Do Graphics Cards Help With Photoshop Performance?

Despite Photoshop being used by various professions, it can still be intimidating to tackle on your first, second, or even third attempt. Whatever the purpose of using Photoshop, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of the program. Graphics cards, or GPUs, are hardware on your device that translates data into displayed images. Can they be helpful with Photoshop performance?

Graphics cards can be a big help with Photoshop. Mainly, GPUs allow you to use an extensive library of features on Photoshop and assist in the efficient performance of the program.

Opening up more of what Photoshop has to offer is an exciting prospect, but there is more to GPUs and their utilization in Photoshop than a simple yes or no answer. It’s important to know exactly how they help with specific features in Photoshop and which are the best GPUs to use for this program.

How Do Graphics Cards Help With Photoshop Performance?

It’s important to note that your computer already has a GPU integrated into the system that will perform the task of calculating and translating data to display images onto your monitor. However, other more advanced graphics card options will give you further use of Photoshop.

An upgraded GPU provides the following advantages when using Photoshop:

  1. Enhanced performance (speed)
  2. Use of specific features
  3. Helps with system memory

Let’s take a closer look at each of these features or advantages to get a better understanding of how the graphics card helps.

1. Enhance Performance

Your computer’s central processing unit (CPU) is responsible for graphics calculating, allowing images to be displayed on your monitor. Programs like Photoshop demand a lot of your CPU and can cause a lag in editing images or designing graphics. If you use Photoshop professionally, slow processing simply won’t do.

Faster performance is where the graphics card comes into play. The GPU will essentially step in for your CPU and take over the graphics calculating. Since the card is built for this work, it can do so at a much higher speed than your CPU, compensating for the demand of the program.

2. Use of Specific Features

Part of the reason that Photoshop can be so demanding on your PC’s CPU is because of specific features in the program. For example, certain graphics, like architectural images, are too sophisticated for your CPU to calculate fast enough. Due to the flat surfaces and straight lines of these images, you would utilize a feature called Perspective Warp, but without an upgraded GPU, you will likely experience a long lag or not be able to use the feature at all.

Other features that require the use of an upgraded GPU:

  • 3D Imaging
  • Oil Paint
  • Render
  • Flick Panning
  • Scrubby Zoom
  • Bird’s Eye View
  • Smooth Brush Resizing

This list does not include features that would benefit from an upgraded GPU in terms of performance acceleration. That list encompasses nine other features, including Image Size, Lens Blur, and Select Focus.

3. Help With System Memory

All the pieces of information that relate to displaying images and processing data are stored in your system’s memory through your computer’s graphic solutions. It’s not unusual for Photoshop to utilize several GB of RAM, not to mention a great deal of scratch disk space.

One thing to note about Photoshop is that it does not return the RAM until you have closed the program. So, this not only accounts for your computer to slow down or even freeze on occasion, but it makes it nearly impossible to use other programs simultaneously.

Luckily, GPUs contain their own memory bank that stores the information related to displaying images and processing data while using Photoshop. The use of a GPU allows you to free up your memory, preventing your computer from freezing while trying to use Photoshop and keeping the processing moving at an acceptable speed. You may even be able to open up and use other programs while running Photoshop.

What to Look For in a Graphics Card for Photoshop

When considering purchasing a more sophisticated GPU for using Photoshop, you’ll want to ensure the GPU you’re eyeing is compatible with the program. Most GPUs released after 2004 will likely be compatible, but they also must contain at least 512 MB of processing RAM. According to Adobe, 2 GB of RAM is best when using Windows and Mac.

All you need is one GPU. Photoshop does not take to the use of multiple graphics processors. If used, it will likely cause a crash or other potential problems with the program.

GPUs will range in price depending on their sophistication. Since GPUs are utilized for more advanced features or more serious use of Photoshop, you may want a GPU fit for a professional graphic designer or illustrator, even if you are not at the professional level. Keep in mind that more video memory will be required of your graphics card depending on the resolution of your display.

How to Enable Photoshop to Use A Graphics Processor

Once you’ve selected the GPU you want, you’ll need to go into Photoshop and change the settings to ensure that it’s using your graphics card; this can be accomplished in three easy steps.

  1. Go into Edit>Preferences>Performance for Windows or for Mac Photoshop>Preferences>Performance.
  2. Select Graphics Processor under Graphics Processor Settings.
  3. Go into Advanced Settings and enter the following option: Use OpenCL: Enable to accelerate the new Blur Gallery filters, Smart Sharpen, Select Focus Area, or Image Size with Preserve Details selected.


All in all, if you want to take your graphic design, photo-editing, or illustrations to the next level in a program like Photoshop, you will need a GPU. Otherwise, you could be missing out on key features and experiencing delays or worse.

If you find yourself needing a less resource-heavy editing software, consider online image editors like They are hosted on the internet so they require very little resources, and can even be used on a smartphone or tablet if needed.