What Are The Best Graphics Cards for Photoshop

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Unless you’re also deep into PC gaming and building your own computers, the world of graphics cards can be almost impossible to decipher, especially when it comes to Photoshop. Almost all of the marketing is aimed toward the gaming sector, and when it does refer to creative professionals, it’s almost always discussing how great they are at video processing and not about Photoshop. 

My name is Thomas Boldt, and I’m one of the hardware experts here at PhotoshopBuzz. I’ve built all of my own personal desktop computers in the last 20 years, and I’ve also been using Photoshop for at least that long. 

As an avid gamer who’s also interested in AI-powered tools like Stable Diffusion that rely heavily on graphics cards, I keep an extremely close eye on the entire GPU market, and I can help translate the marketing hype and tech jargon into useful information about Photoshop. 

In this post, I’ll discuss just how much your GPU matters for your Photoshop editing workflow, which tools actually use your GPU, and how much power is too much. Once we’ve covered the basics, I’ll pick out a few GPUs that fit different price points and use cases. 

Key Takeaways

  • The graphics processing unit (GPU) is not a major factor in overall Photoshop performance, although certain specific new features rely on it.
  • A discrete graphics card typically provides a huge performance improvement over the integrated graphics processor found in your CPU. 
  • Photoshop requires a GPU with a minimum of 1.5 GB of RAM in addition to your system RAM. 
  • A GPU with at least 4 GB of RAM will provide a smooth experience for most Photoshop tasks
  • New tools like Neural Filters and Select Sky that use GPU acceleration may benefit from a more powerful GPU, but reliable benchmarking data is still limited.

How to Choose the Best Graphics Card for Photoshop

Most video cards are marketed towards gamers who care about getting the highest possible visual quality from their games at the highest possible framerates, but that’s not really a huge concern for Photoshop users (unless you also happen to be a gamer, of course). Here’s what matters in a graphics card intended for use with Photoshop.

Video RAM

Photoshop has some basic system requirements for the GPU, but they’re very forgiving. Photoshop requires a minimum of 1.5 GB of video memory, although the recommended specs from Adobe suggest that 4 GB of video memory is preferable for using Photoshop with high-resolution 4K displays. If you want to use multiple 4K displays, you may be better off with 6GB or even 8GB of video RAM.

At the top end of the graphics card spectrum, workstation cards often contain 48GB of video memory or even more, but these are definitely excessive for Photoshop usage, so they’re rarely used in computers that are built especially for Photoshop. Even the top consumer card currently available, the RTX 4090, has far more video RAM than you will need in Photoshop, while budget cards still usually have more than the recommended 4 GB amount.  

Processing Speed

Surprisingly enough, the processing speed of your GPU doesn’t make as much of a difference as you might think in standard Photoshop workflows. Creative workstation manufacturer Puget Systems provides most of the Photoshop community’s reliable benchmarking data, and in their testing, budget cards perform almost as well as their far more powerful and expensive counterparts in typical editing tasks. 

Adobe has recently begun launching a set of advanced Photoshop tools powered by machine learning known as Neural Filters, and they may gain some performance boost from a more powerful GPU, but these features are still in beta testing, and there is no reliable benchmarking data available. Nvidia makes some carefully vague claims in their marketing materials about how they benefit from advanced GPUs, but they don’t provide any hard data, which means their claims should probably be interpreted as sales material rather than objective truth.   


If you’re working with a single 4K monitor, you don’t need to worry too much about connectivity, but if you want to use a complex multi-monitor setup, then you’ll need to be sure that your graphics card can support enough display outputs.

Fortunately, all of the graphics cards that I’ve selected below support 4 displays, and they all have the same number and type of connectors: one HDMI 2.1 and three DisplayPort 1.4a. Any new monitors that are good for Photoshop will also use the DisplayPort connector, so you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues. 

The Price / Performance Balance

As I’ve mentioned at other points in this article, most Photoshop workloads don’t make heavy use of the GPU. Certain tasks are heavily dependent on GPU acceleration (see the full list of GPU-based tools here), but the new Neural Filters that are most likely to benefit from a more powerful GPU haven’t been benchmarked by reliable sources yet.

Since graphics cards are often extremely expensive, it’s important to decide just how much you can afford to spend on a GPU that plays a relatively minor role in most Photoshop editing projects. It’s often better to buy a budget GPU and focus your resources on buying a better CPU, more RAM, and a faster SSD. 

The Best Graphics Cards for Photoshop Reviewed

You’ll probably notice immediately that Nvidia has made all the winners in this product category, but they’ve been dominating the entire GPU market for quite a few years now, outpacing their rival AMD’s Radeon line and Intel’s new Arc cards. 

Best Consumer Card Available: Nvidia RTX 4090

Before you object, I’m the first to admit that this card is truly excessive for most Photoshop workflows. But if you find yourself doing a lot of work with Photoshop’s Neural Filters or working with other GPU-intensive apps alongside Photoshop, and you’ve got an unlimited budget, this card is an absolute beast. 

Featuring a whopping 24 GB of video RAM, this graphics card has more dedicated video memory than most computers have as their main system memory, which means you’ll have to try very hard to push it to its limits. 

With the exception of dedicated workstation graphics cards that boast 48 GB of RAM or more, this is the most powerful graphics card available on the market today. There are quite a few different variants of the 4090 available from different manufacturers at very different price points, but the more expensive models only provide a few extra Mhz of clock speed and are not worth the higher prices. 

The RTX 4090 supports up to four displays with resolutions of up to 8K, although most 8K monitors are intended for film work, so they’re a bit excessive for Photoshop usage – but then, ‘excess’ is the 4090’s middle name, after all. 

The insane amount of processing speed offered by the 4090 inevitably comes with an extremely high power draw. You need a PSU rated for at least 850 watts, although in most systems, it’s usually a better idea to move up to 1000 watts or more, especially if you’re using one of the latest power-hungry Intel or AMD CPUs or if you’re planning to connect a lot of drives and other devices. The card itself is also comically large, so make sure that you physically have room in your case. 

Of course, the size and power usage issues are nothing compared to the dollar cost of the card, which is truly jaw-dropping. While it’s the best consumer card available, the performance gains displayed in the Puget Systems Photoshop benchmarking tests are hard to justify when compared to the much more affordable 4070 Ti, so make sure you take a close look at your budget, your computer case, and your actual usage needs before committing to the 4090. 

The TLDR Summary: Nvidia RTX 4090 is excessive for almost all Photoshop usage, but it provides unmatched performance in any computing workflow. 

Best Balance of Price/Value Card: Nvidia RTX 4070 Ti

Nvidia originally tried to launch this card branded as an RTX 4080 at a new price point, which riled up their main customer base of PC gamers and caused Nvidia to withdraw it and rebrand it, but the card itself is excellent. 

With 12 GB of dedicated video RAM, it’s not quite straying into the same “excessive” category occupied by the RTX 4090, but it’s still more than enough for a multiple 4K monitor setup with a demanding Photoshop workflow that makes heavy use of GPU-accelerated features. 

In fact, in Puget System’s Photoshop benchmark testing of typical Photoshop workloads, the RTX 4070 Ti performed within a few percentage points of the top-tier 4090, so you don’t have to break the bank to buy a graphics card that will still handle anything Photoshop can throw at it – and the power draw is also significantly less than the 4090. 

Even if it turns out that Neural Filters rely heavily on GPU performance and they are going to be a huge part of your workflow, the 4070 Ti is still positioned at an ideal middle ground between price and performance, especially if you’re going to be using other GPU-intensive apps alongside Photoshop as part of your workflow. 

That being said, it’s still quite an expensive card, and you can still get excellent performance out of a cheaper graphics card, such as the best budget pick that’s next on the list. 

The TLDR Summary: Nvidia RTX 4070 Ti offers the best balance of future-proof performance and an affordable price tag, although it’s still more powerful than most Photoshop users need. 

Best Budget GPU Option: Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti

Now that the RTX 4000 series has been released for a while, the 3000 series has become much more affordable, which makes them some of the best budget graphics cards available for Photoshop. Because most Photoshop workflows don’t tax the GPU too heavily, you can get more performance gains out of a limited budget by focusing on upgrading your CPU, RAM, and SSD instead of splashing it all on an overpowered GPU. 

Even at the budget end of the price range, the RTX 3060 Ti has 8 GB of dedicated video RAM, which is more than enough to run multiple 4K displays and get good performance from GPU-accelerated tools. It still has all the same connectivity options that you get in the more expensive cards, and it’s got a much lower power draw. 

For most Photoshop users, the 3060 Ti provides more than enough power and video RAM, and the price point is a lot more reasonable. As additional budget 4000 series models get released, you can expect the 3060 Ti prices to drop a bit further, which will make this card an even more attractive option for the budget-conscious Photoshop editor. 

The TLDR Summary: The Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti is the best choice for most Photoshop users who don’t care about machine learning features and just need solid performance at a reasonable price.

Frequently Asked Questions

While graphics cards were long considered to be a gaming device, recent advances in machine learning that take full advantage of the GPU format’s specialized capabilities have created a great deal of confusion in the creative professional sector about how much your GPU matters. 

Here are a couple of the most common questions, but if you’ve got a question that I didn’t address here, let me know in the comments below, and I’ll try to help out. 

Do graphics cards help with Photoshop?

Yes, graphics cards help with Photoshop performance, but only up to a point. The biggest performance improvement happens when moving from integrated graphics to a discrete graphics card, but once you’ve made that switch, even budget GPUs typically perform almost as well as much more powerful and expensive cards in typical Photoshop workflows. There may be some advantages to a more powerful GPU when using new Photoshop features powered by machine learning, but there aren’t any reliable benchmarks yet since most of these features are still in beta testing. 

Is the graphics card or RAM better for Photoshop?

When you’re working with a limited budget, it’s usually better to invest in more RAM instead of a more powerful video card. The biggest GPU performance improvement happens when you switch from integrated graphics to a discrete GPU with at least 4 GB of dedicated video RAM, but purchasing more system RAM will allow you to work on more high-resolution documents and run more apps in the background alongside Photoshop. 

Is Photoshop heavy on the CPU or the GPU?

Most processing tasks in Photoshop rely on your CPU performance as opposed to your GPU. Some of Adobe’s new machine-learning tools that make automatic selections and adjustments to your image may benefit from a more powerful GPU, but these features are still quite new, so there isn’t much reliable data available on how much the GPU matters yet. For typical editing tasks, Photoshop relies more heavily on your CPU for smooth performance and quick processing. 

A Final Word

While this article might seem a bit anti-climactic to some of you, it may also be a big relief to learn that you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money on a graphics card to get good Photoshop performance. Since GPUs are now often the most expensive element of a computer system, this allows you to refocus your budget on components that can provide more of a performance boost. 

Until we get more data about Neural Filters and how they use the GPU (or how they don’t), you can save some cash and still have a great machine for Photoshop. The great thing about discrete graphics cards is that you can upgrade them without having to buy a whole new computer. 

Good luck with your system build!

About Thomas Boldt
Thomas started his Photoshop career way back in 2000. After exploring Photoshop 5.5 in a high school computer lab, he developed an enduring passion for photography, design, and technology that carried him through a Bachelor of Design degree and into the wild world of tech startups.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • roger lapinski

    Very interesting article! Now that RTX 4060 is available, what is your opinion of that GPU? I have to replace my computer. What do U recommend for a “reasonable” SSD & second drive?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Thomas Boldt

      Hi Roger, at the moment, I’m not convinced that the extra cost of the 4060 provides much of an improvement over the 3060, although I haven’t looked too deeply into the spec comparisons yet. You can probably get 3060s much cheaper now, as a result, though. As for a ‘reasonable’ SSD, it really depends on the rest of your specs and what your budget is.