Computer Specifications For Digital Scrapbooking and Designing

26 posts / 0 new
Last post
Computer Specifications For Digital Scrapbooking and Designing

I am saving up to get a new computer (sometime next year), and I was wondering what specifications a computer should have to successfully run, say, the latest versions of Windows, Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. Obviously, I want to get more than the minimum because I don't want the programs to crawl along - I want them to sprint!

So, if some of you could let me know what your processor, ram, hard drive, graphics card you have, and how well it works... well, that would be a really great help to me!

At work, the computer is 1T of space, 6GB of Ram, running Windows 7. Room, I have plenty of! I have Quickbooks, PSP8, PSE, an old version of Ps C2, and I made the jump to Ps CC, so that's on there now as well.

Although it runs okay, I just ran it by my boss to buy another stick of RAM. It will hold one more slot of 2GB, giving me a total of 8GB RAM. I've notice Ps CC beginning to be a bit "sticky" the last day or so, so just having 6 maybe dragging it down a little. But, I also have to keep several large apps open during the day because I am at work! lol I'm sure that drags it down a little.

It's a Gateway and has an Intel Premium processor, but I'm not sure about the video graphics.

I have a Mac at home, but won't go into that as it appears you're going to go with a PC. So, on a PC I'd opt for the most RAM you can get.


Thanks for the input, Lisa!

I would really like some input from a few more people, so please comment!

I would also be interested in hearing what people suggest... thanks

Hubby likes to say that gaming computers are great to work with graphic design software like photoshop, specially when you need to use multiple files, like in digiscrap. After some time tending to laptops I discovered that pcs are better to work with graphics because their monitors are better to calibrate.

You want your PC to sprint… Then I'd make sure the primary drive is "solid state" (that's what your computer boots from), the processor has at least 8 cores, the PC has at least 8 GB of memory, the video graphics card is a separate card with at least 1 GB of memory (with HDMI output), and the PC is installed with Windows 10 64-bit (it works much better than 8 or 8.1; and while Win XP & Win 7 were awesome, they're no longer supported). If you're buying your PC from a store, it should be "home premium x64." You can buy lesser computers, but they will not run very well with graphics programs... smiley

Now let me expand a bit on that summary…

Photoshop will use a LOT of processor memory & video, and each new version seems to require more & more. My hubby supports a communications group that uses Photoshop, InDesign & other Adobe products, so I asked for his help in specing this out for you (as I am a PaintShopPro X6 user)...

The processor brand is in the eye of the beholder - some like AMD & some like Intel. If you're looking for price & performance, I'd go with the AMD. If you want what most folks have, go with an Intel Core type processor (though it's not as fast as the AMD for the price) – Core 7 is the newest.

Look for as many cores as available, with the fastest clock speed you can afford - more cores is better than faster clock speed (for example, an 8-core 2.6 GHz will be faster than a 6-core 3.2 GHz depending upon your application). Two processors are better than one, but those are usually expensive workstations that have two processor chips. For us digiscrappers on a budget, one processor is probably the way to go.

Most PC’s are still shipping with big SATA hard drives (like a 1 or 2 GB internal hard drive), spinning around 5700 rpm. If a SAS hard drive is an option, get it – they transfer data much faster. If a SAS hard drive is not available, see if you can get a faster SATA hard drive – one that spins around 10,000 rpm. Rotational speed is an important consideration – the faster the drive spins, the faster you can get the data off & on (saved).

You may want to consider getting a PC with 2 hard drives if your budget can afford it. I’d recommend a solid state hard drive (SSD) & configure that as your primary hard drive. A SSD will make your PC more than just “sprint” – it will be rocket fast! IMHO this is well worth the investment. The SSD does not need to be huge, but large enough for your operating system (OS) & programs. 250 GB should be sufficient - the OS needs about 40 GB, and the rest would cover your applications, software, etc. Bigger SSD’s are wicked expensive. I highly recommend a moderate-sized SSD & a huge 2nd drive for keeping all of your data on (digiscrap supplies, pictures, etc.). An external hard drive is also great for this purpose – especially in terms of portability – but it’s much slower than an internal drive. I have both because I needed portability (so I can take my digiscrap supplies with me when I need to leave home or work from another computer).

Memory & video cards are one of the most important considerations in terms of performance when your PC is going to be used for gaming or digiscrap purposes... A slower processor can be compensated for by more memory & faster video… The more memory the better. If you get a 32-bit OS it can only work with up to 4 GB of memory so, IMHO, getting a 64-bit OS is a requirement & is not optional.

You also want to look for a PC that allows for memory expandability… The last thing you want to do is find out, down the road, that your memory is not sufficient for the newest version of your favorite graphics software & you can’t up the memory. Which is why you want the ability to be able to add additional memory without having to remove & throw out the factory-installed memory. Be sure to ask the salesperson how many open slots are available to add memory, and try to get at least one open slot (preferably 2+). For example, if the PC has 4 memory slots & the factory-configured PC has four 2 GB memory modules installed, then all four slots are full & you can’t expand that machine. Better to have two 4 GB memory modules installed, leaving 2 slots open for you to add 4 to 8 GB more memory later. I’ve had to do this at least twice in the past because the graphics software has gotten more sophisticated & was chewing up more memory…

Regarding video graphics cards… IMHO a separate video graphics card is better than an integrated one (although some may disagree with this POV). A separate, dedicated video graphics card allows you to switch out the card for a faster video card in the future & may allow you to add memory to the video card (integrated video graphic cards often share memory with the computer & OS, which will slow things down, unlike a separate one).

There are a lot of video graphic cards out there to choose from & as far as I know most of them are good. Personally, I like the NVIDIA video graphic cards (we’ve purchased at least 3 of them for use on various PC's over the years) as my family is into gaming too. The video graphics card should plug into a dedicated video slot. Memory on the video graphics card is important – you should get as much as you can now – I’ve been seeing them starting at 1 to 2 GB. Higher memory allows the graphics to refresh much faster and allows full-page painting &/or 3D rendering to happen much quicker.

The video graphic cards today generally output HDMI, though some still provide DVI. Because DVI support is starting wane, I would go with the HDMI if you can – the cables are less bulky & and the signal quality is much better. However, if your existing monitor(s) does not support HDMI, and you aren’t looking to purchase a new monitor (that supports HDMI), your only choice will be to get a DVI video graphics card (unless you can find an HDMI to DVI converter).

Do you have a 2nd monitor in your work space or have you thought about it? For the longest time I only had one monitor. About a year ago my hubby convinced me to add a 2nd monitor to my work space & wow, what a difference it made in my productivity! I can now open a tutorial up on one screen while working on its project on my other screen. Before that I had to swap back & forth between windows with each new instruction, which was a major pain & everything took so much longer… Anyhow, if you haven’t gone this route yet & are thinking of doing so, make sure the video graphics card has at least 2 outputs (most do these days, but check to make sure).

Lizanne, WOW!!This is exactly the kind of in-depth information I was looking for! Thanks to you (and your husband) for all this! I'll be getting my computer guy to build my PC for me, and I really needed to have some base information that I could take to him - I don't think he would have many digital scrapbookers in his little black book, so I really didn't know what I should tell him about what I needed. Now I can print off your answer to show him!


Sorry, Lorien - I didn't even see your comment until after I had read Lizanne's, but thanks for your comments as well. That's a good hint about gaming computers; also about the laptop vs pc.

Robyn, a mid-grade gaming computer will do quite well for digiscrapping. Since I do both and am on a budget, I just replaced my motherboard, processor, and RAM in this last upgrade cycle. I can't afford to upgrade to bleeding-edge on my disability income, so I generally plan on upgrading to something that's been out for 1-2 years, after a newer model's been released and the price drops. I'll be upgrading my graphics card soon, probably as a Yuletide gift to myself, as my current video card is a couple of years old.

It still cost me a fair chunk to get the parts I wanted, but getting the best motherboard and processor you can afford is the one thing that will "future-proof" your investment the most. Since everything else plugs into the motherboard (also called a mainboard by some companies), it's the part that is also the worst to change out later, as you have to disassemble everything else from it. You don't want to have to do that more often than you have to, so you want the best you can manage. I'd also recommend getting a motherboard designed for the AMD processors rather than an Intel-based one, as AMD's FM3 socket series has been out since 2009, while Intel's had Socket LGA 1155, LGA 1156, LGA 2011 and LGA 1366 in that same time frame. It's no good getting a great motherboard if you can no longer buy an upgraded processor that fits it in a few years. (I eked out another two years on my last build when I'd had it for 3 years already by just picking up the best processor I could fit in the motherboard and changing that out.) Right now, I'd suggest that a new motherboard should have at least:

  • one PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot for graphics card, and a second one is nice because it would give you the option to go with dual graphics cards later on as the computer's aging, thereby extending the usable life for another year or two
  • 4 USB 3.0 ports and a further 6 USB 2.0 ports so you don't have to worry about a USB hub if you want to connect a keyboard, mouse, graphics tablet, printer, wireless network adapter, etc., and still have room to plug in a portable hard drive (to back up your digital scrapbooking supplies) and your mobile phone (so you can put some new music on it) without having to unplug something else
  • SATA III (6.0 GB/sec transfer speed) for your hard drive connections so that their speed isn't getting bottlenecked in the transfer through the motherboard to the processor
  • fan connectors for a second CPU fan and at least two chassis (case) fans, preferably with PWM control so that the motherboard can run them on low when possible so they're quiet most of the time, but ramp up their speed if the processor or the temp inside the case is getting too warm
  • support DDR3 memory, preferably supporting at least the 1600MHz RAM speed, if not 1800MHz or 2133MHz. Two slots at minimum, 4 memory slots would be better. A maximum memory supported of 8GB per slot (16GB for a 2-slot or 32GB for a 4-slot board) allows you to add more memory as programs demand more in a few years.
My current mainboard is an ASUS M5A99FX Pro R2.0, which has specs somewhat better than what I suggested as minimums. It should last me until around 2020 as my main computer's motherboard, and still be a decent file server after that.

I'll second the "as many cores as you can get", though Intel's not yet making 8-core processors. That's an AMD-only thing so far. Intel's best right now is a Core i7, which is a quad-core model. AMD chose to go for more cores, while Intel has focused on making their quad-cores super-efficient. Mine is one that was first released a few years ago, the AMD FX-8350; it's an 8-core 4.0GHz CPU that can be overclocked. It's still about the 3rd-fastest one in the AMD line.

CPU cooler: Some of Photoshop's filters can be processor-intensive, and that generates a lot of heat. The stock cooler might keep up, and it might not. Bigger heatsinks will definitely keep it cool; I use a Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo on mine. Some people like water cooling, but the cheap watercooling systems will cost you $60 or so more than the upgraded

RAM/memory: At least 8GB of RAM, preferably in 8GB sticks. I'm using gaming-grade Crucial Ballistix Tactical 1600MHz 8GB sticks; currently one, with a planned upgrade to 16GB this spring and 32GB in another 2 years.

Video card: If you can afford it, get a video card with 2GB of GDDR5 video memory; the 4GB ones are out, but still a little spendy for my budget. GDDR3 exists as well, but is a technology that's a couple of years older. You might be able to use your current video card in the new build for a bit--it only takes a screwdriver and a few minutes to upgrade it (unscrew the side panel; unscrew the screw holding in the video card, push down on the clip at the far end of the video card slot until the card pops up, place the new one in, put a screw in to secure the back end to the case, and replace the side panel).

Hard drives: You want at least two--the first is a smaller one for your operating system and a few frequently-used programs that you want to be super-fast. A 256GB SSD is ideal for that one, but can be somewhat expensive. If you choose to go with a traditional spinning-platter drive, you'll want one that spins at 10000 rpm for your system drive. Your second drive should be large enough to store all your digital scrapbooking supplies--depending on how much you have and how much you expect to download in future, you might want a 1TB or 2TB drive for this. That size range usually means a spinning-platter drive, but it doesn't have to be as fast a spin as your system drive; you can get away with 7200rpm here.

I don't yet have an SSD as it's not in the budget, but I'm using a 500GB system drive (gamer and download too many blog trains in addition to my design programs), and my gaming drive and photography/digiscrap drive are 2TB each, plus another 1TB drive for music and tutorial videos.

A second monitor is a HUGE plus. It's nice for gaming, but it really shines when I throw a tutorial video and my tool palettes onto it and dedicate my other monitor totally to drawing space. I'm running a pair of 21.5" AOC 2235vW monitors, profiled reasonably close on color, though my old colorimeter has died so I can't get them perfect now. It's also kind of nice to just start up Netflix on one monitor while I work on the other, just because it's right there as opposed to the TV in the next room.

Don't forget considerations on the case, either. Looks don't matter so much as ability to get air through the chassis without getting a ton of dust in it; number of fan slots, and whether they're filtered, are important. Ideally a bottom-mounted power supply; that leaves room for upper-back fans to pull air right past the processor and out of the case. My current case is a 2009 model, the Antec Three Hundred Illusion. The upgraded version, which offers more fan spots and filters, is the Three Hundred Two. It's a heavy steel with room for 6 fans, most of them with washable filters, and a filter on the power supply fan as well. Mine came with a set of thumbscrews, enough to mount all my drives and my graphics card, and thumbscrews to hold the side panels as well, so I don't have a huge problem opening up the case even on a day when my hands are too swollen to handle the tiny screws usually used.

Power supply: don't undercut the power rating. If you've got the motherboard, AMD processor, a couple of drives, a few USB peripherals, and a decent video card, I'd suggest a 600W minimum. Go 750W if you want to go dual video cards someday. Get 80Plus Gold rated, as they're more efficient.

So, to sum up:
Case: Good cooling, fan filters, bottom-mount PSU, mid-tower/ATX. Toolless design or thumbscrews a huge plus.
PSU: 600W+, 80Plus Gold, 24+8 mainboard power connector preferred for future-proofing.
Mobo: ATX size, SATA III, at least 4 USB 3.0 plus 6+ USB 2.0 ports, at least one PCI-E 3.0 x16, max RAM 32GB. AMD Socket FM3+ preferred due to less-frequent socket changes.
CPU: 6-8 cores, 3.5GHz+ clock speed--recommend AMD FX-8350
CPU cooler: not stock. Recommend Corsair Hyper 212 Evo
RAM: Gaming-grade, low-latency, 1600MHz+ clock speed, 8GB sticks, 1-2 sticks initially.

I stuck it all in a Newegg wishlist so you can look at the specs on each item easily. It's at It's not a super-cheap build, but adding $200 in upgrades 2 years down the road will get you 5 years out of it, and possibly even longer. It beats paying $500-600 every 3 years for a new computer with lesser specs.

Holly, thank you so much for your information - I was hoping you would be one of the people to respond, because I know that you have a great deal of knowledge about this, from things you've posted on other topics. I'll be perfectly honest with you - most of that went right over my head, but I know my computer guy will know exactly what you're talking about!

No worries, Robyn. That build is more powerful than 90% of what you'd buy off the shelf at Walmart or even Dell, but that's because the parts are specified so you can easily get about 5 years out of it with a graphics card upgrade at 3 years. Most pre-built ones in the same price range are so badly out of date by the 3-year mark that you have to completely replace it except for the hard drive and keyboard.

Lots of good advice for you... Like Holly we never buy pre-built systems - my hubby & I build our own (usually with HP - we've had a lot of success with them at home & in the various businesses my hubby has worked in), and I usually keep my desktop a long time so when we do build we try to think in terms of future needs/upgradability not just our needs now. My current desktop is a souped up HP Phoenix... I hope you end up with what you're looking for, Robyn... Good luck! smiley

Thank you to everyone for your input - it's going to help me so much!!

(Ummm... except with the saving up for the computer, that is!)

A lot of good advice here! Just to add my two cents (repeating what some others have said), I would look for something with:

  • At least 8GB of RAM.
  • An i5 or i7 processor.
  • A "stand-alone"/"discrete" graphics card.
  • A solid state hard drive (SSD) as your primary hard drive (at least 256 or 512 GB) - then use a large external hard drive for storing files.

Desktops will generally provide more power than laptops for the same amount of money, though gaming laptops often provide pretty good bang for your buck, as others have mentioned (though they can sometimes run hot and loud).

Gaming laptops also cost nearly twice as much for performance equivalent to a desktop with the same specs, but they DO usually have the discrete graphics card and higher-end processor, as well as either an SSD or hybrid drive. And while they're somewhat portable, a gaming laptop with a 15" screen is on the small end, which isn't a bad thing except when trying to find a computer bag to fit the monster...and they can weigh 7-8 lbs/3-4 kg, not counting the power brick, your mouse, graphics tablet, and external hard drive. On the plus side, they draw somewhat less power than a comparable desktop, if that's a concern.

All that aside, I have a friend whose 2009 gaming laptop can't meet the new FPS games' system requirements, but he's loaned it to another friend who does some light gaming and photo editing with it while her desktop is being repaired. It's not giving her any real issues, though with only 6GB of RAM, it's understandably starting to lag a bit when she wants to warp an image using puppet warp or liquify. He spent about $1700 on it new, and added memory until it was maxed out, costing another $300 at the time. So it's definitely a more expensive option, but for gamer/scrappers who want to travel, it's a very viable one.

This is so great - people are still adding their advice! You all seem to be saying pretty much the same type of thing, which is confirming it all for me! So THANK YOU to everyone!

Someone above wrote the word "hot" and I remembered something - buld the best cooler system you can smiley It will help a lot because overheating can make software run slow or even the computer to shut down unexpectedly and you can lose data.

Extra fans are about $10-15 each for decent-quality ones--I've got 5 case fans plus two CPU fans and the power supply's integrated fan, but my computer stays reasonably cool even if the temp in the room gets up to 82F/28C. (I can't help that the landlady is elderly and likes it I added more cooling in the case to at least be able to take the heat away from the processor and the other components.)

You can probably get away with 2-3 case fans plus one on the CPU, but more will keep your computer's temps more stable. Ideally, you want to balance the amount of air coming into the case with the amount of air leaving it, so the same number of intake fans as exhaust fans. (No difference in the fans themselves, just in which side of it's facing out so it sucks or blows air as needed.)

Wow, this is a fantastic resource! I'm saving for a laptop so I can work on the go, and I wasn't sure where to start, so excited with all this info! Thanks everyone and Robyn for the question! smiley

My perfect on-the-go solution has turned out to be a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (used, $120), a Wacom Bamboo (S-pen) stylus (new, $20), and ArtRage for Android($5). Since I already have the desktop version of ArtRage, it's a simple and easily portable solution within my disability budget. It's focused on drawing and painting, but if I'm creating on the go, that's most likely what I'm doing anyway. I do intend to pick up a case and Bluetooth keyboard to go with it, just to make things like ctrl-Z or tool selection easier, but it's already a functional setup that fits in all but a really small purse. The Bamboo S-pen has pressure sensitivity, an eraser on the back, and is around the weight and size of a regular pen as compared to the stock stylus which feels like a rectangular toothpick.

I've also used the tablet to work on my main machine in Illustrator and Photoshop via a remote desktop app when I'm at home.

As of today, 19 February 2016, I finally have my new computer. Just connected to the internet, and this is the first place I came to (just checking my connection!!!) Still setting up, so back later!

20 Feb update : It's going to take me quite a while to get all my files where I want them - but I smiley smiley smiley my new computer! It's so fast, and I think I'm really going to like Windows 10, too!

Great info here, even though it's been awhile. Joining thread for future reference.

Missed this originally as this was just shortly after our desktop crashed - nope haven't replaced it yet, and when we were still in the process of a move. Don't see a time to soon yet for getting a desktop as we still haven't sold our house...(have accepted to bids on the house only to have both of them walk away and not negotiate when it came to working through inspection reports. Leaving us with contractors to pay off $10,000 and no closing on the house or earnest money, just a total of almost 3 months that the house was off the market.)

13 September 2016

I'm still VERY happy with my computer, and I think that the best piece of advice I was given was to get a solid state drive as my primary drive. It's unbelievable how fast this has made my computer!

It depends on your work and usage. If you are student 2 gb ram, 512 gb hard disc, 1 gb graphics card and core i3 processor are sufficient. If you are professional minimum 6 gb ram, 1 tb har disc, 1 gb graphics card and core i7 processor will be needed. For knowing computer spec read the post

@John: I'm not a professional by any means, just married to an IT guy and I guess I'm spoiled stinkin' rotten when it comes to computers. I have all you mention (12GB RAM, though) smiley and a touchscreen to boot. smiley But, I also planned to keep this one I bought (about 2 yrs ago now) for at the very least another 3-5 years unless things turn "upside down" in the computer world. LoL -- because I know he can fix it for me. smiley