Between the addition of cameras to smartphones and the rise of image-centric social media sites like Instagram, photography has only become more and more popular over the past couple decades. This has also meant a lot more interest in image editing and adjusting. When it comes to software for image editing, it’s Adobe Photoshop that dominates both professional and enthusiast work.
However, serious users may find that Photoshop can sometimes be a demanding program. In this article, I’ll briefly discuss the importance of each PC component when it comes to having a good experience with Photoshop.
This post will not be an example build, but rather advice on what to prioritize and what to be aware of. (If you’re looking for something more specific, with recommendations of exact parts to get for different budgets—you should check out the first section our primary guide on building a PC for image editing and graphic design.)
A CPU for Photoshop
The most important part in a PC build targeted toward Photoshop is the CPU. The CPU is the part that will most directly determine how fast or smooth your photo editing feels, including everything from applying complex filters to making fine adjustments to an image. Adobe’s requirements for Photoshop say that your CPU’s single-core speed must be at least 2 GHz, but higher will be better.
As for core count, Photoshop mostly utilizes the first 4 cores of a processor. This means that newer CPUs with higher core counts won’t necessarily improve performance, except to the degree that they are also faster than lower-core-count/older models. You should primarily look for the CPU that has the highest single-core (boost) clock within your intended budget for the part.
A GPU for Photoshop
The GPU (which can be either integrated into the CPU, or on its own in a graphics card) doesn’t need to be particularly impressive to meet the needs of Photoshop. You should mostly just make sure that it is capable of displaying the resolution of the pictures you plan to edit.
Also, ideally your GPU choice would be a device that natively supports the number of monitors you intend to use. In the case of an integrated GPU in a CPU, that number would usually be just one; but even very-low-tier discrete graphics cards tend to natively support at least two or three with no hassle. Finally, if you plan to use your PC for other popular tasks like gaming, then you’ll want to opt for a strong GPU; just know that it probably won’t be noticeably beneficial for Photoshop.
RAM for Photoshop
For RAM, you can let your budget. If you are on a tight budget, get 8 GB, as this should be fine for beginner photographers editing 1080p photos and not previewing a lot of them (and even the cheapest RAM is now at quite a high speed). If you have the budget, get 16 GB or more. The difference between low capacities or low speeds and the opposite when it comes to RAM will be most noticeable when previewing photos and initially loading them into the program.
Storage for Photoshop
If you’re a pro or an enthusiast, you will probably also need a lot of storage space. RAW files or 4/8K photos take a lot of space, and you probably didn’t just shoot one or two pictures. Buying an SSD to store all of them on it can be pricey, but is the fastest choice for loading, moving, and exporting them. Those on a tight or beginner budget should consider just buying an SSD for the OS and Photoshop itself, and buying HDD storage for everything else.
While SSDs have come down in price, already-inexpensive HDDs have also gotten cheaper, so I would advise picking up at least a 1 TB drive (or preferably a 2 TB drive) if you want to be able to store a large quantity of pictures. However, this comes down to how many photos you take or work on, and how big the file sizes are.
Other PC components, like the case, motherboard, and PSU should be picked according to the parts selected in the earlier sections. Make sure your components fit in your case, that your motherboard is able to connect your parts, and that your PSU is strong enough to power them all. But beyond that, Photoshop doesn’t care about what case, motherboard, or PSU you have… as long as your PC runs.
A Monitor for Photoshop
Another ‘part’ I would like to shortly discuss is your monitor. Try to get a screen that has high dynamic range and good color representation or color accuracy. This means that the colors on the screen are as close as possible to the colors in reality which correspond to the intended wavelengths of visible light.
You have multiple color coverage percentages, and which one you should look at is dependent on what you want to do. 100% is the best, as this means full coverage and the ability to display any visible color. But all current color space options for monitors are far below that; depending on the method used to calculate it, most of them are closer to 50%. sRGB is the standard coverage (the color gamut that Instagram uses, for example); if you want edit mainly for Instagram, look for a monitor with good sRGB coverage. If you want to print professionally, look at Adobe RGB coverage. And lastly, a popular metric for modern screens is P3, which is (among many other things) the color space used by photos captured on iPhones from the iPhone 7 onward.
People interested in learning more about this topic or considering software options other than Photoshop may want to take a look at our main photo editing guide or even our quick overview of the best free software on PC. And people who want to build a more general-use PC that can handle Photoshop, but also lots of other things a computer may need to do, may want to take a look at our main build chart on our homepage.
But as for getting a sense of the role each key part plays in a Photoshop PC, hopefully this article has given you a good understanding of the basics. Anyone with questions about this topic, or who feels there’s an important note about some aspect of a PC for Photoshop that we’ve left out—should let us know in the comments below!