Ramin Hossaini

Improving Photoshop CS4/CS5 Performance


Note: This was initially written for Photoshop CS4, but from what I’ve seen, it also applies to Photoshop CS5.

If you’re having performance issues after installing Adobe’s latest version of Photoshop, try having a look at these options:

Allocating more memory to Photoshop


  • Edit -> Preferences -> Performance to allocate more RAM to Photoshop.
  • Don’t use too much (over 90% for example), your OS will need RAM too!
  • Don’t allocate too little.
  • Experiment, try 60% and work your way up or down.

Set up a scratch disk

  • This is similar to virtual memory.
  • Photoshop needs at least 2GB, but more is recommended.
  • It’s recommended that you set the primary scratch disk to a different hard-disk than the one Windows uses for its virtual memory or paging file.
  • To set up your scratch disk options (requires Photoshop-restart): Edit -> Preferences -> Performance

Set up your cache-levels

  • Used to redraw high-resolution images faster.
  • The levels range from 1-8 (default: 4), the more levels, the more image-caches Photoshop keeps and the slower images load.
  • Setting the cache option to 1 disables image caching.
  • Setting the cache option to higher than 4 improves performance when working on large images (by redrawing faster).
  • If you use many levels (50+), set the cache option lower: 1 or 2
  • If you deal with large-dimension images, use a cache option larger than 4
  • To set up cache levels (requires Photoshop-restart): Edit -> Preferences -> Performance

Purge Undo, Clipboard, or Histories

  • This clears up memory
  • Edit -> Purge

Reduce the number of History states

  • By reducing the number of history states, you decrease the amount of memory used by Photoshop.
  • To set the number of history states: Edit -> Preferences -> Performance

Saving PSD files with the compatibility feature

  • This increases the size of the PSD file by saving a flattened version of the image too.
  • If you don’t need the compatibility, save without it.
  • To set up options: Edit -> Preferences -> File Handling

GPU use

  • CS4 makes use of your graphics card’s GPU, instead of the computer CPU to speed its screen redraw.
  • The display card must support OpenGL (with at least 128MB RAM).
  • The display driver must support OpenGL 2.0 and Shader Model 3.0.
  • Make sure you have the latest drivers for your GPU to improve performance.

Disabling OpenGL


  • If you experience really poor performance, you might want to try experimenting with turning OpenGL off all-together.
  • Edit -> Preferences -> Performance -> Untick OpenGL

Minimize palette preview thumbnails

  • Each layer has a preview-thumbnail, minimize the size of these to save memory
  • To minimize (or turn off) palette thumbnails, select Palette Options from the palette menu.
  • For Thumbnail Size, select the smallest thumbnail size or select None, then click OK.

Bigger Tiles plug-in

  • Disabled by default.
  • Located in the Optional Plug-ins folder on your application DVD folder.
  • Enable only if you have more than 1GB RAM.
  • Copy to your extensions folder to enable.
  • When enabled, Photoshop redraws more data at a time because each tile is larger, and each tile is drawn, complete, at one time.
  • That is, Photoshop takes less time to redraw fewer tiles that are larger than it takes to redraw more tiles that are smaller.
  • If you spend most of your time painting or rapidly tweaking controls in filters or panels and watching the feedback, then Bigger Tiles won’t help you.
  • If you spend your time watching progress bars, Bigger Tiles can improve performance.

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