Make Photoshop Faster with These Simple Settings


Wait Cursor for Macs

If you’ve ever used Photoshop on a Mac, you’re probably familiar with this guy. Would you like to send him packing and never see him again? If you answered yes, strap on your Photoshop helmet and get ready for the blog post of your life.

For this blog post I am using Adobe Photoshop CS5 on OS X.

Need for speed

If you’re new to Photoshop, Adobe has included a lot of helpful tools and settings to keep you from flying blind. But I know that you’re a Photoshop superstar! You don’t need any of that stuff, so let’s turn it off!

General Preferences

Turn off Export to Clipboard

Export to clipboard is only useful if you’re copying things from Photoshop and pasting them into other applications. Why would you do such a thing?

Screencap of Photoshop Preferences

Go to Photoshop > Preferences > General (Mac OS) or Edit > Preferences > General (Windows) and uncheck Export to Clipboard.

Screencap of Export Clipboard


Interface Preferences

Turn off Drop Shadows and Tabs

Now that you’re in the preferences pane, select Interface.

There are three dropdowns here for Standard Screen, Full Screen with Menus, and Full Screen. Set the border to None on all of them. Drop Shadows around your window just add unnecessary visual clutter and probably a small performance dip, too. We don’t need any of that noise.

Screencap of Interface Preferences

This is a personal preference, but I don’t like the tabs feature in CS4, CS5, and CS6. I like to see all of my windows open at once.

Uncheck Open Documents as Tabs and uncheck Enable Floating Document Window.

File Handling Preferences

Turn off Image Previews and set Maximize PSD Compatibility to Always/Never

Now Switch over to the File Handling panel. The first thing in there is the Image Previews setting.  Image previews are a thumbnail version of your file. They are useful when you’re browsing through folders in finder/explorer, but they also slow you down every time you save. Go ahead and set it to Never Save.

Screencap of file handling preferences

Maximize PSD and PSB File Compatibility is a dialog box that pops up the first time you save something in Photoshop. If you choose yes, it will make it easier to open your files in different versions of Photoshop, but it will also add a fair amount of bloat to your file.

If you work with other people who have different versions of Photoshop, you want to set this to Always. If you are working by yourself, set it to Never. Either way, you won’t have to see that annoying pop-up anymore.

Performance Preferences

Get more RAM

Now we come to the most important panel in the preferences window with regards to speeding up Photoshop. Select the Performance Panel, and take a look at the Memory Usage box.

Screencap of Memory Usage

RAM is the workhorse of Photoshop. If you don’t have any RAM, you’re gonna have a bad time. Drag the slider as high as you can without breaking the rest of your computer.

Use fewer History States and set Cache Levels to 1

Screencap of History & Cache

History States allow you to go back in time and undo your mistakes. If you’re terrible at Photoshop, you probably need a lot of these. But we talked about this already. You’re a Photoshop samurai, so cut that in half.

While you’re at it, set the Cache Levels to 1. This will allow you to open your Photoshop files faster. If you set the Cache Level higher, files will open slower but Photoshop will be more responsive while editing larger files.

Buy an SSD

When Photoshop runs out of RAM, it will write to the hard disk.  This is called your scratch disk. For best results, get another hard drive besides the one Photoshop is installed on.

Screencap of a Scratch Disk

If you can, get a solid-state drive and use that as your scratch disk. Solid-state drives are more expensive than hard disk drives, and you get less space, but the write speeds are incredibly fast.

Type Preferences

Turn off font previews

Finally we arrive at the Type Preferences Panel. If you don’t have any idea what font you’re using, I suppose this would be useful. But let’s be honest, you’re only using Helvetica.

Screencap of font previews
Second screencap of font preview

Set the Font Preview Size to NOTHING (uncheck it).

Obligatory conclusion

If you followed the steps above, Photoshop should now be running as smooth as butter. You’ll never have to see the spinning beach ball again. Do you think I missed anything? Do you want to fight about it? Let me know in the comments.

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  1. Hi Jarrod
    I always get frustrated with Photoshop’s speed but rarely use it for more than 20 mins at a time. I guess from now in I’ll be using it for 15 minutes at a time!
    Thanks for the tips 🙂

  2. Ooh! I’m in Photoshop almost constantly, and I’ve been using it for years, but even I found some settings I’d overlooked. Thanks!

  3. Thanks man! I’m not using Photoshop every day, but when I do, sometimes I get mad and frustrated by it’s slow speed…I hope this will help!

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