Hardware Recommendations for Photoshop
Like most software developers, Adobe maintains a list of system requirements for Photoshop that can be used to help ensure the hardware in your computer system will work with their software. However, most "system requirements" lists tend to cover only the very basics of what hardware is needed to run the software, not what hardware will actually give the best performance. In addition, sometimes these lists can be outdated, show old hardware revisions, or simply contain sub-optimal hardware.
Because of how inconsistent these lists can be, here at Puget Systems we run and publish our own set of extensive hardware benchmarks to ensure that the systems we sell are perfectly tailored for Photoshop. Even better, you don't have to take our word for what to buy, you can browse and examine all our testing in detail in our Photoshop hardware articles. Based on all our testing, we have our own list of recommended hardware for an Adobe Photoshop PC.
The processor (or CPU) is one of the most important pieces of a Photoshop workstation. While GPU acceleration is gaining traction, right now your choice of CPU is usually going to make a much larger impact on overall system performance. However, be aware a CPU that is theoretically more powerful is not always better since there is a limit to the number of cores that Photoshop can effectively take advantage of. In many cases, spending more money can actually result in worse performance so it is more important to get the right CPU over a more expensive one.
What CPU is best for Photoshop?
Currently, there are multiple processors that are effectively tied for the top spot in terms of Photoshop performance. The AMD Ryzen 9 3900X, AMD Ryzen 7 3800X, and Intel Core i9 9900K 8 Core all perform withing a few percent of each other. These CPUs are excellent for everything in Photoshop and are all a solid choice.
Do more cores make Photoshop faster?
Adobe has been making improvements in order to make more effective use of higher core count CPUs, but for now, having beyond ~8 cores is typically not going to give you any higher performance.
Does Photoshop work better with Intel or AMD CPUs?
At the moment, Intel and AMD are pretty much tied at the high end (Intel Core i9 9900K vs AMD Ryzen 9 3900X), but AMD has a lead in the mid/low-end with their 3rd generations AMD Ryzen CPUs.
Should I use a Xeon CPU for Photoshop?
In the past, Xeon CPUs were more robust than their Core series counterparts. Today, however, there is very little functional difference between the two Intel product families for workstations. In addition, Xeon CPUs are almost always clocked slightly lower than the Core i7/i9 CPUs which means that you will be giving up a small amount of performance to gain a set of features that are typically only useful for servers.
Does Photoshop perform well with a Dual Xeon/EPYC CPU setup?
Since Photoshop cannot effectively utilize higher core counts, workstations with two physical CPUs tend to do relatively poorly. Not only is there additional overhead when there are multiple CPUs in the system, these CPUs also tend to be clocked lower than their single CPU counterparts which results in even lower performance.
Recent Photoshop CPU articles:
Adobe has been increasing support for GPU acceleration in Photoshop over the last few years, but currently there are only a handful of effects that can utilize the video card. Adobe maintains a list of effects that are GPU accelerated in their GPU FAQ: Photoshop GPU card FAQ
Although Adobe is constantly expanding GPU acceleration support to Photoshop, the current demand on the video card is actually relatively light. Even an entry video card will be able to provide a huge boost in performance for GPU accelerated effects but there is a sharp drop in performance benefit by using anything more than a mid-range video card. A few tasks may be able to see a performance benefit to using a high-end card like the RTX 2080, but a GTX 1060 or RTX 2070 is going to get you within a few percent of the best performance possible.
What GPU (video card) is best for Photoshop?
For Photoshop, it is extremely important to have a supported GPU, but the actual performance of that card will not make a major impact on performance. Compared to the high-end RTX 2080 Ti, even a GTX 1060 Ti is only about 4% slower. Once you get to a GTX 2060 SUPER, the difference is only a few percent.
Is onboard graphics good enough for Photoshop?
Photoshop can run just fine with onboard graphics, but be aware that even a low-end GPU will be nearly twice as fast for GPU-accelerated tasks. In addition, most onboard graphics can only use 512-1024MB of memory which is OK for a single 1080p display, but if you have multiple or 4K displays we highly recommend using a dedicated graphics card.
How much VRAM (video card memory) does Photoshop need?
While a higher-end GPU may not give significantly higher raw performance, it is essential that your video card has enough VRAM or video card memory for your projects. However, unless you have multiple 4K displays, even 4GB of VRAM should be plenty. Since all the video cards we currently offer for Photoshop have at least 6GB of VRAM, this should not be a concern for most users.
Does Photoshop need a Quadro card?
Photoshop works great with a Quadro card, but since 10-bit display support was added for GeForce in late July 2019, the main advantage of Quadro is the larger VRAM and slightly higher reliability.
Does Photoshop run better with NVIDIA or AMD?
At the moment, NVIDIA has the lead over AMD in terms of performance. We have also found that NVIDIA cards tend to be slightly more reliable (both from a hardware and driver standpoint), which is why we typically use NVIDIA over AMD unless there is a clear benefit to using an AMD card.
Can Photoshop use the new RT and Tensor cores that are on the RTX cards?
RT and Tensor cores are extremely new for the consumer market, and at the moment Photoshop cannot leverage either of them. Adobe has not announced any official plans, but the RT cores (which are designed specifically for ray tracing) may be used in the future for 3D ray tracing. The Tensor cores (which are designed for AI & machine learning), may also be used, but likely for accelerating features that use the Adobe Sensei technology.
Full results available in our article:
Photoshop GPU Roundup: NVIDIA SUPER vs AMD RX 5700 XT
Recent Photoshop GPU articles:
While the exact amount of RAM you need is going to depend on the size and number of images you will be working with, we generally recommend a minimum of 16GB for all our systems. Memory usage in Photoshop can quickly shoot up, however, so it is important that you ensure you have enough system RAM available.
How much RAM does Photoshop need?
The exact amount you need will depend on exactly what you are doing, but based on your document size we recommend a minimum of 16GB of RAM for 500MB documents or smaller, 32GB for 500MB-1GB, and 64GB+ for even larger documents.
Note that this is for the document size once opened (as found in the "Document Sizes" section of the Info Panel or status bar), not the file size of the file itself. Photoshop will often list two sizes such as 20.3M/60.2M. The left number is the flat file size (if you were to export without compression), while the right number is the actual size of the Photoshop document with all the layers. The right number which includes all the layers is typically the most relevant when deciding how much RAM your system needs.
Recent Photoshop Memory articles:
Photoshop may not be the most storage heavy application out there, but it is still important to have fast and reliable storage to keep up with the rest of your system.
What type of storage drive should I use for Photoshop?
There are three main types of drives you might use for a Photoshop workstation: SSD, NVMe, and the traditional platter drive. Of these three, traditional platter drives are the slowest but are extremely affordable and available in much larger capacities than SSD or NVMe drives. Due to this, they make excellent long-term storage drives, but are not ideal for OS or scratch drives.
SSDs are several times faster than a platter drive but are also more expensive. These drives are excellent for a wide range of tasks such as holding your OS and applications, storing projects, and as scratch drives.
NVMe drives come in two flavors (M.2 and U.2), but either one will be significantly faster than even an SSD drive. They are about 30% more expensive than an SSD, but in return are up to five times faster! However, in most cases you will not see much of a performance increase with an NVMe drive since a modern standard SSD is already fast enough that it is rarely a performance bottleneck. These drives can be used as an OS and application drive to make your system boot and launch programs a bit faster, but in most cases they are a luxury item for Photoshop.
What storage configuration works best in Photoshop?
While you could get by with just a single drive, we recommend at least a two drive configuration depending on your budget and desired performance level:
- Primary Drive - OS/Software (SSD) - Includes your operating system and the base Photoshop installation. An SSD is highly recommended as it will greatly improve how fast the OS and programs startup, but there is usually not much of a performance benefit to upgrade to a faster NVMe drive.
- Secondary Drive - Project Files (Platter/SSD/M.2 NVMe) - If possible, it is a good idea to keep your photos and catalogs on a secondary drive. For most users even a platter drive should be more than fast enough, although a SSD tends to be snappier and will often smooth out your workflow.
- Optional Tertiary Drive - Scratch Drive (SSD/M.2 NVMe) - Most of the time, having your scratch files on your primary SSD should be just fine, but if your work involves heavy use of the scratch space, it may be beneficial to have a dedicated drive just for those files.
Can you work with Photoshop files directly from an external drive?
Technically, you could keep your projects on an external drive and work directly from that drive. However, this is one of the most common causes of performance and stability issues we hear about from our customers. We highly recommend copying all your files to a local drive before working on them. External drives are terrific for backup and archiving, but not ideal to work off of.
Looking for a Photoshop Workstation?
Puget Systems offers a range of workstations that are tailor-made for your unique workflow. Our goal is to provide the most effective and reliable system possible so you can concentrate on your work and not worry about your computer.