Design insights & tutorials.

Photoshop CS5: Performance Tips

So I recently jumped the gun and upgraded to Photoshop CS5 on the Mac. And I wasn’t too happy about it.

Let’s just say that the performance levels were not to my liking. In fact, Photoshop CS5 performed worse than CS4. I was even more confused because Adobe touted the 64-bit nature of Phototshop CS5, which was supposed to bring all sorts of performance gains. I saw none of these, and in fact the opposite.

The Rotate View tool was sluggish and jumpy, brush resizing via the keyboard was jerky at times, zooming in and out was full of hiccups and lag.

Lest you think I’ve been holding on to some old outdated machine, I’m running a Mac Pro dual-quad 2.8 Ghz with 14 GB of RAM. And like I said, CS4 was blazingly fast for me. I was really disappointed in the upgrade. In fact, I was reverting back to using CS4 for my Photoshop needs.

Reaching the end of my rope, I finally did a Google search. Lo and behold I found the Mac Performance Guide article all about Optimizing Photoshop CS5 Performance.

The series of articles explains that most of the tips for CS4 were valid, but there were a few things specific to CS5 that could use a little work. In particular, the one tip that helped me was the Cache Tile Size tip. Seems this obscure little setting in the preferences has a huge impact on Photoshop CS5′s performance, and oddly it’s set by default to a number that kills Photoshop’s performance by up to 80% in some cases!

There’s also a Memory Allocation issue which — as the author suggests — is a bug and needs to be fixed by Adobe. The author Lloyd Chambers(@digilloyd) kindly offers some “warmup” scripts as workarounds to these issues in the meantime. The basic gist is that Photoshop CS5 doesn’t properly allocate the max RAM setting you’ve told it to until it’s opened a file of that size or larger (at least that’s the idea I gathered).

I dropped an @ reply to Photoshop product manager John Nack via Twitter, and waiting to see what his take is on the default setting for the cache tile preference and the performance hit.

If you’re a Photoshop CS5 user and have any other performance tips, please sound off in the comments below.

Header image background photo via Nathan Eal

About the Author, George Coghill

George Coghill isa freelance humorous illustrator/cartoonist specializing in mascot cartoon character design & cartoon logos. His cartooning & illustration work can be seen at and at his cartooning and illustration blog. Be sure to follow me on Twitter here!
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We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • Simon H.

    Well, since I still don't have CS5 I won't know before a long time. But I'll wait to have a better computer too.

  • Freelance Web Design

    After heavy usage in CS5, my macbook pro won't wake up from sleep! Anyone with the same problem??

  • Guest

    That's cause you're using a Mac…CS5 runs fast on my machine, but I have a PC with an Intel i7, 12GB of ram and SSD hard drive I noticed the difference. CS5 is way faster than CS4. Changing the scratch disk to an off drive and installing Photoshop on the SSD drive also helps too.

  • Andy Sapp

    My copy of Photoshop CS5 crashes performing the most minute tasks – like stroking a layer, selecting all, or even turning a layer off in the layer palette.

    I'm so frustrated with it that I stopped using it altogether.

  • Denny Crane

    If you work in a mac try Acorn or Pixelmator. Much better than Photoshop and you don't have to expend a lot of money on a buggy, ugly and slowly product like PS CS5

  • alanvalek

    That's really odd because I've been using Photoshop for over 10 years and this is the largest leap in performance I've ever seen. Do you people use Disk Warrior or other utilities to optimize your drive every month ect.? This sounds very odd to me. Granted I have a screamer machine but I had CS4 installed on it before and CS5 is leaps and bounds faster; functions like lens correction are practically instant now. I don't get it.

    Dual 2.93 Nehalem
    16GB Ram
    500GB Scratch Disk for Photoshop

  • TomFaraci

    I didn't notice any problems but I went ahead and made the tweaks, let's hope that wasn't a mistake on my part haha.

  • OverIthisWire

    I am just about to get a macbook pro in a few weeks and i was looking forward to upgrading to cs5 on my macbook! I'm worried now. :(

  • OverIthisWire

    Did you pay for your version of cs5 or did you d/l from a file sharing program? Many of my friends who didn't buy the software and downloaded it end up with similar problems.

  • OverIthisWire

    Also what are the specs on your macbook?

  • alanvalek

    Don't worry, it's fine.

  • MartinDoersch

    I have changed the tile size and now Photoshop is running much smoother for me. Thanks for the links!

  • ColinG

    yeah it runs fine on my old macbook pro 2.4ghz w/ 3g ram… zooming drawing etc all smooth.

  • theroyaltyclub

    I was having some performance issues as well…thanks for this post.

  • dillinjabreakz

    I am still actually using Photoshop CS3 because CS4 never ran well. Now I am updated to CS5…its Terrible. I can't use PS4 or PS5…..what a joke.

    I tried all the tricks that I could find online before and nothing ever really worked.

  • Pablo Beltran

    I can tell that the CS5 runs faster and smooth than CS4 on my PC, CS4 was great in my machine but i upgrade to CS5 and is much more great!!!!! zooming, rotation tool, brushes, etc. is way better than the previous version!!!! and i´ve been using the CS5 for 3 weeks or so!!!! i run a PC with Windows 7 professional 64 bit, amd athlon 2.7 dual core, 6.00 GB RAM, ATI RADEON HD 3650 1 Gb. CS5, Two Thumbs Up!!!!! Cheers………

    • mtoyne

      Just got a Dell Studio XPS, 12 GB RAM, Windows 7, 64 bit. CS5 locks up after roughly 12 changes to any document! I’ve increased RAM usage to 8 GB, Cache set to 6, Cache Tile size 1028K, History States to 60, GPU settings to Basic with vertical Sync and Anti-alias Guides/Paths checked. What are your performance settings? Help!

  • jenatjax

    Check to see if your graphics card is tested for performance (see… and Running PSD CS5 on my first generation Intel MacBook Pro was a disaster (graphics card couldn't handle it). I haven't used it all that much since getting a new machine, but I'm hoping it makes a difference! Good luck…

  • Thus_styles

    I have intel i7 920 quad core 2.6GHz,6gb of ram, windows 7 64bit and a radeon 5850 :)

    • Rent A Car

      Very good..:)

  • Peter Lockhart

    I've upgraded from CS4 (a legal copy) to CS5 (a legal copy) on my MacBook Pro and my iMac… both boosted performance. No problems yet and I've been using it on both machines since CS5 came out.

  • George Coghill

    CS4 was super fast for me on the Mac, so the CS5 thing makes me think Adobe is the culprit.

  • George Coghill

    I'm confused as well. CS4 was blazing fast for me.

  • George Coghill

    I have the ATI Radeon 2600 HD, which according to Adobe was a tested card. CS4 was super fast for me, so this performance hit is puzzling.

  • alanvalek

    See, now I would say the opposite, CS4 was just ok to me as far as speed goes. I mean, you could only give CS4 4gb of memory with 32bit — My machine config. + CS5 is insane. It's got to be something else in your system that's making it slower..? I know you won't want to hear this, but have you considered the 'ol faithful of low-level formatting your drive and re-installing everything? Pain in the ass I know.

  • Photoshop Clipping Path

    Nice tutorial

  • Alex

    Isn't it ironic that a graphic prgramm doesn't run that fast on a Mac which is specialized for graphic designer than on a PC?

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  • Eddie11

    I actually disagree with what you say here because cs5 runs much faster (especially when first launch it) with all my 500mb brushes and 1600 fonts.. even after working with some files, I noticed a bit more speed and less problems with it than cs4.
    I yet to encounter working with massive 2GB files but so far with files under 400mb, no problems or slow downs like I used to have on cs4..
    running xp 32bit with core 2 quad 2.40ghz and 3.25gb ram

  • khaos

    Hopefully you already found the fix for this issue. If you haven’t, what I tried was Edit>Preferences>Performance>Advanced Settings then switch to basic. Worked for me, might help you.

  • Lisa

    Thank you for this write up, we were thinking of upgrading to CS5, but we will probably wait a little while now.

  • Clipping Path Service Provider

    Very nice tips. Nice links too. Thanks for share. :)

  • panax

    But working as a web designer in a small city most of my clients didn’t get it, so i stopped trying to get grunge influences in my designs. After it got all over the internet I kinda grew sick of the easy cut and paste grunge that shit up style as you so well mentionned in your great article

  • panax

    Very cool and interesting article