens so far between I’m not sure what causes it.

Photoshop Layer Corruption
Look familiar?

So after an hour freakout, I did find a way to resolve it. You can try these steps.

If it happens to you, do NOT under any circumstance save over your file.

If you must save, create a duplicate and save that.

Option 1: Try resolving an auto save file. If you’re running a newer version of Photoshop, as long as you haven’t disabled it, auto-save should be on. Mine runs every 10 minutes in the background — I think that’s the default. Save every other good item you have open in Photoshop, leaving open the affected file. Then force quit Photoshop (command, option, esc). This will cause it to close “unexpectedly”. Once you reopen Photoshop, you should have a “recovered” save state. But be aware, if it’s on a 10 minute auto save, you only have 10 minutes to get to this conclusion and hope it didn’t auto-save your corrupted file.

Option 2: This one ultimately worked for me in this instance. Click on your file in finder and click the spacebar. A big preview of your file should pop up. Does it look corrupted still? If not then you may be able to save your work! Open the file in a different program or a different machine and if it looks OK, great, save a different instance of it. If you don’t have a different program or different machine, restart photoshop (or even the entire computer) and reopen the file. This is ultimately what worked for me.

Saved from Corruption
Not completed, but restored from the corrupted state, thankfully.

So there you have it! Did I miss anything? Let me know on Facebook and I’ll add it!

Lastly, here’s the completed image:


Aimee Cozza is a freelance illustrator out of Southern New Hampshire. She graduated from the New Hampshire Institute of Art in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in illustration. Since then, she has been working in a variety of ways completing various illustrations for clients, friends, and for herself.

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