The short answer is No! You DO NOT NEED to have a graphics card for photo editing. The integrated graphics card built into the CPU should suffice mainly if you are a beginner with a limited budget for your PC build.
However, there is no doubt that even an entry-level primary dedicated graphics card can give you performance gains for specific tasks and filters.
Investing in a simple, dedicated graphics card is recommended if you are an expert photo editor with a reasonable budget for your photo editing build.
If you are short on budget, however, it is recommended that you maximize the budget for a good CPU, as photo editing is more CPU dependent than GPU-dependent.
As is the case with all PC builds. Choosing the right components for a build for photo editing is also essential. Since many of us have a limited budget, we must put more of our budget into the proper hardware.
In the following text, I will attempt to answer in detail the question, “do you need a graphics card for photo editing?”
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Do You Need a Graphics Card for Photo Editing?
Fortunately, no. You do not need a dedicated graphics card on your PC for photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop.
However, that is not to say you won’t see any benefit if you buy a dedicated GPU.
Pudget Systems has conducted a comprehensive study on the effects of a dedicated GPU on Adobe Photoshop – quickly the most popular photo editing software.
The test above was conducted on Adobe Photoshop CC 2019 using an Intel Core i9-9900K.
The results are pretty conclusive when considering iGPU vs. dedicated GPU for photo editing. Even a lower-mid range dedicated GPU, NVIDIA GTX 1060, is about 40% more potent than the popular Intel UHD 630 iGPU.
Most of this concerns that even a cheap dedicated graphics card has far more VRAM than an integrated one. In this case, the GeForce GTX 1060 has 6 GB of VRAM, whereas the Intel UHD 630 caps at 1 GB of VRAM only. And you can switch your graphics cards while using them.
Hence, the Intel UHD 630 would have difficulty loading and rendering the assets and features in real-time, mainly if the image is large.
The Difference Between iGPU and Dedicated GPU Depends on the Tasks and Filters Used!
Note that the chart in the section above shows only the GENERAL performance score of the GPUs.
The performance difference between the iGPU and a dedicated GPU depends on what filters and features you use and what tasks you perform.
For example, according to Pudget Systems, effects and filters that use GPU acceleration such as “Smart Sharpen,” “Field Blur,” “Iris Blur,” and “Resizing” was much faster on a dedicated GPU as compared to an integrated graphics card.
On the other hand, for tasks and filters such as “Reduce Noise,” “File Save and Open,” “Gradient,” “Magic Wand Select,” “Rotate,” etc., there was almost no difference between an iGPU Intel UHD 630 and dedicated GPUs.
This chart sheds more light on how integrated and dedicated GPU compare performance for specific tasks and effects.
List of Features that Require a GPU for Photoshop
According to the official Adobe Photoshop specs, the following features can benefit or require a GPU.
- Blur Gallery
- Camera Raw
- Image Size
- Lens Blur
- Neural Filters
- Select Focus
- Select and Mask
- Smart Sharpen
- Birds Eye View
- Flick Panning
- Oil Paint
- Perspective Wrap
- Scrubby Zoom
- Smooth Brush Resizing
This is an ever-growing list of GPU-accelerated features. You can check the list of all Photoshop’s GPU-focused features here for more details.
Note that I am referencing Photoshop as the most popular photo editing software.
You Should Buy a Dedicated Graphics Card for Multiple Monitors Setup
Yes, it is recommended that you do so. The more screens you have, the more pixels you have. The more pixels you have, the more VRAM the GPU needs to cater to all the assets displayed on multiple screens SMOOTHLY.
Integrated graphics cards DO NOT have a high amount of VRAM. As explained above, Intel UHD 630, for instance, only has 1 TB of VRAM. Lower Mid Range dedicated GPU can easily feature 4-6 times as much VRAM.
While your iGPU will be able to support and run multiple monitors, to have a smooth working experience, it is recommended that you use a dedicated GPU for a multiple monitor setup, even if you have to choose a very basic dedicated GPU.
Should You Buy a High-End Graphics Card for Photo Editing?
No, you do not need to buy a high-end graphics card to reap the benefits of having a dedicated graphics card.
If you have decided to buy a dedicated graphics card for your photo editing build, a low-mid to mid-range dedicated graphics card should do just fine.
The key is to have a dedicated graphics card with a good amount of VRAM.
You can see from the chart above that a high-mid range graphics card, i.e., the RTX 3060Ti is only about 3% weaker than the profoundly expensive RTX 3090 dedicated GPU (127.4 vs. 131.3 points). The former has an MSRP of $399, whereas the latter has a $1,500. Of course, the actual market price at the moment is more than twice as much for the mentioned GPUs.
As such, it is highly recommended that you stick with lower-mid-range or mid-range GPUs. High-end GPUs will give you no significant benefit in performance.
CPU vs. GPU for Photo Editing – Which is More Important?
CPU remains the most crucial consideration of Photo Editing.
Unlike with GPUs, where there was no significant benefit between a mid-range and a high-end GPU, with CPUs, that is not the case.
For Photo Editing, the better the CPU you have, the better the performance you can generally experience.
However, I recommend that you stick with high-performance grade Core i7s at best since workstation-grade CPUs such as the Core i9s or Ryzen 9s give marginally better performance yet cost much more.
However, it is recommended that you stick with CPUs from the latest generation to reap the most benefit. While the cores and clock speed are essential, the age and overall architecture of the CPU effectively show performance gains.
Also Read: How is Processor Speed Measured?
To reiterate, the answer to the question “Do You Need a Graphics Card for Photo Editing?” is a NO! You do not need to have a dedicated graphics card for photo editing.
However, having one can give you significant benefits for specific tasks, filters, and effects.
Should you choose to procure a dedicated GPU, it is recommended that you stick with lower-mid to mid-range GPUs at best since having a high-end GPU will be super costly and would give you only marginally better results at best.
Ultimately, you must maximize your budget for a good CPU, as having a good CPU is more paramount than having a good GPU for photo editing.
Also Read: Does My Graphics Card Support 4K?
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. How does the type of graphics card affect photo editing performance?
The type of graphics card can significantly affect photo editing performance as it determines the processing power, speed, and memory capacity.
A more powerful graphics card can handle complex and demanding photo editing tasks with ease, resulting in better performance and faster rendering times.
2. Are there any specific graphics card requirements for running photo editing software?
Yes, some photo editing software may have specific graphics card requirements. The software manufacturer typically provides recommended system requirements that include the minimum graphics card specifications necessary to run the software efficiently.
It’s essential to check the software’s recommended system requirements before purchasing a graphics card.
3. Can a graphics card improve the speed of photo editing tasks, such as rendering and exporting?
Yes, a graphics card can improve the speed of photo editing tasks such as rendering and exporting.
A dedicated graphics card can offload the processing workload from the CPU and speed up the editing process. The more powerful the graphics card, the faster the rendering and exporting times will be.
4. Are there any alternative solutions to using a graphics card for photo editing?
Yes, there are alternative solutions to using a graphics card for photo editing. Some photo editing software supports GPU acceleration, which allows the software to use the graphics card’s processing power to speed up the editing process.
However, if the software doesn’t support GPU acceleration, then a more powerful CPU can be a viable alternative to a dedicated graphics card.