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Video Cards for Adobe Photoshop CS6 and CC
Mercury Graphics Engine
Starting with Adobe Photoshop CS6, there is a new Mercury Graphics Engine (MGE)
that will use your video card's GPU to improve Photoshop's performance.
This new Mercury Graphics Engine will provide near-instant results when working
with certain key tools, such as Lighting Effects, Liquify, etc.
The best thing about the Mercury Graphics Engine is, it uses both OpenGL
and OpenCL. Which means, you do NOT need a CUDA
enabled video card from NVidia.
Let me repeat that, Photoshop CS6 itself, does not use CUDA, it uses OpenGL and
OpenCL for GPU acceleration. So there are no hacks, mods, etc. to get your
video card to work. All you need to do is setup PhotoShop CS6 to your your
This means, you can use pretty much any of the newer video cards from AMD/ATI,
Intel and NVidia. However, keep reading. There are some things you
are going to need to know.
NOTE: There are some 3rd party plugins for Adobe Photoshop that
use the CUDA technology. If you use any 3rd party plugins that use the
CUDA technology, then you will need a NVidia graphics card.
Your Operating System
If you are still running Windows XP, while Adobe Photoshop CS6 will run on
Windows XP, not all of the new features are available to XP systems. By
now you really should be on the latest 64 bit version of Windows.
For MAC owners, you need to be on Mac OS X v10.6.8 or v10.7 or higher.
Video Card Drivers
To use the Mercury Graphics Engine, you must have a supported video card and
updated the latest video card drivers. Otherwise, performance and
acceleration will be lost. In addition, some features will not work.
So at this point, go to the website for the type of video card you have and
download the latest drivers for your video card. Here are the links:
NOTE: There have been reports of problems with Photoshop CS6
when you are not running the latest video card drivers. Do NOT
use auto-updates for the video card drivers, they don't
always have access to the latest version. You need to go directly to the
manufacturers website yourself and download the drivers directly from them.
Video Cards - Memory
Adobe says the minimum amount of video card ram you will need is 256MB, with
some features requiring 512MB of ram.
I tested an old GT-9400 video card with 512MB of ram and another GT-9400 with 1
Gig of ram. The video card with 1 GIG gave me better performance
especially when I used some of the Mercury Graphics Engine accelerated effects
and high res photos.
While not everyone will notice the difference, I have to say if you are going to
be upgrading your video card, make sure it has at least 1 gig of ram.
NOTE: If you are going to be
running After Effects CS6 or Premiere CS5 or higher, please make sure you read
those two articles, as both of those programs have special requirements of the
video card since they use the NVidia CUDA technology. The links to those articles are at the top of the page.
Adobe has tested the following video cards
for use with Photoshop CS6
nVidia GeForce 8000, 9000, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 series
nVidia Quadro 400, 600, 2000, 4000 (Mac & Win), CX, 5000, 6000
AMD/ATI Radeon 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, 7000 series
AMD/ATI FirePro 3800, 4800, 5800, 7800, 8800, 9800, 3900, 4900, 5900, 7900
Intel HD Graphics, Intel HD Graphics P3000, Intel HD Graphics P4000
Laptop versions of the above cards have also been tested.
NOTE: All of these video card require the latest video card
drivers when using PhotoShop 6.
NOTE: Studio 1 Productions
does not sell video cards or Adobe products. We are simply users of Adobe
products. If you would like to see what we do offer, click on the Products
tab at the top of the page.
The GPU Sniffer
Adobe uses a program call the GPU Sniffer (actually the program name is
sniffer_gpu.exe), to test the GPU and drivers and Photoshop CS6 uses information
to enable or disable the Use Graphics Hardware feature.
If the GPU Sniffer fails the first time it is run, Photoshop will display an
error message stating it has detected a problem with the GPU.
After that, the error message will not appear unless you reset the Photoshop CS6
If you correct the problem, by either replacing the video card or by updating
the video card driver, the next time you launch Photoshop CS6, the GPU sniffer
should pass the tests and the Use Graphics Hardware checkbox will be enabled.
Video Card Performance
I have tested PhotoShop
CS6 with the following video cards.
|NVidia GT 240
|NVidia GT 440
|NVidia GT 640
|NVidia GTX 470
|NVidia GTX 550 Ti
|NVidia GTX 570
|NVidia GTX 660
|NVidia GTX 680
|NVidia GTX 760
Sorry, I didn't have access to any ATI/AMD video cards. All of the
video cards had 1 gig of memory, except on of the 9400 GT cards.
Our test system (AMD FX-6300 Six Core)
Motherboard - A Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD3
CPU - AMD FX-6300 6 Core CPU running at 3.5 Ghz with turbo to 4.1
16 gigs of Ram - DDR3-1600
3 Western Digital Black Hard Drives. SATA 6.0Gb/s, 7200 rpm.
One drive is a 1TB hard drive and there are two 500GB hard drives.
64MB cache on all drives.
Windows 7 Home Edition
UPDATED: 09/08/2013 --
When I tested the video cards I always started with the fastest video
card first and worked my way down to the slowest card and then jumped
back to the fastest card. I did it this way as it is easier to
notice things taking longer to do vs. getting faster.
Here is what I found:
I used all of the new features (listed below) in Photoshop CS6, since
they use the GPU.
I got real time performance with all of the video cards, especially on a
smaller photo of 1200 x 1200 pixels. All of the video cards
seemed to preform equally when working on a photo at this size.
When I moved on to a photo that was 8000 x 8000 pixels with lots of
layers involved, I started to
notice, noticed the GT 240, GT 440 and GT 640 no longer gave me the
performance I was looking for. Now for some people, these cards
might be fine, but I was looking for really good performance so these
cards where not cutting it.
This is where the higher end cards began to shine. The GTX 470, GTX 570,
GTX680 and the GTX760 gave me the best performance. For example, when I
went from a GTX 570 down to a GT 440 card, using the same photo, I
noticed the GT 440 took slightly longer to perform some of the new
Photoshop CS GPU features.
The GTX 470 and GTX 570 offer a much wider memory interface of 320 bit.
This allows the data to be move faster than a 128 bit card. Think
of it this way, the 128 bit memory interface is a 4 lane highway, a 256
bit is a 8 lane highway and a 320 bit a 10 lane highway. The cars
on the road is the data. The speed limit on the roads is the Graphics
Clock Speed. While the speed limit is a little lower on the GTX
570, it has more lanes to move more cars. Where the GT 440 has a
higher speed limit, only 4 lanes to move the cars.
I know this is a very simplistic way of describing it, but for a lot
people this helps them understand the technical side better.
As for the GTX 660 and the GTX 680, due to the chipset and the design of
the video card, the GTX 660 gave me the same performance as the GTX 570.
While the GTX 680 was the faster video card of them all. Even
though the GTX 660 and GTX 680 have a lower memory interface and memory
bandwidth, they actually performed slightly better. Again, this is
due to the new chipsets and design of the video card.
If you are a professional making a living from using
Photoshop CS6, then you may want to go with a higher end video card,
only because you will be working on much more complex Photoshop files
and with that, you may see more of a difference in speed.
What to look for in a video card for use with Photoshop
There are three main things to look for:
1. Look at the Memory Interface Width, the wider the better as you
will be moving a lot of data on and off the video card. At a
minimum, I would recommend 192bit or even better 256bit.
2. Look at the Memory Bandwidth. You want this spec to be as
high as you can find for the price range of video card you are looking
at. At a minimum, I would recommend over 130 GB/s. The
higher the better.
3. For Photoshop CS6 and CC, you will also want to look at the
number of CUDA cores if you are going to be using the new GPU effects
that are handled by the GPU CUDA cores. While I tested video cards
with as little as 96 CUDA cores and it worked well on small photos, if
you are going to be working on larger photos, such as photos from a
newer DSLR camera, then you really want at the bare minimum 384 CUDA
cores. If you photos or graphics are going to be complex, then try
to get a video card with 900+ CUDA cores.
Photoshop CS6 - New GPU Features
1. Adaptive Wide Angle Filter
2. Liquify - (video card with 512MB VRAM min., GPU mode unavailable on Windows XP)
3. Warp and Puppet Warp - (GPU mode unavailable on Windows XP)
4. Oil Paint
5. Field Blur - (accelerated by video card supporting OpenCL, GPU mode unavailable on Windows XP)
6. Tilt/Shift - (accelerated by video card supporting OpenCL, GPU mode unavailable on Windows XP)
7. Iris Blur - (accelerated by video card supporting OpenCL, GPU mode unavailable on Windows XP)
8. Lighting Effects Gallery - (video card required with 512MB VRAM min, unavailable on Windows XP)
9. New 3D enhancements - (3D features a video card with 512MB VRAM, unavailable on Windows XP)
- Draggable Shadows
- Ground plane reflections
- On-canvas UI controls
- Ground plane
- Light widgets on edge of canvas
- IBL (image based light) controller
Photoshop - GPU features
- Scrubby Zoom. See Zoom continuously.
- Heads Up Display (HUD) color picker. See Choose a color while painting.
- Color sampling ring. Choose colors with the Eyedropper tool.
- Brush dynamic resize and hardness control. See Resize or change hardness of cursors by dragging.
- Bristle Brush tip previews. Bristle tip shape options.
- Rule of thirds crop grid overlay. Crop images.
- Zoom enhancements. Smooth display at all zoom levels and temporary zoom. See Zoom continuously
- Temporarily zoom an image.
- Animated transitions for one-stop zoom.
- Rotate the canvas. Use the Rotate View tool
- View non-square pixel images. Adjust pixel aspect ratio
- Pixel grid. Hide the pixel grid.
- Adobe Color Engine (ACE).
- Draw Brush tip cursors. Resize or change hardness of cursors by dragging
Computer Run Better and Faster for Photoshop
There are two things you can do to keep your computer performing well.
First, use a good program for defragmenting the disk, not the disk
defrag program that comes with Windows. By keep your hard disk
defragmented, file and programs will load faster. Second,
run a Registry Cleaner at least once a month.
There are two programs that I use and recommend and they are from
Auslogics.com and they are
FREE. For more information about them and how to set them
up for your computer, just watch the video on our
Setting up the GPU & OpenGL in Photoshop CS6
When you launch Adobe Photoshop CS6, it should enable the GPU and OpenGL.
However, you may want to double the settings to be safe.
Step 1. Click on Edit and then select
Step 2. Click on Performance as shown below.
Step 3. Make sure the Use Graphics Processor
is check. Wait, there is more, go down to Step 4.
Step 4. Click on the Advanced Settings
button, as shown below.
Step 5. A window will pop up for the Advanced Graphics
Set the Drawing Mode to Advanced. Then make sure you
check the three checkboxes as shown below in Step 5. Keep reading.....
Setting the Drawing Mode to Advanced provides all of the benefits of Normal mode
as well as the new OpenGL features that will improve your overall
When you check the OpenCL box above, OpenCL will only be available on newer GPUs
that support OpenCL v1.1 or higher.
If you can't set the mode to Advanced or your can't check the "Use OpenCL" box,
then either you are not running the latest video drivers or you need to upgrade
your video card. But, try updating the video card drivers first.
Special Notes for Laptop Owners.
If you laptop has Optimus Technology or a built-in graphics card with an
additional NVidia graphics card, then you will need to do some special
setup with the NVidia Control Panel in order to ensure your laptop is
using the NVidia GPU.
Finish reading this article, then click on the button below and
read the article on Laptops with Optimus Technology.
Photoshop CS6 GPU
If you experience windows or objects that are incorrectly rendered,
redraw issues, crashes or other performance issues with Photoshop CS6,
the first thing you should look at is the video driver. Make sure
you are using the latest video driver for you video card.
Next, try turning off OpenGL to see if that might be causing the
Simply go up to the section titled "Setting up the GPU & OpenGL in
Photoshop CS6". Follow the instructions to Step 3. When you
get to Step 3, uncheck the box marked "Use Graphics Processor", this
will disable the OpenGL. Then Save and exit the preference window.
Now, exit Photoshop CS6 and then re-launch Photoshop CS6 and try the
same function again to see if the problem goes away, skip to the section
on Fixing OpenGL below.
If you still have the problem with OpenGL disabled, then you will need
to contact Adobe.
If turning off OpenGL solved the problem, then we need to try and fix
1. Make sure that you have all of the latest updates for Photoshop CS6.
2. Once again, make sure you have the latest video card drivers.
This corrects the majority of the problems with Photoshop CS6. So
go directly to the AMD/ATI or NVidia or Intel website and download them
directly for the correct website. DO NOT count on the Windows
Update or Automatic Video Card driver updates to get you the latest
drivers. You have to manually get them yourself.
3. After you update your vide card driver, launch Photoshop CS6 and turn
on Use Graphics Processor in Photoshop CS6 and try the function again
and see if the problem is resolved.
4. If that does not work, then Reset the preferences. Launch Photoshop
- On a Windows system, you can reset the Photoshop preferences by pressing and holding Shift+Ctrl+Alt
- On a MAC system, you can reset the Photoshop preferences by pressing and holding Shift+Option+Command
Click Yes when asked if you want to delete the Adobe Photoshop Settings
File. Then try the function again and see if the problem is
5. If that does not work, then go back up to the section titled "Setting
up the GPU & OpenGL in Photoshop CS6". Follow the instructions to
Step 4. Under the Drawing Mode try setting it to Basic and restart
Photoshop CS6 and try the function again to see if the problem is
6. If that DOES work, then set the Drawing Mode to Normal and see if the
problem is resolve. If it is not, then return it to the Basic mode
time you change the GPU preferences when troubleshooting a problem, you
MUST re-launch Photoshop CS6 after each change.
7. If you have more than one video card installed in your
computer, try removing one. It has been reported that sometimes
multiple video cards can cause problems with the GPU accelerated
features in Photoshop CS6. If you want to run two monitors, it is
best to run them from a single video card.
8. If you are on a laptop or you need both video cards in your
computer and you are using a NVidia video card, then you can change some
settings in the NVidia control panel to tell Photoshop CS6 which GPU to
use. Click on the button labeled Laptops & Optimus Technology
above under Special Notes for Laptop Owners.
9. One last thing to check is the Cache Levels setting. Go back up
to the Setting up the GPU & OpenGL in Photoshop CS6
section and follow it through Step 3. Then above the Graphics
Processor Setting area, you will see Cache Levels. Make sure this
is set to 4. Save and restart Photoshop Cs6.