From the computer to the display, a high-performance setup is crucial to successful retouching. Here’s what you need to know to get the best machine and display to create amazing images.
The heart of your postproduction setup is your computer, and a sweet machine is crucial to making elaborate retouching possible. Without enough processing power or system memory (RAM), you can face frequent freezes or crashes, plus delays in rendering your images that will make realizing your vision extremely challenging.
So what do you really need to make Photoshop sing? To start, lots of processing power. That means plenty of speed, as expressed in gigahertz (GHz), and a multiprocessor, or multi-core, system. The second-generation Intel Core processors—in Apple’s iMacs and high-level consumer PCs—are excellent for running Photoshop, according to our sources at Adobe. But the Xeon processors in Mac Pros and workstation PCs like HP’s Z400 can be even better.
Faster processors are always superior, but rather than paying extra for a small bump in speed, save your dollars for other features. Going from two processor cores to four, you’ll see a big jump in speed and power, but going up from four to eight won’t make as much of a noticeable difference.
RAM is the next most important component of your computer. This is where Photoshop performs most of its calculations. Next time you’re working on a large image file, check its Efficiency in the bottom left corner. If you get a rating of 95% or higher, it means Photoshop is running in RAM, and you’re all good. But if the number drops down to 80% or lower, you’ll really see a bump in speed if you add more RAM to your system.
The HP Z400 Windows Workstation is great for postproduction. it features a Xeon W3520 processor, 12GB ECC System Memory, a AMD FirePro V5900 2GB graphics card, HP 2TB SATA HDD + 256GB SATA SSD ($3,853, direct).