July 03, 2009

Notes about PS printing performance

Recently an iMac user asked about ways to speed up large scan & print jobs in Photoshop:

In your opinion, would a Mac Pro significantly accelerate the processing [while printing]? Is the printing engine in Photoshop multiprocessor aware?

I put the question to Photoshop printing engineer Dave Polaschek, and here’s his reply:

While Photoshop’s printing code isn’t multi-threaded & is mostly disk-bound*, another core may be used by the OS for color management if you’re printing in “Printer Manages Color” mode. More cores won’t hurt.
That said, the disk (or better, disks) in a Mac Pro are significantly faster than the disk in an iMac, which will help since every printed job is spooled to disk. Plus you can put more RAM in a Mac Pro, which will help in preparing the image for printing.
As with most things in Photoshop, the two biggest gains you can get in speed are:
1 – Put in as much RAM as you can afford and the machine can hold. When friends are buying new Macs, I tell them they should have an absolute minimum of 1G of RAM per core, and 2G per core will still be a noticeable improvement over that. For running Photoshop with big images, I’ve found some operations which run over 10x faster since I moved from 4GB to 8GB of RAM in my quad-core Mac Pro just because it keeps all the images and intermediate data in memory.
2 – Put in the fastest disk (or RAID array – four 500GB disks in a RAID array are cheaper and faster than a 2TB disk, and the default controller in my Mac Pro could do RAID with no new hardware) you can afford after you’re done buying RAM. When we do have to read or save a file, or spool something to disk, that fast disk will mean less time spent looking at progress bars.

[Question via Colin Smith]
* In other words, the speed of printing depends on how quickly data can be moved to/from your hard drive.

Posted by John Nack at 7:34 AM on July 03, 2009


  • Davide Barranca — 8:22 AM on July 03, 2009

    just because you introduced the subject, could you please finally clarify whether the 32.767 pixel / 2GB limit (“the document **may** not be printed correctly” is a rough translation in english from my italian warning popup) when printing is a Photoshop, OSX or Epson (or whatever printer) driver issue?
    This seems to be a foggy subject – in forums you read a wide range of suggestions – the problem arises also with smaller files, PS elaborates the data but the printer does nothing), from “lower the PS RAM usage to 20%” (it works sometimes) to “stop being a cheapskate and buy a decent RIP”, with explanations like “PS sends to the driver a huge amount of data and the driver simply chokes”.
    Nowadays is not impossible to have a 1,5 x 3 meters picture @300dpi, stitching many digital back shots (by chance this is what I’m asked to do, sometimes), so I’m wondering whether crossing fingers and hope to not have white stripes in the middle of your print could be avoided, and possibly to know how ;-)
    Thanks in advance and kind regards,
    Davide Barranca

  • Edison Thomaz — 9:03 AM on July 03, 2009

    I’ve been trying to ping someone at Adobe regarding accessibility support in Photoshop/Illustrator CS4, but none of the blogs seem to include a ‘contact me’ link. So sorry about being off-topic here.
    I’ve found that Photoshop/Illustrator CS4 don’t let me obtain the document title when the mouse is over the document, using the Accessibility API on Mac OS X. This was possible before.
    Is there anyone I can contact about this issue? It would be really helpful to get more info. Our software relies on it. Thanks.

  • Doug Nelson — 10:36 AM on July 03, 2009

    Is there a maximum RAM? That is, is there a point beyond which there will be no discernable advantage? Limiting this to Photoshop, since I believe other suite apps could use more RAM than PS.

  • Ken — 10:54 AM on July 03, 2009

    Thanks for this post….This is the information that really is a help aid.
    Enjoy the 4th….
    Kind regards to you and your soon to be child. If you are like me (I am sure you are not), when we had our first child, I would hold up my wife as she feed ours son and washed the dishes…..
    Ken in KY

  • Peter Steeper — 3:53 PM on July 03, 2009

    Prior to CS4 you could pick the type of spool file to send to the RIP, ASCII, binary or JPEG. These choices had a significant impact on the size of the spool file being sent to a PS RIP and therefore the time to print.
    I haven’t been able to find these options in CS4.

  • Dave Polaschek — 6:57 AM on July 06, 2009

    Davide, the fuzziness on the wording about the limit is due to the fact that depending on the version of the OS and various drivers, the limits are different.
    If there were a simple solution, we’d publish it, but there isn’t one yet.

  • Dave Polaschek — 7:00 AM on July 06, 2009

    Peter, with CS4, we ask PostScript printer drivers about the printer / communication channel’s capabilities and send the data in the best possible encoding supported.

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