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Why Is Photoshop Being Slow? (How To Fix)

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There is nothing worse than your cursor turning into a spinning wheel as you wait for ages before you can start working on Photoshop again. When this happens, it may lead you to wonder why is Photoshop being slow? Ultimately, there are several reasons why this happens.

A common reason Photoshop becomes slow is that too much RAM is being used on your computer. Closing unused apps can help provide more processing power for Photoshop. Alternatively, go to Photoshop (Mac) or File (PC) > Preferences > Performance and increase the RAM usage for Photoshop.

As much as you would like to blame your computer or Photoshop for causing the problem, the issue is often an incorrect setting or preference you have used. Don’t worry though, we have all been there, and luckily there are some very easy fixes to prevent you from losing hours of work.

Scroll through this list of possible causes to try to find the right solution for you.

Common Reasons Photoshop Is Being Slow And How To Fix It

1. Photoshop Simply Needs A Break

After a couple of hours of editing images in Photoshop, your computer will have used up a lot of RAM. This is the memory needed to carry out any task on your computer, and there is a limit to this memory depending on your laptop’s capabilities.

Since Photoshop needs a lot of RAM to run, using too many actions can sometimes confuse the system. This is especially true if you have a lot of other tasks running in the background. 

Simply restart the program to reset this memory and start again on a clean slate. You could also restart your computer to ensure the RAM is completely reset as well. Just remember to save your work before you restart anything.

2. The Home Screen Doesn’t Load Correctly

When you start Photoshop, it will load and then open up on the home screen, where your recently opened projects are displayed. At times, this screen may appear blank, or the new document window might freeze or show a blank window.

If you want to prevent this or simply get to your workspace quicker, you can disable the home screen. Then you will go straight to the workspace whenever you open Photoshop.

To do this, select Edit > Preferences > General or use the shortcut Control + K (Windows) or Command + K (Mac). Then deselect ‘Auto show the Home Screen,‘ and next time you open Photoshop, you will land up on your workspace screen automatically. 

3. New Document Window Taking Too Long To Load

When creating a new document in Photoshop, the pop-up window is quite large, and you don’t always need all the options. This can unnecessarily slow down your workflow. Reducing the size of this window can help speed up the process.

Navigate to the same window as the previous step and select the ‘Use Legacy ‘New Document’ Interface.’ You will now have a smaller window that loads much quicker than the default window.

4. Not Enough RAM

Since RAM allows everything to function on your computer and Photoshop requires quite a lot of this, the amount of RAM the program can use is automatically limited. This may slow your Photoshop down to a certain extent, and if you are only using Photoshop, you can increase the RAM usage.

Navigate to the general preference window as shown in the first solution. Then select ‘Performance’ on the left-hand side of the window. Under the ‘Memory Usage’ section, you can move the slider to increase or decrease the RAM limit. Don’t go above 90%, as your other computer processes still need RAM to function properly.

5. Reduce History States And Increase Cache Levels

The performance tab from the above solution has two more tricks to help speed up the performance of your Photoshop. By default, the program automatically saves 50 history states, which allows you to ‘undo’ actions 50 times. If you don’t need this many, you can reduce this number.

In the performance window, select the arrow next to ‘History States’ and move the slider to the number you need. 

Right below the ‘History States’ is the ‘Cache Levels,’ which determine how quickly your project will re-draw your images as you edit them. When working on files with larger dimensions, you should increase this setting to speed up your workflow. 

The default setting is 4, which you should increase to 6 for larger files. Select the arrow next to ‘Cache Levels’ and move the slider as needed.

6. Misconfigured Preferences

Photoshop may sometimes lag because preferences are incorrectly configured at some point. This could take ages to test every tool and search through every setting to find the problem. You can easily restore Photoshop to its default settings to fix this issue.

To reset to default settings, navigate to the General Preferences Window, using Control + K (Windows) or Command + K (Mac), then select ‘Reset Preferences On Quit.’ When prompted whether you are sure about this, select OK. The next time you open Photoshop, you will start on a clean slate.

7. Photoshop Freezing During Startup

During the launch of Photoshop, your screen may freeze on the splash screen when it reaches ‘Loading Halide Bottlenecks…’. This is usually caused by large preset files or corrupt color profiles. To fix this, you will need to update to the latest version of Photoshop through your Creative Cloud. 

8. Lack Of Hard Drive Space

Photoshop requires you to have at least 20% of your hard drive space free when running the program. It won’t use up all this space with files, but it does need the space to be available when the program is running. 

If you find that your workflow is slowing down and there is no other reason for it, check how much extra space you have on your hard drive(s). Either create more space by deleting files or add another hard drive to your computer setup.

9. Lack Of Resources

If you are attempting to apply a filter and a warning appears that Photoshop is ‘out of resources,’ you can clear these up to continue working. 

Select Edit > Purge > All to clear up anything on the clipboard and in the history to provide more resources for you to continue working.

10. External Monitor Lagging

When making numerous edits in Photoshop, your computer needs a lot of power to run these actions. If you are using an external monitor, it can sometimes create a lag if your computer doesn’t have the capacity to run with the large monitor. 

You can fix this by unplugging the external monitor or upgrading your computer hardware. Alternatively, you can decrease the resolution on your external monitor to reduce the load. 

11. Files Saved On Network Drives

If you are editing files or using elements that are located on network drives, it can cause your workflow to slow down. Photoshop is also only set to troubleshoot on local drives, so it may have issues locating the problem. 

To fix this, copy the necessary files onto your local drive before editing. Once you have finished editing and saved your work, you can copy the files back to the network drive.

12. Clipboard Is Taking Up Memory

Photoshop automatically saves copied files on a clipboard to allow you to paste items into other programs. This feature is not always necessary and may use up RAM unnecessarily. You can prevent this by dragging and dropping your items instead of copying and pasting them.

Alternatively, you can switch off the clipboard. Navigate to the General Preference Menu, using the shortcut Control + K (Windows) or Command + K (Mac), and deselect ‘Export Clipboard.’ You can then re-select it when needed.

Why Is Photoshop Slow To Save Files?

A common problem that many people face when using Photoshop is lagging, which happens when saving files. 

The most common reason for a slow saving speed is due to large file sizes, which cannot always be avoided. However, you may be saving files larger than necessary. A common misconception in editing and design is that the bigger the file, the better the quality. Yet, this is not true.

Smaller file sizes can still offer great quality and allow for scalability in the event of printing photographs at a larger scale.

Start by creating smaller project sizes; you can do this by deleting any layers that aren’t necessary or merging layers that you won’t be working on anymore. You can do these two options by right-clicking on the layers you want to delete or merge and select those options from the list.

Another quick trick with the layers is to apply any layer masks by right-clicking on the mask and selecting ‘Apply Layer Mask.’ This will reduce the file size.

You can also reduce the resolution of your images to reduce the file size. To do this select Image > Image Size or use the shortcut Control + Alt + I (Windows) or Command + Option + I (Mac).

Then change the resolution by typing the new resolution in the box. For web images, 72 PPI (Pixels/Inch) is best, and 300 PPI is a good quality for printing images.

When saving your file, you can also choose from several file types; your selection will determine the export speed. JPEG will export faster than TIFF, for example, since it is more compressed. So only use the heavier file types when necessary.

Saving An Image For Web

When saving an image for the web, you should only use a quality between 40 and 60 as anything above this is unnecessary and will only slow down the export time. 

To do this select File > Export > Save For Web (Legacy) or use the shortcut Control + Shift + Alt + S (Windows) or Command + Shift + Option + S (Mac). Then slide the quality option down to your desired level. This will save a few seconds when saving web images.

Other Common Saving Issues

There are a few more reasons why your files may take longer to save and a few fixes to solve this problem. 

Increasing the RAM capacity of Photoshop, decreasing your History States, and increasing your Cache Levels will help speed up your exports. See numbers 4 and 5 above to learn how to implement these tricks. 

If you are saving your work as a PSD or PSB file, it can take longer due to the compression process. If you don’t mind a slightly larger file on your hard drive, you can deselect this step.

Select the General Preference Menu with the shortcut Control + K (Windows) or Command + K (Mac). Then choose ‘File Handling’ on the left-hand side before selecting ‘Disable Compression of PSD and PSB Files’.

Why Is The Brush Tool Lagging?

If the brush tool begins to lag in Photoshop, this is often because the smoothing setting is set too high. With the Brush Tool selected, go to the upper setting bar and decrease the smoothing slider to a lower value. Now your brush will operate without lag.

Now a lagging brush tool in Photoshop could be caused by a few problems. Your overall workflow could be lagging, you might have accidentally increased the ‘smoothing’ option of the brush, or your computer’s processing is causing issues. 

If you have tried the above steps to fix an overall lag problem, the next step is to check the smoothing of the brush. This option is available to create a smoother brushstroke, and the lag you are experiencing is necessary to create a smoother look. 

If you don’t want this effect and the slow movement, reduce the smoothing. When you have your brush tool selected, by pressing B, locate the smoothing option on the top options bar and reduce it down as low as you would like.

Another trick you can try, especially if your computer’s processing unit is not too great, is to change the drawing mode to basic. Head to the preference window through the shortcut Control + K (Windows) or Command + K (Mac). Then select ‘Performance’ on the left-hand side.

Under the ‘Graphics Processor Settings’ on the top right, choose ‘Advanced Settings.’ Then select Basic in the drop-down menu next to the ‘Drawing Mode’ option. This should help prevent any lagging on the brush tool.

So those are a few common reasons for Photoshop to start acting slow and how you can fix them. Even if you don’t have a top-of-the-line computer, these tips will help you to make Photoshop run smoothly in no time!

Happy Editing!

Photo of author
I'm a Canadian photographer and photo retoucher turned founder of bwillcreative.com. Around here I help you to decode the mystery of photo editing with no-fluff videos and written guides to help you achieve your creative goals. Outside of shooting photos and my passion for educating, you'll find me mountain biking or on the trails with my dog, Sunny!

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