Question for the Mac + Photoshop experts!

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by vincmo, Oct 13, 2013.

  1. vincmo, Oct 13, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2013

    vincmo macrumors newbie


    Feb 26, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Hi guys!

    I don't post often on the forum but let me say that it is an amazing knowledge resource. I consult it quite often. Thanks to all to knowledgable members who help us not-so-good-with-computers people finding solutions to our problems!

    Let's cut to the chase:

    I am a Photoshop user. I'm a concept designer (digital painting) using a 2008 octo Mac Pro and a Wacom Cintiq at home. Since about a year, I got a new 2013 Mac Pro (base model) at work. I can feel the age of my 2008 MP when going back home. It looks like the next Mac Pro (coming this fall) would be a logical upgrade to make.

    I am wondering what are the specs I should be looking for when building my next computer... As I said, I only use Photoshop to paint. Right now, I paint images of 4800 pixels wide by 2000 pixels tall... Anything above that on the 2008 feels sluggish...(lag between brush strokes made on the Cintiq and when it appears on Photoshop) The 2013 can take up to 6000 by 2500 images but more than that and the same thing starts to happen.

    All I need is a computer that will be responsive and smooth. Best case scenario, I would be able to paint at very high resolution (like 9600 by 4000 for example) using big textured brushes (that have dual brush mode on and so forth). I don't need it to be fast for rendering filters and other things like that... I don't really use that... Painting is the only focus of this machine.

    Basically, my question is: what are the specs should I be looking for? The number of cores doesn't seem to make much difference compared to the clock speed... Am I right to think that? does the graphic card specs come into play? How much ram is enough ram, etc...

    I would very appreciate your help and inputs as I don't know much about those things ;)

    Thanks in advance,


    PS: Sorry if I made several mistakes in my text, English is not my first language.
  2. DanielCoffey macrumors 65816


    Nov 15, 2010
    Edinburgh, UK
    Can you list the specs of both your 2008 and 2012 MP (the 2013 isn't out yet by the way).

    Having a good look at the amount of memory and how much of it is used when working on the large images will be key.

    Next would be to consider getting a SSD and using it as the Photoshop scratch drive.

    Have you made sure you are using the latest Wacom drivers too?
  3. vincmo thread starter macrumors newbie


    Feb 26, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Hi Daniel,

    Thanks for the quick reply!

    2008 MP:
    2 x 2.8 quad core
    16gb ram: 2 x 8gb ram
    Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 512mb
    OS X is on a OWC 128gb SSD
    1 x 10K Raptor HDD only for photoshop as scratch disk
    2 x 1tb 7200 rpm drives for files

    2012 MP:
    1 x 3.2 quad core
    14gb ram
    Graphics: ATI HD 5770 1024mb
    OS X is on a 1TB 7200 rpm drive
    Scratch disk and files are on another 1TB drive

    Both computers run the latest Wacom Drivers

    RAM is not fully used when working on one image but get full when maybe 3 or 4 of them are opened at the same time...

    Let me know if I can provide more infos!
  4. TonyK macrumors 6502a


    May 24, 2009
    At this time I see 2 areas to improve your current MP. Well 3.

    Get a better video board. That 512MB could be limiting your ability to render at the resolution you say you need.

    Bump your memory to either 24GB or 32GB. If it were me, I would get 2 4GB chips to take it to 24GB.

    Bump up the 128GB SSD to at least 256GB (just to give you room)

    I have a 2008 MP (3,1) with 18GB and a fast 1TB drive for my system drive (partitioned in to 2 500GB drives). I get occasional beach balls but nothing that bothers me when I'm editing photos on my 30" Apple monitor. I have a 1GB ATI 5770 graphics board which I purchased from OWC.

    Your memory can be purchased from OWC for about $250 for the 2 4GB chips. I've used their memory in this system and also in the G5 PowerMac and it works very well. Not sure about OWC's SSD units.
  5. studio347, Oct 13, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2013

    studio347 macrumors newbie

    Nov 16, 2010
    I'm not an expert. But considering a similar.. I would get 36 GB RAM(72GB if possible) and at least 500 GB storage space from new MacPro. 1TB storage if possible.
    Enough RAM and Storage space make the work easier, I think.

    And a good graphic card( I heard the new MP will have good ones)and a fast_problem free thunderbolt outside backup SSD drive( for example,...something like 30 M delay cronosync backup or Time Machine BU for the important working files using a good HD 500GB samsung 840 pro).
  6. costabunny macrumors 68020


    May 15, 2008
    Weymouth, UK
    I am not an expert per say, but looking at the two machines and the differing performance, i would suggest its the video acceleration.

    Perhaps a 7950 3gb in the 2008 will give you a huge boost. I would look att he adobe site and see what the painting brushes you use are being rendered by (i mean check if they are accelerated by the gpU or not) if they are gpu accelerated then the 7950 should be a big improvement.
  7. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    it's probably the video card, the GT 120 is pretty weak. the CPU might have something to do with it - the 2008 processors aren't very fast by today's standards, but that's more difficult to address. I'd drop in a 5770 and see if that solves the problem first.
  8. spaz8 macrumors 6502

    Mar 3, 2007
    Agreed, upgrade the GT 120, that was the bottom end in 2008. That could very well be the heart of your screen response lag.
  9. vincmo thread starter macrumors newbie


    Feb 26, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    It makes a lot of sense guys... Graphics might be at cause here because if I recall right, Photoshop is using the GPU to accelerate the graphics since CS3 or CS4...

    Then the question becomes if I want to spend another 500-600$ on a graphic card to see if it addresses the problem or make a bigger leap and just by a new Mac Pro with faster CPU and GPU.

    I guess the other question I would have would be:

    If I go the new computer route, number of cores vs clock speed... Which one makes the difference in Photoshop?

    If I go the GPU upgrade route, clock speed vs amount of ram... Which one is the most important?
  10. sigmadog macrumors 6502a


    Feb 11, 2009
    near Spokane, WA
    I'm a bit late to the party, but I wanted to chime in because I have a very similar set up:

    2008 Dual 2.8 Quad Core Xeon (3,1)
    14 GB RAM
    ATI 5770 graphic card (1024 MB VRAM)
    OSX 6.8 (Snow Leopard) on a partitioned HD and a separate large capacity scratch disk (but no SSD at this time)

    I'm running two 23" Apple Cinema Displays and a Wacom Cintiq 22HD.

    I paint with Corel Painter, and even though it's nowhere near as quick as Photoshop, it seems to respond very well to large brushes.

    I occasionally work on large files. The largest recent file was 10,800 x 5400 and I don't recall any slowdown in Painter.

    Here's my recommendation in order of importance:

    1. A Newer, Faster Video Card (the ATI 5770 works great for me)

    That's it. I can't speak to the benefits of a larger capacity SSD, since I don't own one, and you seem to have plenty of RAM already. I just know that my experience is telling me a good video card would provide a clear benefit for large format digital painting.

    Obviously, a newer Mac Pro with a faster processor speed will always be faster than the 2008 model. If it were me, I'd prefer a faster processor over more cores or RAM, but that's mainly because Painter isn't multi-core at this time. I think Photoshop is multi-core friendly, however, so that may change things for you.
  11. studio347 macrumors newbie

    Nov 16, 2010
    As far as I know, photoshop is not multi-core friendly unto now. It might change in the future though.
  12. jrlcopy macrumors 6502


    Jun 20, 2007
    The cheapest upgrade is the Hard Drive, Just upgrade to an SSD, most likely problem will be solved. If not then do what other users have suggested. You have plenty of Ram.
  13. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    The HDD may be the cheapest modification, but the cited work machine doesn't have a speed complaint and it doesn't have any SSDs.


    If flipping the 10K Raptor for a SSD drive and the scratch/workspace target will highly be compressed images then probably want a non OWC drive. Samsung or Crucial. Could also keep the 10K Raptor and just use as source disk drive but put just app scratch on the SDD. ( spread the I/O load out across more fast drives ).

    Also worth looking at the vintage of the OWC 128GB drive. If that is 2-3 years old and filled to 80-90% capacity at this point, it is probably worth looking at swapping it also at some point.
  14. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    CPU: beyond four cores, clock speed.
    GPU: for 2D, just not low-end. 1GB memory would be plenty. the 5770 was midrange or upper midrange for its time, which is pretty much all you need. 3D, video, and sfx are where things start getting tricky.
  15. barmann macrumors 6502a

    Oct 25, 2010
    Which Photoshop versions are you using ?

    CS5 or later will let you run in 64bit mode and use more Ram; also, I always turn off graphic acceleration/OpenGL (or such) in PS preferences, huge difference in graphics performance .

    More details here .
  16. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    I'll probably get a few people to disagree with me but here's my two cents -

    Yes, the upcoming Mac Pro should do wonders for you with respect to speed. More CPU and more GPU and you just have to make sure you get as much RAM as you can afford.

    An alternative as some pointed out is to expand upon what you have now.

    Increase your RAM.

    Opt for a faster Vid card. Skip the hardware acceleration at first and test it out and then try with hardware acceleration. The truth is that at times using it can slow things down and only a few facets of Photoshop really take full advantage of hardware acceleration.

    Consider a second Raptor drive and "stripe" them for faster scratch. There have been a few test that went around showing just how well they do in performance when striped. You will spend less time on the scratch disk if you increase your RAM. Some folks go as far as to create a RAM drive for a scratch disk. - Of the latter, I am unsure of the real advantage but again, some find it a useful resource.

    Any real counterpart Mac Pro that is out today would run faster than what you have given faster CPU and GPU (assuming same amount of cores and similar speed) leaving you to fiddle only with RAM and drives.

    If you remain on the fence, wait for the new Mac Pro and if the price is too hefty, by one of the present day models (new or refurb). - Just my two cents.
  17. vincmo, Oct 14, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2013

    vincmo thread starter macrumors newbie


    Feb 26, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    I am using CS6. I noticed the same! Very weird... but I get the same results as you... Faster brush strokes without graphics acceleration...

    Thanks for the link! Looks like a very nice source for Photoshop + Mac optimal settings!


    Makes sense... Wait and see how much it will cost to get a decently speced MP and than decide if I go that route or the upgrade route... It surely would be cheaper to upgrade!
  18. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    2008 Mac Pros use FB-DIMMs - hard to find and expensive.
  19. Macsonic macrumors 65816


    Sep 6, 2009
    Hi Vincmo. Here is an Adobe article on speeding up Photoshop CS6 that may help. I think you already know some of them but worth checking this out HERE There is a section in that article on Key Steps to Optimize Photoshop CS6 Performance and a mention of CPU Processing. I am copy pasting a porton of that write up on processor:

    Quote from the Adobe Photoshop Guide
    For many years, processor performance was categorized in terms of clock speed. The higher the value, the more powerful the chip, and the better the image-processing performance. But processor speed alone no longer tells the whole story. Some of the best chips for intensive image-editing tasks (filtering in particular) are not those with the highest clock speeds, but rather those with multiple cores and 64-bit architecture support.

    Other mentions in the article were the scratch disk, ram allocation and video card.

    I also think upgrading your video card GT120 may help. For your current ram, whenever you're doing Photoshop work, you can check your ram usage at Activity Monitor to see if you always have extra free ram or not. In some other cases, 16gb may be adequate.
  20. Saltymac macrumors member

    Aug 19, 2013
    Rocky Mt State
    Macsonic is right on - video card is a difference between your two units. While PS isn't a big video card hog your 2008 is a bit reserved for your type of work. I would go with a 5770 1 GB type as you have in 2010 if you want to upgrade it economically or a NVIDA 660 (overkill) if you want to spend more money. You could swap the cards between machines and see if you notice a difference. It looks like to me you have enough RAM for your application use. I rarely need over 8 GB's of ram for PS, LR or Aperture.
  21. vincmo thread starter macrumors newbie


    Feb 26, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Thanks guys! I might go the video card upgrade route and see if it does the trick... Thanks everybody for all the inputs! Looking forward to see what the black cylinder has to offer and at what price... Hopefully it's officially out by the end of the month!
  22. Knara macrumors member

    Feb 12, 2010
    One more vote for upgrading that GT120. It really was an underpowered card, even when it was new in that model.

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