This document provides a quick reference guide to video card usage in Photoshop. Some features require a compatible video card to work; if the video card or its driver is defective or unsupported, those features will not work at all. Other features use the video card for acceleration and if the card or driver is defective those features will run more slowly.
Mercury Graphics Engine
The Mercury Graphics Engine (MGE) represents features that use video card, or GPU, acceleration. In Photoshop CS6, this new engine delivers near-instant results when editing with key tools such as Liquify, Warp, Lighting Effects and the Oil Paint filter. The new MGE delivers unprecedented responsiveness for a fluid feel as you work.
MGE is new to Photoshop CS6, and uses both the OpenGL and OpenCL frameworks. It does not use the proprietary CUDA framework from nVidia.
In order to use MGE, you must have a supported video card and updated driver. If you do not have a supported card, performance will be degraded. In most cases the acceleration is lost and the feature runs in the normal CPU mode. However, there are some features that will not work without a supported video card.
GPU features added in Photoshop CS6
Adaptive Wide Angle Filter (compatible video card required)
Liquify (accelerated by compatible video card with 512MB VRAM, GPU mode unavailable on Windows XP)
Oil Paint (compatible video card required)
Warp and Puppet Warp (accelerated by compatible video card, GPU mode unavailable on Windows XP)
Field Blur, Iris Blur, and Tilt/Shift (accelerated by compatible video card supporting OpenCL, GPU mode unavailable on Windows XP)
Lighting Effects Gallery (compatible video card required with 512MB VRAM, unavailable on Windows XP)
New 3D enhancements (3D features in Photoshop require a compatible video card with 512MB VRAM, unavailable on Windows XP😞
Ground plane reflections
On-canvas UI controls
Liqht widgets on edge of canvas
IBL (image based light) controller
* Note that all 3D features are unavailable on Windows XP in Photoshop CS6
GPU features added in previous versions of Photoshop
The advantages of using a compatible video card (GPU) with Photoshop are that you can experience better performance and more features. Problems can occur if you have an older video card with limited VRAM or if you use other programs at the same time as Photoshop that use the GPU.
If the problem resolves, proceed with the rest of the troubleshooting steps to fix OpenGL.
Make sure that you're using the latest update of Photoshop.
Updates fix bugs and issues.
Update the display driver.
Updated display drivers can fix many issues, such as crashing, incorrectly rendered objects, and performance problems. Determine what video card you have and go directly to the manufacturer's website (nVidia or ATI/AMD) and download the latest driver. (Note:Simply doing a Windows Update is does not guarantee you are using the latest driver. You must go directly to the nVideo or ATI/AMD websites to get the absolute latest driver.) After you update your driver, turn on Use Graphics Processor in Photoshop preferences.
Resetting preferences returns OpenGL settings to their default status. Reset Photoshop preferences by pressing and holding Shift+Ctrl+Alt (Windows) or Shift+Option+Command (Mac OS) immediately after you start Photoshop.
Click Yes when asked if you want to delete the Adobe Photoshop Settings File.
Retry the function that caused the problem.
Change the OpenGL mode to Basic.
Setting the OpenGL mode to Basic uses the least amount of GPU memory and the most basic GPU feature set.
In the Performance panel, click the GPU Settings Advanced Settings button.
Choose Mode > Basic
Restart Photoshop. If this solution resolves the problem, switch to Normal mode. See if the issue recurs. If the issue recurs, return to Basic mode.
Note: If you’re changing GPU preferences to troubleshoot a problem, re-launch Photoshop after each change.
If you are using more than one video adapter, remove the additional cards.
Multiple video adapters can cause problems with GPU accelerated or enabled features in Photoshop. It's best to connect two (or more) monitors into one video adapter. If you have to use more than one video adapter, make sure that they are the same make and model. Otherwise, crashes and other problems can occur in Photoshop.
Note: Using two video adapters does not enhance Photoshop's performance.
Check your Cache Levels setting.
If you've set your Cache Levels to 1 in Photoshop preferences, you can experience performance issues with GPU features. Reset Cache Levels to the default setting, which is 4.
In the Performance panel, choose Cache Levels > 4.
The GPU Sniffer
To help guard against Photoshop crashes related to bad GPU hardware or drivers, Photoshop employs a small program called the GPU Sniffer. Every time Photoshop is launched, Photoshop launches the sniffer. The sniffer runs rudimentary tests of the GPU and reports the results to Photoshop. If the sniffer crashes or reports a failure status to Photoshop, Photoshop will not use the GPU. The Use Graphics Hardware checkbox in the Performance panel of the Preferences will be unchecked and disabled.
The first time the sniffer fails, Photoshop will display a dialog indicating that it has detected a problem with the GPU. On subsequent launches the dialog will not appear unless the Photoshop preferences are reset.
If the user corrects the problem, either by replacing the video card or by updating the driver, then the sniffer will pass on the next launch and the Use Graphics Hardware checkbox will be enabled and returned to its previous state (enabled or disabled).
Tested video cards for Photoshop CS6
Adobe tested the following video cards before the release of Photoshop CS6. This document lists the video card by series. While the minimum amount of VRAM supported on video cards for Photoshop CS6 is 256MB, some features require 512MB of VRAM to be enabled.
Note: Adobe tested laptop and desktop versions of the following cards. Be sure to download the latest driver for your specific model. (Laptop and desktop versions have slightly different names.)
nVidia GeForce 8000, 9000, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 series