14 Tricks & Tweaks to Speed Up Photoshop CS6 Performance

Jun 5, 2012 - 25 Comments

Speed Up Photoshop CS6

Photoshop CS6 is arguably the best release of the image manipulation app from Adobe in a very long time. It’s feature packed and generally quite fast, but not everyone is pleased with it’s performance on some hardware.

With that in mind we’ve compiled a list of tweaks, adjustments, and tricks to speed up Photoshop. Some of these tips are gathered from a Google Docs file that was sent out on Twitter (hey follow OSXDaily there!) and we’ve added a few comments to those tricks and added some of our own performance recommendations as well. This list was aimed at Mac OS X but there’s no reason the tweaks wouldn’t benefit a Windows PC too if that’s what you’re stuck with at work.

1) Watch the Efficiency Indicator – At the bottom of any open PS window you’ll see an “Efficiency” gauge, if this falls below 100% that means you are using the scratch disk (hard drive) for memory and Photoshop will become slower. Solve this by allocating more RAM or by having less open windows.

2) Close Unused Document Windows – If you’re not actively using an image file, close it. Each open file can take up a significant amount of memory, which can quickly lead to slow downs.

3) Reduce an Images Resolution – Working with higher resolution images and files uses more resources. If you’re going to be saving a relatively low quality version of an image anyway, reduce the image resolution to a tolerable level to gain a nice speed boost.

4) Purge History & Clipboard – Edit > Purge > All. The history feature of photoshop is useful but it takes up a lot of memory. If you’re not using it, purging the contents of history and clipboard frees up resources.

5) Set drawing mode to Basic – Preferences > Performance > Graphics Processor Settings > Advanced Settings > Drawing Mode > Basic

6) Turn off Animated Zoom – Preferences > General > Animated Zoom > Uncheck

7) Turn off Flick Panning – Preferences > General > Enabled Flick Panning > Uncheck

8 ) Set Cache Levels to 1 – Preferences > Performance > History & Cache > Cache Levels > 1, note this can effect plugin and effect quality so use with caution. The default is 4 for a reason.

9) Adjust Photoshops Memory Use – Preferences > Performance > Memory Usage, the Google Doc file referenced above suggested 40% which sounds remarkably low but try it out. In my experience, a higher percentage here is better, and the more memory PS has the merrier it runs. Instead of going with an arbitrary value it’s best to adjust this based on your physical memory capacity and individual needs.

10) Disable anti-aliasing on guides and paths – Preferences > Performance > Graphics Processor Settings > Advanced Settings > Anti-alias Guides and Paths > Uncheck

11) Turn off Image Previews – Preferences > File Handling > File Saving Options > Image Previews > Never Save

12) Use less Video RAM for 3D stuff – Preferences > 3D > Available VRAM for 3D > 30%, this is particularly useful for anyone using a computer with a video card that shares VRAM with primary RAM, such as some MacBook, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini models.

13) Run Photoshop in fullscreen mode – To get into fullscreen mode, hit the “F” key on your keyboard three times, then hit “TAB” to bring up the interface. This apparently makes panning faster, though I didn’t notice any changes.

14) Change Photoshop CS6 Appearance – OK so this isn’t an application performance tip, but adjusting the CS6 appearance theme can have an effect on your personal productivity the same way that changing surrounding lighting and wallpaper can impact productivity. Choose a shade of grey that fits you by hitting Shift+Function+F1 or Shift+Function+F2 to darken and lighten the UI, or even adjust color scheme depending on the time of day.

While the tips above are Photoshop related, don’t forget to focus on the OS as well. Things like closing unused apps and moving files off the desktop can make a big difference in performance because less resources are being used on other unrelated tasks. You can find a series of simple tips to speed up Macs here, and you’ll find they also speed up Photoshop for machines with limited hardware.

Haven’t tried out CS6 yet? The recent beta has expired but anyone can download a free 30 day trial of CS6 directly from Adobe.


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting


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  1. rekkoon says:

    In my case I had problem with freezes at start. After some investigation (using Procmon) finally I disovered that Photoshop indexing (or reading, or doing SOMETHING) in c:\programdata\adobe\CameraRaw. And this folder contain lot of files and megabytes. I renamed this folder (if I will need it, I can revert it) and freezes at starts are gone. I can work like normal.

  2. agg says:

    i had the slow zoom issue.solved in a few seconds.thanks

  3. Thanks so much.

    I was thinking of going back to CS5 before reading this!

    And we all know what reinstalling an Adobe product means :-(


  4. Jacob Cass says:

    I want to add a point to your list:

    Reset Default Settings- If you are using a shared machine for your Photoshop needs there is a little Photoshop start-up trick that may come in handy. When the application is launching, if you press and hold: Alt + Control + Shift (Windows) or Command + Option + Shift (Mac), a window will pop up asking you if you want to delete the Photoshop settings file, resetting all of the preferences to their default.

    I don’t usually say thank you on posts but some tips are really new to me, so thanks!

  5. Ravi Aryal says:

    Clear your temp files on your pc for fast performance of Ps !! Go to run type %temp% and delete all files there

  6. Abinash Mohanty says:

    Thanks for the amazing tips Paul! It worked :)

  7. Bart says:

    I have a weird problem in CS6 … When i boot it, it works just fine. Quick and responsive. Then, after a while, there starts to be a second delay to everything i do and this keeps building up. Then i quit PS, boot it up again, open the same document(s) and it works fine again.

    Any ideas?

    • jigar says:

      i have same problem with Cs5. Anyone know the solution?

      • Bart says:

        Sad to see there’s no useful response for us.

        To make this problem even weirder: this problem comes and goes too. For a few months it worked perfectly. And now suddenly, i have the same problem again.

        Did you find a solution, Jigar?

  8. Karein says:

    Okay so I haven’t run in any slow problems with CS6 it’s fast for me, But the only issue is when I go to render->Lighting Effects,it takes FOREVER to load. It’s like it just freezes up, although I can still see my circular loading bar moving around. If I click anything else that deals with effects like a lens flare it loads perfectly fine and I can play around with the effect. I just want to know why that one option doesn’t load for me.

  9. ahmed says:

    my problem is

    when i choose Middle east font engine the system became low

    im using latest macbook air with 128GB SSD and 4GB RAM

  10. Limaj says:

    Hi. Thanks for the tips.

    For me, 200+ layer website design PSDs were taking about two minutes to open, where they would open in about 5 seconds in CS4.

    I turned off all the GPU options, flick panning, antialiased zoom, etc, as I have ever since they they were all added as options, but that didn’t help.

    What did help was setting the Cache levels to 2 (going down to 1, as suggested above wasn’t necessary). In fact, I set the History and Cache to ‘Tall and Thin’.

    Great tip, thanks. My big, multi-layer PSDs open super quick again.

  11. David Levin says:

    Even after the latest update from Adobe CS6 still hangs periodically and feels sluggish compared to CS5.

    Specs: Windows 7 x64
    Memory: 8GB
    Processor Speed: 2.8GHZ

    The tips above helped a little but I think there’s something under the hood that Adobe needs to address.

  12. tom says:

    Hey Susan I think I had the same issue as you, and I dumped the CS6 photoshop preference file which solved the problem!

  13. susan says:

    Photoshop CS6 on Mac/Lion: why do files open so tiny, they’re specks… (multiple zooms necessary to enlarge so I can see) ? Zooming is awkward – can’t see whole image, files jump around. What is wrong ? (Prefer not to use tabbed filing, yet does not really seem related to issue.)

  14. Nick says:

    Yeah – in the end I went back to CS5 – anything small is fine but multiple layers such as site designs – it just drags

    Macbook Pro 2.2 i7 (early 2011)
    8GB RAM
    Master Collection CS6

    Going to see if Snow Leopard makes a difference at end of month or possibly shell out for a SSD? Crucial are doing some good deals at moment – 512GB SSD for £320?!

  15. Jason says:

    I tried every step you said and still VERY slow. I had CS4 and it was super fast, not sure what is going on here…

    Windows 7 Ultimate
    24GB RAM DDR3
    Dell Studio XPS
    Master Collection CS6 64 bit

    any help would be huge. I’m a web designer and pulling my hair out because I need to get some work done but my Photoshop is acting like I’m on a 1990’s computer… it’s SO SO Slow


    • Shajahan says:

      CS 6 uses 70 % of the memory that is why its slow CS 5.5 is the best one. I whet from CS 6 back to CS 5.5 because of this issue.

      • Shajahan says:

        CS 6 uses 70% of the memory that is why its slow CS 5.5 is the best one. I went from CS 6 back to CS 5.5 because of this issue.

        While Photoshop is running Launch Activity Monitor – Click on System memory – look at Real mem you will see that Photoshop CS 6 use 2.2gb

  16. Manuel Pardo says:

    I know how to speed up photoshop CS6…
    Just remove.

    And use pixelmator.

  17. Faraz Afzal says:

    My system is intell i3 with only 4gb ram and is working good now.

  18. Faraz Afzal says:

    I use only solution no. 8 & its worked !!! my CS6 is now working good not slowly now. Thank you.

  19. Thom says:

    3 things: 8GB RAM minimum, use a secondary SSD as a scratch disk, have a dedicated GPU. Photoshop screams in that environment.

  20. RCook says:

    You forgot “Install an SSD” because that one thing will make PS6 fly!

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