Increase Photoshop performance.

While retouching an image for Melbourne based Photographer Jayden Harrod, I noticed a significant slow down of my machine when my file size started to creep upwards of 500mb. It was extremely frustrating as I use a relatively new iMac and one would assume that this machine could handle the work I was doing.

Photoshop is just like any other program out there, it will do things and function in what ever way you tell it to. So, if you’re telling it to do things like not allowing it to use enough RAM or not giving it any space to store temporary files then you’ll notice a significant slow down in performance when you’re working on high resolution files.

So, lets have a look at what you can tell Photoshop to do in order for it handle your massive files a little better.

If you’re on a mac. You need to go to Photoshop -> Preferences -> Performance.

For Windows head over to Edit -> Preferences -> Performance.

Memory Usage.

This is where you tell Photoshop how much of your RAM it can use. When I retouch, I only really have iTunes and Photoshop open so I generally leave this at around 80-90% If you don’t give Photoshop enough RAM it will begin to store files on a Hard Drive which is slower to access then RAM. Consider closing unused applications when you’re using Photoshop.

Scratch Disks

Scratch Disks are Hard Drives that you tell Photoshop to use when it needs more space then you have available in RAM. If you have the cash and the hardware consider installing a Solid State Drive in your machine. I would, but I can’t add another drive inside my iMac. So, I just leave it assigned to my primary internal drive. I just have to make sure I don’t fill up this drive.

For those that want to consider adding another drive to your iMac using eSATA for maximum speed you can. It involves some drilling which is something I’m too scared to try. Find the information here.

History & Cache

I work very non-destructively, meaning, if I make a mistake I can always step backward with out undoing a million times. I’ve developed a workflow that enables me to work through a whole image and undo everything if I need to. Which means, I only need to set my History States to 20. Think about it, the more History States you tell Photoshop to remember, the more space it will need to store them. Keeping this number as small as you can will improve performance. If you notice a big slow down while working consider purging. To do this go to Edit -> Purge -> All.

Cache Levels is a little bit of a mystery to me. Photoshop tells me it is used to improve screen redraw speed. I normally set it to about 6 because the majority of files I work with are quite large.

Cache Tile Size. This little guy was the reason for my pain. I had never touched this setting previously purely because I had no idea what it was. It turns out that the default setting of 128k severely impaires performance. After changing from the default value of 128k to 1024k I really noticed a substantial increase in speed with brush strokes and filters.

GPU Settings

Keep this ticked if you have a Graphics Card that supports it. It enables you to pan flick around your documents and other fancy little thingys. Turn it off and a few things will be disabled which you probably won’t notice unless you use the 3D tools a lot.

Efficiency Indicator.

Keep an eye on this little guy at the bottom of your document window. To access it, click on the little arrow and make sure Efficiency is ticked. When it starts to drop below 100% Photoshop is telling you it is struggling to keep up!

Finally I need to thank the clever people/person responsible for After running in to trouble I came across this site and they enlightened me about the little Cache Tile Size ‘trick’. This alone purely solved my problem.

Click to view the helpful guide

I hope this helps you maximise Photoshop’s performance while retouching.

Joshua Jones.

Give your Photos the 3D Effect.

Remember when you were a kid (I’m talking early 90’s) and your parents would take you to the movies to see the latest ‘3D’ flick? Obviously you couldn’t resist seeing what the screen looked like without those funny blue and red glasses on. The first thing I did when I went to see a movie that was made the ‘new 3D’ way was take the glasses off (which to my surprise we not blue and red) to see what the screen looked like without them on. No where near as cool as I remembered…

So, lets take a look at how to replicate this 3D look inside Photoshop. The way 3D used to look without the glasses on…

Lets open up photoshop and open up your image. I am using an image from Katanaz Stock on deviantArt. If you wish to use the same image you can find it here.

1. Duplicate the background layer by pressing ⌘-j (ctrl-j on PC) or by dragging the layer into the ‘create a new layer’ icon.

2. Double click on the new layer you just created to open up the ‘layer styles’ window. Under the Advanced Blending heading, uncheck the R in Channels and press OK.

At this stage it appears that nothing has changed.

3. Select the Move Tool by pressing “v” and then move the layer you created either slightly to the left or right. You’ll notice the effect right away.

That’s it. You’re done. Now just save it out in your preferred format.

Joshua Jones.

Adding Adjustment Layers to your Radial Menu. (Intuos4 and Cintiq)

Last year at PMA in Melbourne some one asked me if they could create Adjustment Layers in Photoshop by either adding them to the Radial Menu or by adding them to the ExpressKeys. At the time I wasn’t sure, because I knew that by default Photoshop did not have shortcuts assigned to Adjustment Layers. So, I did a little playing around and you can definitely add your own custom shortcuts to add Adjustment Layers with in Photoshop. Here is how.

This guide is split in to two parts; Please note that this guide is designed for the Intuos4 Medium tablet, this means that the tablet preference file available for download will only work with the Intuos4 Medium tablet. If you’re using a different size Intuos4 then you’ll have to add all of the shortcuts to your Radial Menu manually. We have asked the relevant people at Wacom to have a look into this because I believe you should be able to setup your Radial Menu and then be able to use the shortcuts with all of your tablets. Also, this guide was prepared on the Mac OS, most of the screenshots look very similar in Windows. Getting to the Wacom Preferences is also a little different. Just go to the Start menu and look for “Wacom Tablet”.

1. Creating custom shortcuts in Photoshop.

2. Using the Wacom Tablet Driver to add functions to your Radial Menu.

Part 1.

We’re going to run through how to do this manually. At the end of the post I’ll provide a link where you can access a pre made Photoshop Keyboard Shortcut file.

To access your Keyboard Shortcuts dialog in Photoshop go to Edit -> Keyboard Shortcuts. Or ⌥⇧⌘K

Click to enlarge.

The Set: should say “Photoshop Defaults”, as soon as you modify one of the shortcuts it will change to “Photoshop Defaults (modified)”. Make sure the Shortcuts For: Drop down menu is on “Application Menus”. Scroll down to Layer and click the arrow, this will expand the menu. Scroll down a little further and you will see “New Adjustment Layer>” here you’ll notice all the names of your favourite Adjustment Layers. Now, to add your custom shortcuts it is as simple as clicking the name of the Adjustment Layer and then typing your keystrokes.

I assigned the shortcuts like so;

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Feel free to go ahead and assign them to what ever you like, I choose the above keystrokes because they didn’t really conflict with anything I already use. After you have punched in all your keystrokes either save them (so you can move them to another computer) or just hit ok.

To download a pre-made Photoshop Keyboard Shortcut file with the above shortcuts click here. (Mac platform only.) That file also contains the Wacom tablet Preferences file. More on that later.

To install this file, double click on it. Photoshop will open. Go into your Keyboard Shortcuts Dialog and you’ll notice that the Set: is “Photoshop Defaults (modified)”. Hit the save button (Floppy disk icon with a down arrow) and name your shortcut file what ever you want. Your shortcuts are now active.

Part 2.

Now we need to add these Keystrokes to our Radial Menu in our Wacom Driver. Go to System Preferences -> Wacom Tablet.

Choose your Tablet: Intuos4 M (or what ever tablet you’re using) your Tool: as Functions and Application: is Adobe Photoshop CS5 (will work with what ever version you have installed on your machine) and then finally make sure you choose Radial Menu.

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We’re going to add 11 keyboard shortcuts to our Radial Menu so we’re going to need to learn how to create a Submenu. Click on one of the empty ‘slices of pie’ and change the function to Submenu. Name that Submenu under Label: to Adjustment Layers.

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Now, in the box on the left hand side click the “Adjustment Layers” Submenu you just added. You’ll notice the Radial Menu will appear to be empty. You have just entered the Submenu with 8 more ‘slices’ you can customise. To do this, click on one of the ‘slices’ and change the function to Keystroke. Now punch in the first shortcut and name it. For our example it is Brightness/Contrast and the Keyboard shortcut in Photoshop is ⌥⇧⌘F1

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Continue to fill out the slices of the Radial Menu, we’ll need to leave one slice for another Submenu as there are 8 slices on this menu and we need to fit in 11 shortcuts. So, like we did before create another Submenu inside this Submenu and name it something like “More Adj Layers”

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Your “More Adj Layers” Submenu should look a little like this.

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You have now customised your Radial Menu. Close this window. Now we want to save a backup to avoid losing all of these shortcuts. This also enables us to move these shortcuts to another machine.

Go to Applications -> Wacom Tablet -> Wacom Tablet Utility

Now, click Backup… and name your new Tablet Preferences.

In the future, to move these preferences to another machine you just need to move this file to another machine and either double click on it where a dialog box will open, hit Replace.

Or, click Restore… and navigate to the file through the finder window.


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If you downloaded the zip file from part1 you would have the corresponding Wacom Tablet Preference file already. Click here (Mac platform only.) if you would like to download it. Follow the above steps to install it.

Finally, when moving the shortcuts to another machine you’ll need to install the Photoshop Keyboard Shortcut file aswell as the Tablet Preferences. They work together to enable you to add your Adjustment Layers via the Radial Menu in Photoshop.

Click to enlarge.

I should add that this will only work with the Intuos4 and Cintiq range of Wacom Tablets. The Bamboo range does not have a Radial Menu built into the driver.

Hope this helps.

Joshua Jones.