Tagged: performance

Possible fix for laggy Photoshop features

Adobe PhotoshopIf you’re using Photoshop to work on your image then switch to another app like Safari, Mail, InDesign, etc., then switch back to Photoshop, you may notice that Photoshop gets a little laggy or even stuck.

Conventional wisdom says you need more RAM. Unfortunately that is neither cheap nor possible with most Macs. A fast SSD drive will help, but again it’s neither cheap or even possible to upgrade your storage drive on most Macs anymore.

The solution might be found in Photoshop itself.

Go in to your PS Preferences (Command+K) and choose the Performance tab from the list on the left. Once in the dialog, tick the Use Graphics Processor checkbox if it isn’t already checked, click the Advanced Settings button. Change the Drawing Mode drop-down menu from Advanced to Normal (if it’s already set to Normal, change it to Basic). Also make sure Use Graphics Processor to Accelerate Computation and Use OpenCL/GL are checked. Hit OK and you’re done

This will tell Photoshop to use your Mac’s video card to help with the heavy lifting, but not to over-do it.

Photoshop Graphics Processor prefs
While you’re in the Performance tab, you might also want to set the Memory use to about 70%. Over the years I’ve found that using much more than that of your total RAM for Photoshop has more negative effects than positive ones.

Speeding up Photoshop CS5

PhotoshopThere is no shortage of advice for users to improve the performance of Photoshop. RAM is always king, the more you have, the better off you are. But having it isn’t enough, you have to know how to manage it.

Here are a few things that have helped me improve performance in Photoshop CS5 (though they’ll most likely work just fine in versions CS3 and CS4 as well).


Go into Photoshop’s preferences (Command + K) and select the Performance item from the source list on the left. The first thing to adjust is the Memory Usage. I generally keep the RAM set between 60-70% with the slider. This allows me to use a good amount of my RAM for Photoshop, but still leave enough for other apps and the System itself. However, if you have less than 4GB of RAM, you should probably stick to 50% max. Your mileage may vary.

Photoshop performance preferences

Memory use and cache settings improves performance

History & Cache

The next thing to adjust is your History & Cache settings. You can use the preset buttons (hover over them for a brief description of which you should use). Only my laptop, I use the settings you see in the screenshot above. Because I tend to use my laptop for web or other low-resolution work, the settings have worked superbly.


If you’re running Photoshop CS5 Extended, you can also check the 3D preferences and up the VRAM (video RAM) use to the max amount. I don’t do any 3D work, so I can’t tell you how well this works or not, but I keep it set to the max anyway.

Layers Panel

If you work with a lot of layers in your Photoshop document, you can reduce the size of the individual icon layer thumbnails. The smaller the icon, the less memory Photoshop needs to redraw those thumbnails every time you make a change to a layer. Just make a quick trip to the Layers panel flyout menu and choose the Panel Options… menu item. You can also turn those layer thumbnails off completely if you’re really organized with layer naming.

The Rest

There are numerous other tips that can help speed up Photoshop. Limiting the number of fonts installed and active is huge. You can also limit the number of files Photoshop remembers in the File menu list (adjust in the Photoshop preferences). Keep the layer count down as much as possible goes a long way, and not using Photoshop’s built-in Navigation panel with its giant thumbnail is a great idea as well.

How to improve your Photoshop performance

A quick way to improve Adobe Photoshop’s performance is to visit Photoshop Preferences>Display & Cursors and select the Use Pixel Doubling option. Pixel Doubling tells Photoshop to double the size of the pixels used in the previews, which essentially lowers the resolution of the preview by half – thereby speeding up the display of previews.