DDS files stand for DirectDraw Surface Container. This format is developed by Microsoft and often used for game development to store textures and other assets. DDS containers are essential for creating 3D environments inside games.
Since it’s a container(like a zip file), you can use it to hold any kind of data, including photographs and videos.
In order to open DDS files and save them using Adobe Photoshop, you’ll need to use a Photoshop DDS plugin.
The plugins are only available for Windows as of this writing. One must be installed manually by digging into the folders of your Photoshop installation, and the other can be configured using an installer.
There is an option that you can use for Mac OS X computers, but it’s an older plugin and there is no guarantee of how effective it still is.
There’s also an open-source plugin that you can use with both operating systems.
DDS is also available from Nvidia plugin so if you’d like to dig deeper into DDS files, here’s a link to NVIDIA’s official page where there are more detailed explanations of what can be achieved with a DDS file.
You can utilize DDS files to make texutres and gaming environments from your photographs. The DDS plugin does have a bit of a learning curve, though, so be prepared to invest a little bit of time into learning the ins and outs.
How to install the Photoshop DDS plugin
Intel Texture Works Plugin (Windows)
Download the plugin file from the Github Repo, which you can find here. This plugin was developed by GameTechDev, and it’s one of the best DDS plugins out there.
The only drawback of this plugin is that there is no DXT5 compression.
You’ll need to close Photoshop before proceeding.
Once you’ve downloaded the plugin file, open the zip file and find the file you need: choose Win32 for 32-bit systems and x64 if you have a 64-bit system.
Navigate to the Program Files folder on your computer and find the Photoshop installation folder. Inside, you will find a folder named “Plugins”. Open the folder.
Drag or copy/paste the DDS plugin file you downloaded earlier into the Plugins folder. You’ll need to have Administrator access to do this.
In the window in which you have the Photoshop folder open, go up one level and navigate to Presets => Scripts.
Next, In the folder you unzipped from the download, find the Photoscripts folder. Copy the two files from this folder to the Scripts folder you opened earlier.
That’s it! Now, when you open up Photoshop again, you’ll be able to open and manipulate DDS files.
If you’d like to save DDS files, choose Intel texture works as the file format when saving.
Nvidia DDS Plugin for Photoshop
Step 1: Download the DDS Plugin
You can download the DDS Plugin from NVIDIA once you open a free developer account with them.
Step 2: Installing the DDS Plugin
Right after downloading, proceed to install the new add-in. As in the image above, click on the application and set it up just like any other new application you run on your laptop.
Step 3: Installation (Continued)
Once you click for the installation to begin, this dialogue box appears instructing you on the various steps to take for a successful installation.
Step 4: Installation (Continued)
As seen in the image above, another step to installing this add-in application is to accept the terms and conditions of the license agreement to proceed to install the application entirely. Once you read through, select the accept terms and conditions and click on Next to continue the installation process.
Step 5: Tool registration
The next step in the installation is Tool registration. For that, a dialogue box appears on your screen requesting you to fill in your Name, Organization, Email address, and ask whether or not you would like to receive notifications about the add-in application via email.
Once you fill in all these details, you can proceed to the next phase by clicking Next on the dialogue box.
Step 6: Choosing the installation location
The next screen in the installation process will prompt you to select the location to install in.. In a dialogue box, the base Photoshop directory’s request to use pops up with the option to change the location.
Click on change. The location you’ll use should be the location of Adobe Photoshop. This means that you are placing it right within the folder where your Photoshop is. For this illustration, the location path shown is Local disk C/Program Files/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop 2020/
Proceed to click on Next.
Step 7: Trying out the Plugin
The next step is to incorporate the plugin into your Photoshop software and try it out. Open your Photoshop, and proceed to Edit and click on it. On the drop-down menu, you’ll see click on Preferences, and on the new drop-down menu, click on Plugins.
Once you click on Plugins, a dialogue box appears on the screen. On it, you’ll find the option of Enable generator. Tick the box, click Ok, and you are done.
By completing this process, your Photoshop can now save DDS files without problems.
Open source Photoshop DDS Plugin
If you’re using an older version of Photoshop or use a Mac, then you can use an open source DDS plugin to create and work with a DDS file.
The only open source plugin that’s available is one developed by Brendan from Fnord Software. The plugin itself is quite old and it’s unclear when it was last updated, but the last comment is from 2020 and it seems it worked for those users.
If you don’t want to use Photoshop
If you don’t have a Windows computer and/or you don’t want to use Photoshop to work with a DDS file, consider using GIMP, an open source image editing software.
GIMP also has an external plugin you can install to work with the DDS file format.
DDS (Direct Draw Surface) files are container files that store images with complex textures. They can be essential tools for game development, so if you’re looking to save DDS files or open them, one of the three installation methods detailed above should get you on your way.
The Nvidia plugin is the easiest one to use, by far, as the installation is fully automated and you can just fire up Photoshop and start using it.