Help! Digital Artist/Photoshop users which iMac should I get?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by yassy, Jul 11, 2013.

  1. yassy macrumors newbie

    Jul 11, 2013
    Hi, I'm going to be doing a Masters in Animation soon and want to get a right sized desktop but am torn between the 21.5" and the 27". I will probably want to take the desktop abroad to university with me so the 27" may be a little bulky. I've tried both in my local apple store but here's the thing:

    Whilst I was initially drawn to the beautiful resolution of the 27" and appreciated the fact I could have Photoshop and palette up on screen with other programmes/internet browser as well without compromising on size, I do worry that it will be too big at home/at a university dorm room. In the apple store it looks just right but they have space and I have read online reviews that the screen size makes web browsing difficult because the ratios of most websites do not fit the fullscreen of the 27" so you're left with a lot of space. Though I guess most people browse with half a screen so that's ok.

    I don't really need the iMac for watching HD/gaming BUT I do torrent/stream a lot of foreign dramas/movies and am aware that unless they are 1080p they may come up looking pixelated especially on the 27" rather than the 21.5". My other qualm is as an artist, is the 21.5" not powerful enough to work Photoshop/illustrator as well as the 27? If I ordered a 21.5 I would certainly opt for the 1TB fusion drive, the 16GB RAM space but I wouldn't have a graphics card like the 27. Does that make a huge difference? I know CS6 is going to be updating itself and a graphics card may be necessary but I don't use inDesign or any other programme apart from Photoshop, Illustrator and Paint Tool SAI. I have Aperture on my Mac Book Pro for Photographs but will probably get it on the desktop too.

    Does anyone who has a Wacom tablet/ is an art enthusiast and uses the programmes I mentioned above prefer a 27" or is fine with the 21.5? It's not so much the money issue, but I do watch the occasional YouTube video, torrent etc and prefer a screen where I don't have to sit a mile back in order to reap the benefits. Thats another thing: space. I don't have the biggest desk in the world although it will happily sit the 27/21.5 but the 27 I worry may be a bit of an eyesore. Is it easy to get used to the screen? I have been working on a 15" MacBook Pro.

    I guess it boils down to size preference rather that performance because I have a feeling the 21.5 would suit my needs but the extra space would be mighty useful for drawing. :confused::confused::confused:
    Any help would be much appreciated.
  2. fig macrumors 6502a


    Jun 13, 2012
    Austin, TX
    It's really all personal preference. You won't see any big advantage with the graphics card as Photoshop and the like don't use the GPU much, it's more whichever screen size you're more comfortable with.

    I'd go to an Apple Store if possible and play with them for a while, see which size you prefer for your usage. Depending on how you like to work a bigger screen might be advantageous for arranging your palettes and menus, personally I've found that working dual screen is ideal for me.

    Cool on the animation stuff btw, I do some CG character stuff. Sounds like you're doing a masters in traditional animation?
  3. SR20DETDOG macrumors regular

    Jan 25, 2011
    Queensland Australia
    Honestly, this pretty much hit the nail on the head.

    Even the base iMac's CPU and GPU should be more than fine for those programs. Just make sure you get a decent amount of RAM (though 8GB isn't a bad starting point), which is something to keep in mind, you add more yourself with the 27" but not the 21.5".

    I bought my iMac to use for digital art (both 2D and 3D), spending most of my time in Photoshop with a tablet, and the 2560x1440 27" Display has been fantastic. It is not a necessity though, there is nothing wrong with the 21.5" display, the 27" is simply nice to have if you can afford it.

    Personally I would prioritize screen-size, RAM and SSD/fusion over CPU and GPU for digital art.

    But again,
  4. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    I personally prefer a primary screen that is comfortable with my tablet + a secondary screen accessed by mouse that just displays information whether it's notes or reference or whatever.
  5. SoAnyway, Jul 12, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2013

    SoAnyway macrumors 6502

    May 10, 2011
    27", max out the CPU and GPU through Apple. Buy third-party RAM and install it yourself. Keep the stock HDD but only get the SSD if you desire it. Beyond that, all your storage should be done on external hard drives in a RAID 1 configuration, especially for crucial work.

    In the past I've bought machines limiting myself to the stock configuration because it was what I thought I needed at the time while thinking I could save the money on the optional upgrades and regretted it as the machines showed their age much more quickly than if I bought the upgrades from the start. If you can afford it, get the most that you can from the beginning, sometimes it's worth it even for the peace of mind.
  6. iamgalactic, Jul 12, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2013

    iamgalactic macrumors regular

    Apr 21, 2010
    No, it's not personal preference. The OP needs a machine for doing animation. The 21.5" GPUs just aren't in the same ballpark as the 27".

    OP, as you state that you're doing animation, you should consider the high-end 27". You'll need the 680MX card for doing 3D work.

    And I'd recommend getting the Fusion drive too - then as others have stated upgrading the stock RAM yourself (can't do that on the 21.5)

    If you're worried about size and hauling it around, wait and see how the new Mac Pro is priced.
  7. NbinHD macrumors 6502

    May 26, 2012
    Macbook Pro 13'' - Mid 2012 Baseline
    Maybe thats the courses name, because in the bulk of his original post he states that the only programs he will be using is photoshop and illustrator, he didnt say anything about animation programs. OP?
  8. fig macrumors 6502a


    Jun 13, 2012
    Austin, TX
    Assuming he's doing 2D animation, which is what it sounds like, it won't matter, which is why I answered the question the way I did.

    If he were doing a lot of really involved CG work then we'd look at video card making a difference, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
  9. yassy thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 11, 2013
    Thanks for all the help guys. Yeah it's a Classical Animation masters I'm looking at followed by a computer animation course afterwards. But I haven't even tried 3D yet so happy to stick to the 2D for now. I think having a big screen is nice it's just if I can take it all the way from the UK to Canada/America with not too much of a problem and if it's gonna be too big for my current desk space. Honestly, I think the graphics card is better for the 3D and photography stuff but perhaps not necessary for digital artwork that doesn't compromise of these things? I'm not too sure. I know the RAM and the performance of the drive is what's critical which is why I will definitely be getting 16 RAM and the Turbo fusion.
    I'm going to try them both out again at the apple store before I make up my mind but glad to hear the 21.5 is still perfectly reasonable for what I want to do. Could always get a second monitor/hook up my Mac Book Pro if needs be.
  10. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    I remember calculating some time ago that a 1080p video in a window, actual size, on the 27" iMac is roughly the same size as running full screen on the 21.5" model. So just run the video in a window instead of full screen.

    The only apps I run full screen on my iMac are those that can use the pixels such as Photoshop, Aperture, Final Cut X, and virtual machines running other OSes. Everything else runs in a window.
  11. iamgalactic macrumors regular

    Apr 21, 2010
    yup - seems you were right, my mistake. I automatically assumed an animation course would feature 3D...
  12. Commy1 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 25, 2013
    From this artists opinion (not animation mind you..) 21.5" is a great size. Not overpowering but still very compact to feel comfortable with a second display/accessories on the desk.
    If budget isn't an issue then go all out. I personally couldn't handle a 27", that's a TV in my eyes.
  13. cats4jan macrumors member

    Jul 21, 2013
    When trying to figure out whether 27 was too large, I hooked up a 28" TV to my PC. It wasn't all that large (and I sit really close to the screen so I can work without my glasses on.)

    However, I probably wouldn't have purchased the 27 because after pricing both, I couldn't commit to the extra cost - so it was cost that drove the decision, not size. Then the decision was really taken out of my hands when I ended up with my deceased FIL's Mac - no choice involved.

    If there were no other reasons such as price and travel, I would choose the 27 inch.

    However, in your case, you are talking about hauling it around. The 27 inch will be impossible. The 21.5 comes in a relatively small box and will be easier to travel with. That is - if you were traveling by car.

    However, since you will need to fly with it, I'd ship it - not try to get it on a plane as a carry on. If they make you check it, it will get trashed. Or it will get stolen. You can't really take the chance that some hard-nosed gate agent will not allow you to take the computer on the plane because checking it will not be a wise decision.
  14. Acorn macrumors 68020


    Jan 2, 2009
    as an student that you will be moving around a lot you should get a 15 inch macbook pro and pair it up with the wacom cintiq 13hd. the cintiq would fit in a backpack with your laptop and no issues while traveling. when you reach your school you can always get a nice dell ips monitor delivered to the school.

    I would not get a imac in your situation. plus a lot of stuff gets stolen in college. its nice to be able to tuck stuff away out of view when your not in your dorm.

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