SignUp for Email Newsletter  Pinterest Studio 1 Productions  Follow us on Facebook  Google Plus Studio 1 Productions  Subscribe to our Blog Rss Feed 

Video Cards for Adobe Photoshop CS6 and CC

Video Cards Photoshop

Article Updated on 03/04/2014

Copyright 2013, Studio 1 Productions
Written by David Knarr of Studio 1 Productions

Sign Up for our Email Newsletter

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 video card.

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, 600, 700, 900 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 or CC.

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 gpu-sniffer.exe), to test the GPU and drivers and Photoshop CS6 and CC 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 and CC preferences.

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 and CC, the GPU sniffer should pass the tests and the Use Graphics Hardware checkbox will be enabled.

Video Card Performance
I have tested PhotoShop CS6 and CC with the following video cards.

NVidia Card Memory
NVidia GT 240 128 bit 550 MHz 1340 MHz
NVidia GT 440 128 bit 810 MHz 1620 MHz
NVidia GT 640 128 bit 900 MHz 900 MHz
NVidia GTX 470 320 bit 607 MHz 1215 MHz
NVidia GTX 550 Ti 192 bit 822 MHz 1645 MHz
NVidia GTX 570 320 bit 732 MHz 1464 MHz
NVidia GTX 660 192 bit 980 MHz 980 MHz
NVidia GTX 680 256 bit 1006-1058 MHz 1006-1058 MHz
NVidia GTX 750 Ti 128 bit 1020-1085 Mhz 1020-185 Mhz
NVidia GTX 760 256 bit 980-1033 Hnz 980-1033 Hnz
NVidia GTX 780 384 bit 863-900 MHz 863-900 MHz

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 Ghz
  • 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: 03/04/14 -- 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 and CC, 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 video cards with the 128bit memory interface just couldn't cut it for me.  Now for some people, these cards might be fine, but I was looking for really good performance so these cards where not cutting it.

The performance with the 192 and 256 bit memory interface did very well with the GPU feature.  Most people I have talked with are satisfied with these video cards.

However, the people work on large photos and in a professional or semi-pro field got the best performance, like I did, with the video cards that have 320 or higher memory interface width.

I want to point out that the higher memory interface width, the faster the memory bandwidth is or data transfer rate.  This allows more data to be moved on and off the video card for faster processing and display,

One thing I noticed was in some of the GPU features when I was using the 128 bit video cards with their lower data transfer rate was there was a time lag or delay.  The was not something I found with the higher end video cards.

So if you are a professional making a living from using Photoshop CS6 or CC, then you may want to go with a higher end video card with a memory interface of 320bit or higher, 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 600 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
  • Roughness
  • 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.
  • Flick-panning.
  • 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

Making Your 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 and they are FREE.  For more information about them and how to set them up for your computer, just watch the video on our blog page.

Setting up the GPU & OpenGL in Photoshop CS6 and CC

When you launch Adobe Photoshop CS6 or CC, 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 Preferences.

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.

Video Cards for Photoshop CS6

Step 4. Click on the Advanced Settings button, as shown below.

Step 5. A window will pop up for the Advanced Graphics Processor Settings.
Set the Drawing Mode to Advanced.  Then make sure you check the three checkboxes as shown below in Step 5.  Keep reading.....

Video Cards for Adobe Photoshop cs6

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 performance.

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.

Studio 1 Productions NVidia Optimus Technology

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.

Optimus Technology Setup

Troubleshooting Photoshop CS6 GPU

If you experience windows or objects that are incorrectly rendered, redraw issues, crashes or other performance issues with Photoshop CS6 or CC, 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 problem.

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 or CC 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.

Fixing OpenGL
If turning off OpenGL solved the problem, then we need to try and fix OpenGL.

1. Make sure that you have all of the latest updates for Photoshop CS6 or CC.

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 or CC and try the function again and see if the problem is resolved.

4. If that does not work, then Reset the preferences.  Launch Photoshop CS6 then:

  • 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 resolved.

5. If that does not work, then go back up to the section titled "Setting up the GPU & OpenGL in Photoshop CS6 or CC".  Follow the instructions to Step 4.  Under the Drawing Mode try setting it to Basic and restart Photoshop CS6 or CC and try the function again to see if the problem is resolved.

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 setting.

NOTE:  Every time you change the GPU preferences when troubleshooting a problem, you MUST re-launch Photoshop CS6 or CC 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 or CC.  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 or CC 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 or CC 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.

Studio 1 Productions Articles