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What computer best supports photoshop (possibly illustrator)

New Here ,
Apr 30, 2024 Apr 30, 2024

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Hi! Not sure if this is the right place to post this question. If not let me know where it can be posted. I'm a digital artist, and I'm considering switching from fresco to photoshop or illustrator. I'd like to know which one would prove an easier transition.
But mostly, I need help in choosing a laptop computer that will adequately support either program. I was planning on using mac, but am unsure if that is the best choice over windows. What would you recommend, disregarding the huge price difference?
I understand that mac and windows are very different. If possible, could you answer the following questions separately for both mac and windows:
- Is there a set of important requirements you would suggest?
I have seen the list of Adobe requirements here but have been told they are understated:
- what kind of GPU? CPU? 
- how much storage? RAM? SSD? Scratch disk?
- I will be hooking this up to a 4K monitor. Will I need a specific resolution on the laptop to make this work? 
 
Lastly, is there one or a few specific computers you could recommend?
 
Thanks so much for you support.
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Adobe
Community Expert ,
Apr 30, 2024 Apr 30, 2024

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I would actually recommend a desktop build over a laptop, if that is at all an option. There are several potential issues with laptops.

 

The most immediately urgent is the fact that all laptops come with dual graphics nowadays. The problem is that Photoshop/ACR/Lightroom/Illustrator use the GPU for actual data processing, and the result returned to the application for further processing. It goes back and forth. Obviously you can't send data to one GPU and get it back from the other, so there can only be one GPU in this equation.

 

Dual graphics is great for simple applications that just send data one way downstream. But it causes problems with Photoshop and you may need to completely disable the integrated GPU.

 

Second, hard drive space. You may think a TB or two is enough, but Photoshop eats disk space for breakfast. You'll quickly run out. Working off external drives is inconvenient and risky. They get bumped into and knocked around, cables and connectors inevitably get worn. File corruption is always a real risk. With a desktop machine, you just put it inside the case and replace it with a bigger one, or several, when needed.

 

Third, often overlooked. Laptops are usually so heavily modified and customized by the vendor that you often can't find the operating system anymore, it's deeply buried in all kinds of "helpful" extra layers. All this tends to get in the way and usually just causes problems.

 

Personally I much prefer Windows for a lot of reasons, but if it absolutely has to be a laptop, an MBP is probably a safer bet, simply because they are leaner and cleaner than most Windows laptops.

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New Here ,
May 03, 2024 May 03, 2024

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Thank you so much for the feedback! Honestly I haven't considered a desktop. I actually wouldn't know where to begin looking for one. Is there any chance you could steer me in the right direction? Is there a specific computer or company you like? I really appreciate the help!

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Community Expert ,
May 03, 2024 May 03, 2024

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@Maria.Pretzler what kind of budget do you have, you mentioned been a digital artist, do a Google search for Krita, it's free and may suit your needs

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Community Expert ,
May 03, 2024 May 03, 2024

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@Maria.Pretzler 

You should probably have a little prior technical knowledge to specify a desktop machine. A laptop is simpler in that regard, it's pretty much off the shelf according to budget - but also more risky. Easily 95% of Windows users with problems here in the forum have laptops.

 

So for a laptop, I think I'd recommend a MacBook Pro. Not because they're "better", they aren't, but because they're usually simpler and cleaner and therefore safer. It'll probably give you less problems.

 

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Community Expert ,
May 03, 2024 May 03, 2024

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quote
I'm considering switching from fresco to photoshop or illustrator. I'd like to know which one would prove an easier transition.
By @Maria.Pretzler

 

 

You will most likely need both Illustrator and Photoshop, but you might start with Photoshop because of the special pricing for the Photography plan (annual commitment) of just $9.99 per month and, then add Illustrator later. Both have learning curves.

 

Jane

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Community Expert ,
May 03, 2024 May 03, 2024

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D Fosse’s advice is excellent for Windows PCs, but for Macs, the situation is different in some important ways. Also, in general, the advice also depends on what kinds of images you will be editing. The Adobe requirements are fine for low to midrange uses, but if you photograph using high-megapixel cameras and/or add a lot of layers, then you do need to have (mostly) more memory and storage, and (maybe) a more powerful CPU and GPU.

 

So, for Macs:

CPU. Any Apple Silicon chip (currently M1 through M3) is great. Avoid the older Macs with Intel processors, they will run slower and hotter and use too much battery power.

GPU. All Apple Silicon Macs have a GPU on the same chip as the CPU. They do not have dual GPUs or separate (discrete) GPUs like Windows PCs have. These GPUs are typically more than good enough for general Photoshop/Illustrator type work.

Storage. Macs have fast internal SSD storage similar to PCs, but it is expensive to upgrade at purchase time, and it cannot be upgaraded after purchase time. It’s common for Mac Creative Cloud users to order 1TB of internal storage (maybe 2TB if they can afford it), and if they need more, plug in fast external SSD storage using the USB-C ports. External SSDs are now cheap, and tiny so they are easy to throw into a laptop bag.

Unified Memory. What was traditionally called RAM (working memory) is what Apple currently calls Unified Memory, to make it clear that it’s used not only for working, but also as graphics memory (memory for the GPU) which is typically separate on PCs. So, for example, if you would have bought a PC with 16GB RAM and a GPU with 8GB of its own RAM, a rough Mac equivalent should have maybe 24GB of Unified Memory because the memory will be doing both jobs.

Scratch Disk. If you can afford enough internal Mac storage that it will have 200-500GB or more free at all times (your actual needs depend on the size of the Photoshop files you edit), you could just let the internal storage be the scratch disk. But for example, my Mac laptop has 200GB or less free most of the time, so I choose to plug in a cheap, fast, and mostly empty external USB SSD and assign that as the scratch disk.

 

Recommendations:

 

If your Photoshop editing is not too intense (under roughly 20 megapixels, not many layers), any current MacBook Air, Mac mini, or iMac is fine as long as it has at least 16GB of unified memory. For a laptop, the M2 MacBook Air is a very good value even compared to PC laptops, and especially if you want the longest battery life.

 

If the Photoshop files will be large, if you will be doing lots of batch processing of raw files in Lightroom, or getting into video editing, then it will be good to upgrade the CPU and GPU and have much better cooling, and 32GB or more of unified memory. In this case, a MacBook Pro (M2/M3 Pro or higher) or Mac Studio is a better choice. For a desktop, the base Mac Studio is another very good value because at its base price you don’t really have to upgrade anything except maybe internal storage.

 

If your work will be extremely intense, or you plan to get into 3D, or if you need to batch process AI Denoise or other AI features in Camera Raw or Lightroom, that would be a reason to upgrade to a Mac with the M2/M3 Max or Ultra processor levels because they have many more CPU and GPU cores. But those are expensive and most people don’t need that.

 

Regarding the 4K display, those are typically run at 3840 x 2160 px  at 2x Retina/HiDPI scaling, which a Mac or PC is likely to automatically switch to when you plug in a 4K display, and be adjustable. In other words you might not have to do anything special.

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Community Expert ,
May 03, 2024 May 03, 2024

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quote
I'm a digital artist, and I'm considering switching from fresco to photoshop or illustrator. I'd like to know which one would prove an easier transition.
By @Maria.Pretzler

 

Fresco is much more closely related to Photoshop, because both primarily use pixel brushes for painting. You might have noticed that Fresco and Photoshop files both appear in each other’s Home screens on an iPad, because they use the same format.

 

Note that the desktop (Mac/PC) version of Photoshop is much different and much deeper than Photoshop or Fresco on iPad, so it will still feel a lot like starting over. For example, if you love Fresco because you paint and draw digitally, in Photoshop you might spend most of your time using the Brush and Mixer Brush tools and the features for masking and compositing, and not use many of the rest of the tools which are more for photography.

 

Illustrator uses vector paths for drawing and brushes, so it’s a different and complementary way of creating art.

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Community Expert ,
May 03, 2024 May 03, 2024

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Here are my two cents. Visit the PugetBench List at PugetBench List (pugetsystems.com), type 'Photoshop' in the Application field, and check the Overall Score numbers on the right side. You can also click on the arrow to open a page with more details, where you can use the 'Show Full Details' button for comprehensive information about the build and a 'Raw Results' list with in-depth performance details of the specific build.

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