system requirements for retouching software
Efficiency & Productivity, Hardware & Tools, Software

System Requirements for Retouching

Becoming a retoucher is one of those things that doesn’t involve many barriers to entry. Most computers will run the necessary software, making retouching accessible to many.

For those that are just beginning their journey as a retoucher, or those looking to upgrade their computer to meet the demands of higher megapixels, this article will list the recommended system requirements for retouching.

Minimum System Requirements

  • Processor: Dual-Core Processor, Intel i3 5th Generation or AMD A9
  • Memory / RAM: 8GB
  • Graphics Card: NVIDIA or ATI Radeon (AMD) with OpenCL and OpenGL Support
  • Internal Storage: 500GB (Hybrid Drive highly recommended.)
  • Software: Adobe Lightroom & Adobe Photoshop CC, or Capture One Pro & Adobe Photoshop CC

The above will be suitable for performing most retouching tasks, and can be found in the mid-range offerings of any laptop manufacturer, or as base options for desktops. If your retouching load is lower, and you are working with fewer layers or less than 24 megapixels per image, these specifications will satisfy most tasks.

However, for those looking to upgrade to a new rig that will purr through the longest of retouching marathons, below are the technical specifications to aim for.

intel i7 extreme nehalem wafer

A “glamour shot” of an Intel i7 Extreme Nehalem Wafer

Recommended System Requirements

  • Processor: Quad-Core Intel i7 7th Generation or AMD Ryzen (8-Core)
  • Memory / RAM: 32GB
  • Graphics Card: Dedicated NVIDIA GPU or ATI Radeon / FirePro GPU with 4GB of GDDR5 SDRAM
  • Storage: 1TB SSD / Flash Storage
  • Software: Adobe Lightroom & Adobe Photoshop CC, or Capture One Pro & Adobe Photoshop

As the megapixels produced by DSLRs become higher and higher, so does the demand on computing power. If you are in the market to invest in a faster workflow, consider the following: a fast processor is essential, followed by enough temporary memory (RAM) to handle the dozens of layers that can go into one retouched image.

After that, ensure that you purchase a hard drive that doesn’t have moving parts, as rotational drives are slow and prone to failure, and are one of the top culprits for downgrading the speed of your computer’s processor due to slow read / write speeds.

It is important to also consider that while the above is just about the machine itself, a quality monitor, color-calibration hardware & software, backup hard drives (RAID preferred), as well as a graphics tablet are essential to any efficient workflow.

Consider all of these notes when you are reviewing your budget for your next upgrade, as skimping in one area can have lasting effects. Working on a computer that is capable of high performance means improved efficiency, which, in turn, means completing your work in a shorter amount of time.

For professional retouchers, time is quite literally money, so investing in speed may just pay itself off in no time.


Sources: Intel | AMD | Pall Kris Blog

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14 thoughts on “System Requirements for Retouching

  1. Totally agree on the recommendation! Unfortunately 16GB of ram bit isn’t enough to really spread your wings and fly with multiple programs open.

    1. Agree. With today’s beefy applications I am struggling working on my laptop. By the time 8gb was the maximum notebook chipsets could run and now with all the apps and 36-100mp files it makes it impossible to get work done

      1. Daniel, I can’t even imagine working on my Canon 5Ds files on a laptop 🙁

        1. Nico Socha says:

          I work in my D810 files quite often on my Laptop but I have 32GB of RAM in it 😀

    2. Agreed! I just purchased a newer souped up iMac last night under Kendra’s guidance, hopefully it’ll be faster overall even at 16Gb.

  2. Hyper-threating is a nice cpu feature to have as well ☺

    1. Is it something that only available for customized non-Apple machines?

      1. Mykii Liu says:

        i5 processors have a max of 4 threads. Dual cores can run 4 threads, and quad cores can run 4 threads.

        i7 processors have double the amount of cores they have. It isn’t controlled by Apple or any manufacturer, but by Intel.

      2. It is a hardware based feature of some intel processors which allows to have two threads processed in one physical core. Meaning the operating system sees double the amount of cores than there are physical cores. They are pricier but much more powerful than those without hyperthreading (in general, clock speeds also play a role)

  3. Nico Socha says:

    I have 4 machines in my studio and all of them have 16 or 32 GB of RAM, but some of them only run with their integrated Intel graphic and they do really well in Photoshop, for only Photoshop work it is not necessary to have a 4GB dedicated graphic card. The viewport of Photoshop is very simple compared to 3D applications where the GPU counts a lot.

    1. Nico Socha says:

      But of course, if you need to have the 10bit output, you need to have the right graphic adapter, so far I don’t know if any integrated Intel card supports real 10 bit. But also here, to produce the 10bit output, it also can be a graphics card with only 1GB of memory.

  4. Decart says:

    I think it’s important to point out that working on a mac is really not recommended

    1. Julia Kuzmenko McKim says:

      According to whom?

      I have been always working on Mac machines, I can’t say it somehow has done any disservice to my work or career:
      http://www.juliakuzmenko.com/

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