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Best Graphics Card For Graphic Design

By February 24, 2020January 7th, 2021No Comments

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Best Graphics Card For Graphic Design (Updated 2021)

A buying guide to the best graphics cards (GPU) for Graphic Designers on all budgets.

Best Graphics Card For Graphic Design

This article is all about helping you choose the ideal graphics card (GPU) to meet your graphic design needs. To help you find the best graphics card for graphics design, I will summarize my research and personal experience using a number of different GPUs over the years. So that you can find what’s right for your unique situation. Let’s go!

Table Of Contents

Here are a few Graphics Cards I recommend for Graphic Designers on three different budgets.

  1. Geforce GTX 1050 Ti (Budget Build)
  2. GeForce RTX 3060 Ti (Mid Range)
  3. GeForce RTX 3070 (Mid Range +)
  4. NVIDIA Quadro RTX 4000 (High End)

Here is more information to help you understand what should be considered when choosing a GPU for graphic design.

Best GPUs For Graphic Designers Compared

Preview
Budget Option
Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB GDDR5 128 Bit PCI-E Graphic Card (GV-N105TD5-4GD)
Great Value
MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 3060 Ti 8GB GDRR6 256-Bit HDMI/DP TORX Fan 3.0 Ampere Architecture OC Graphics Card (RTX 3060 Ti Ventus 2X OC)
EVGA 08G-P5-3755-KR GeForce RTX 3070 XC3 Ultra Gaming, 8GB GDDR6, iCX3 Cooling, ARGB LED, Metal Backplate
Pro Choice
PNY NVIDIA Quadro RTX 4000 - The World’S First Ray Tracing GPU
Title
Geforce GTX 1050 Ti
GeForce RTX 3060 Ti
GeForce RTX 3070
NVIDIA Quadro RTX 4000
VRAM
4 GB GDDR5
8 GB GDDR6
8 GB GDDR6
8 GB GDDR6
Cuda Cores
-
4864
5888
2304
Tensor Cores
-
152
184
288
Core Clocks
769
Boost 1695 MHz
Boost 1755 MHz
Boost 1545 MHz
RT Cores
-
38
46
36
Interface
PCI Express 8
PCI Express 16
PCI Express 16
PCI Express x 16
Connections
3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI
3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI
3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI
3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI, 1x USB Type-C
Dimensions
3.04 x 11.43 x 23.11 cm
5.35 x 12.45 x 23.11 cm
4.32 x 11.13 x 27 cm
5.8 x 10.2 x 20.3 cm
Budget Option
Preview
Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB GDDR5 128 Bit PCI-E Graphic Card (GV-N105TD5-4GD)
Title
Geforce GTX 1050 Ti
VRAM
4 GB GDDR5
Cuda Cores
-
Tensor Cores
-
Core Clocks
769
RT Cores
-
Interface
PCI Express 8
Connections
3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI
Dimensions
3.04 x 11.43 x 23.11 cm
Check Price
Great Value
Preview
MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 3060 Ti 8GB GDRR6 256-Bit HDMI/DP TORX Fan 3.0 Ampere Architecture OC Graphics Card (RTX 3060 Ti Ventus 2X OC)
Title
GeForce RTX 3060 Ti
VRAM
8 GB GDDR6
Cuda Cores
4864
Tensor Cores
152
Core Clocks
Boost 1695 MHz
RT Cores
38
Interface
PCI Express 16
Connections
3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI
Dimensions
5.35 x 12.45 x 23.11 cm
Check Price
Preview
EVGA 08G-P5-3755-KR GeForce RTX 3070 XC3 Ultra Gaming, 8GB GDDR6, iCX3 Cooling, ARGB LED, Metal Backplate
Title
GeForce RTX 3070
VRAM
8 GB GDDR6
Cuda Cores
5888
Tensor Cores
184
Core Clocks
Boost 1755 MHz
RT Cores
46
Interface
PCI Express 16
Connections
3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI
Dimensions
4.32 x 11.13 x 27 cm
Check Price
Pro Choice
Preview
PNY NVIDIA Quadro RTX 4000 - The World’S First Ray Tracing GPU
Title
NVIDIA Quadro RTX 4000
VRAM
8 GB GDDR6
Cuda Cores
2304
Tensor Cores
288
Core Clocks
Boost 1545 MHz
RT Cores
36
Interface
PCI Express x 16
Connections
3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI, 1x USB Type-C
Dimensions
5.8 x 10.2 x 20.3 cm
Check Price

How To Choose A GPU For Graphic Design PC Computers – The Intro

If you are a building a PC for Graphic Design, choosing the right graphics cards can be a key component to help your workflow.

The GPU, or Graphics Processing Unit, also known as the Graphics Card, translates the tasks your PC is computing into images and sends them to the monitor.

The good thing for Graphic Designers is that the majority, if not all, of their tasks, are not GPU intensive. Most Graphic Design tasks are handled by the CPU, and system RAM. As a result, the graphics card is one area you don’t have to break the bank over.

If you do any 3D, video editing, motion design, or play games in your spare time, you should consider a more powerful GPU. Even if you don’t partake in the aforementioned, you still want a competent GPU that will render visuals smoothly on your display.

In this article, most of the GPU’s we recommend are designed for computer gaming, except for the Quadro. However, the technical features in gaming graphics cards are excellent for design PCs. And with so much demand in both gaming and design markets, you can get a solid GPU for a relatively low cost. That said, the higher-end GPUs I recommend in this article are expensive and meant for designers who also work in 3D, Motion Graphics, Video Editing, or those who enjoy gaming on the side.

Geforce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB

For budget builds, good for 2D design work

PROS

  • Capable performance for the money
  • Small form factor
  • Runs cool & quiet

CONS

  • Not ideal for dual 4K or 3D work

Specs:

  • GPU Tensor Cores: 0
  • Cuda Cores: 768
  • RT Cores: 0
  • Core Clocks: Boost 1480 MHz
  • VRAM: 4 GB GDDR5
  • Interface: PCI Express 8
  • Connections: 3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI
  • Dimensions: 3.04 x 11.43 x 23.11 cm

If you are a graphic designer looking for a capable GPU in the sub $300 price range, the GTX 1050 Ti is a great choice. It’s worth noting that this card is running on the older Pascal architecture. Also, with this budget-minded card, you get 4GB of GDDR5 128-bit memory bus. This is ok for most graphics designers that work purely in 2D. But if you do any video editing or 3D work, you should opt for one of the cards with 8 GB GDDR6 VRAM.

Check Price

GeForce RTX 3060 Ti

Amazing value for money – mid-range GPU

PROS

  • Great performance for the money
  • Competitive pricing
  • RT & Tensor Core features

CONS

  • Slightly high power consumption
  • No USB Type-C

Specs:

  • GPU Tensor Cores: 152
  • Cuda Cores: 4864
  • RT Cores: 38
  • Core Clocks: Boost 1695 MHz
  • VRAM: 8 GB GDDR6
  • Interface: PCI Express 16
  • Connections: 3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI
  • Dimensions: 5.35 x 12.45 x 23.11 cm

If you are looking to spend $500 or below, the RTX 3060 Ti represents the new value benchmark in this price range. The new Ampere based architecture RTX 3060 Ti outperforms higher-priced 20 series GPUs, at a lesser cost. This card will easily feed dual 4K monitors and handle light 3D work and video editing. Overall, if you are shopping in the sub $500 range and still needs a solid performing GPU, the RTX 3060 Ti is an excellent choice.

Check Price

GeForce RTX 3070

New levels of performance in the $500+ range

PROS

  • Great performance
  • Good value for money
  • Dedicated ray-tracing cores

CONS

  • No USB Type-C

Specs:

  • GPU Tensor Cores: 184
  • Cuda Cores: 5888
  • RT Cores: 46
  • Core Clocks: Boost 1755 MHz
  • VRAM: 8 GB GDDR6
  • Interface: PCI Express 16
  • Connections: 3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI
  • Dimensions: 4.32 x 11.13 x 27 cm

The RTX 3070 is a high-performance value graphics card that, depending on price movement, provides amazing value in the $500 – $700 price range. This card is essentially a more affordable 2080 Ti, but built on the new Ampere architecture. It might only have 8 GB of VRAM compared to the 2080 Ti’s 11 GB. But with a massive 5888 Cuda Cores, 184 Tensor Cores, and 46 RT cores, this GPU goes above-and-beyond typical graphic design needs, crushing video editing workflows in After Effects and light-weight 3D workflows.

Check Price

NVIDIA Quadro RTX 4000

Reliable entry-level professional-grade graphics card

PROS

  • Solid performance
  • Reliable
  • RT & Tensor Core features
  • Single-slot form factor
  • Competitive pricing
  • Quiet
  • USB Type-C

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Limited availability

Specs:

  • GPU Tensor Cores: 288
  • Cuda Cores: 2304
  • RT Cores: 36
  • Core Clocks: Boost 1545 MHz
  • VRAM: 8 GB GDDR6
  • Interface: PCI Express x 16
  • Connections: 3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI, 1x USB Type-C
  • Dimensions: 5.8 x 10.2 x 20.3 cm

While the Quadro cards are pricier than the GeForce, there are some benefits. It really comes down to peace-of-mind and reliability. Quadro graphics cards are built specifically for design professionals. With 2034 Cuda Cores and fully ISV certified this professional-grade GPU is ideal for designers who use Adobe apps like After Effects, Premiere Pro, and other 3D programs.

A couple more benefits with the Quadro RTX 4000, is you get a USB Type-C and single-slot form factor. If performance, stability, and reliability are your priorities, you can’t go wrong with the Quadro RTX 4000. However, if you don’t do any video editing, rendering, 3D work, or gaming, this card is probably overkill.

Check Price

Understanding GPU Specs & Features

Knowing what makes up a graphics card will put you in a better position to choose what is right for your PC. Both from a compatibility and features perspective.

Power:
GPU’s use power and generate heat. This is referred to as “Thermal Design Power” (TDP), which is measured in watts. You want to make sure that your power supply can handle the number of watts the GPU requires. In addition, you should calculate how much power the other components use.

Memory:
Memory is GPU’s are referred to as vRAM. This memory is used to store data needed to render information on the display. You will likely see GPU vRAM options ranging from 2Gb, 4Gb, 6Gb, 8Gb, and even higher.

How much vRAM do you need for Graphic Design? If really depends on what programs you work in, and your monitor(s) resolution. If you are working in 3D or Motion Graphics, your GPU will need to store more complex data, in order to render it on screen.

If you are running one or two 4k resolution monitors, I would go with 8Gb. On the other hand, 4Gb is fine for monitors under 4k resolution.

Connections:
Most GPU’s feature the following ports. DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort. How many of each will depend on the specific model. Knowing what connections you need on your graphics card will depend on your monitor set-up. 

Display Ports HDMI Connections

Not only should you think of your current monitor set-up. You might want to add a display, as Designers often run two or even three monitors for better multitasking.

Interface:
Modern graphics cards pug into the motherboard using PCIe slots (peripheral component interconnect express). PCIe slots come in the following configurations: x1, x4, x8, x16, and x32. Most GPUs need a PCIe x16 slot to run at their full potential.

Overall, there are two main considerations when it comes to the interface. You will have to assess your motherboards for slot compatibility with the GPU. Second, is that surrounding components provide enough space for your chosen graphics card.

How To Choose A GPU For Graphic Design – Quick Tips

Operating System: If you have a Mac computer, you will have to go with an AMD graphics card. Also, your Mac will have to be a 2019 Mac Pro or newer. The reason being, AMDs modern GPUs are only supported by new Mac Operating systems.

Generally speaking, Nvidia GPUs perform a bit better in Adobe Software. This is why all my recommendations are from Nvidia. However, if you need an AMD GPU for Mac, the AMD Radeon Pro WX 8200 is a highly regarded powerful GPU.

PC users will have more flexibility. NVIDIA or AMD GPUs will both work. However, for Graphic Design and any video editing or 3D work, I recommend NVIDIA GPUs over AMD.

What kind of screen(s) do you have? Simply put, monitors range in size, resolution, and quality. If you have a 4K screen or multiple screens, a more powerful GPU with more VRAM is preferred (Ideally 8 GB of GPU VRAM).

display resolution HD 2K 4K 5K 8K

Do you work in 3D, Motion Graphics, or Video Editing? If yes, your GPU can help your CPU process more complex data. In this case, I recommend a card with 8Gb of VRAM (GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, GeForce RTX 3070, or NVIDIA Quadro P4000). Or check out our article Best Graphics Cards For After Effects.

Do you have enough power? You will need to look at how many watts your power supply has. Then add up all the other components with your desired GPU.

Do you have enough space? Look up specs on your case to find graphics card compatibility. Then look up your graphics card length. Only super compact cases have issues. Most mid-tower cases can fit most GPUs. Higher performance GPUs are taller and longer due to more internal components and beefier cooling. Once you measure the available space, take a look at the specs for each card we recommend to see if there’s a fit.

Save money for the CPU and RAM. Graphic Design PC builds need powerful processors and memory to store lots of data. How that data is rendered on screen is important, no doubt. But for designers that mainly design in 2D, your money is better spent on a CPU and RAM.

What Is The Best Graphics Card Brand? Nvidia vs AMD

I’m going to sit on the fence with this. There is no best brand for GPUs. What is best will always depend on your needs, use case and budget. Either way, let’s review some of the key differences between Nvidia and AMD.

Both Nvidia and AMD provide a line of graphic cards for two markets: gaming and design. Nvidia has GeForce for gaming and Quadro for design/professional use. AMD has Radeon for gaming and Radion Pro for design/professional use. The main difference between these product lines is that professional cards cost more.

Are Quadro and Radeon Pro cards worth the extra money for graphic design workstations? In my opinion, it is hard to justify the extra spend, considering they are built on the same architecture and have similar specs. But if you look a little deeper, there are key differences for those who are serious about their PC build.

Why are professional graphics cards better than gaming cards? First, Quadro and Radeon GPUs have certified drivers that have been optimized to work with some of the most popular design software. These drivers and the Quadro cards specifically are generally looked at as more reliable. Plus Quadro cards are aimed at enterprise users who need software vendor support and updates.

Second, professional cards use ECC memory (error-correcting code), which allows the system to detect when memory errors occur. Another difference is how professional cards often run at slower clock speeds, resulting in better thermal efficiency.

Perhaps the most notable difference is how these two lines of GPUs are manufactured. For gaming GPUs, Nvidia and AMD sell hardware licenses to other companies such as MSI, Asus, EVGA, and Zotac. These companies make tweaks to some components like cooling and clock speeds. In contrast, Nvidia Quadro cards are produced by one specific manufacturer, PNY.

Based on all my research online, Nvidia is generally regarded as a better value for top tier cards. Reason being, Nvidia is known for slightly better performance and reliability on professional workloads.

AMD, on the other hand, offers great value for gaming and graphic design users in the mid-range price tier. Either way, having such a rivalry will only lead to further innovation in graphic cards. This is good news for designers and gamers alike.

What Graphics Card Do I Need For Photoshop?

There is a wide variety of GPUs that will work for Photoshop. You can find a list of GPUs that Adobe has tested here. But what GPU is best for Photoshop?

For most Graphic Design tasks in Photoshop, you don’t need a powerful GPU. But there are benefits in Photoshop by having a decent GPU. With a better GPU in Photoshop, you will see subtle differences in how on-screen movements are rendered smoother (such as zoom, pan, and drag). Let’s look further at how Photoshop uses a GPU.

How Does Adobe Photoshop Leverage Graphics Cards?

With a compatible GPU, Photoshop will make use of more features. Here is a list of features that will and won’t work without a GPU.

If you have an unsupported GPU, or it’s disabled you won’t be able to use the following features.

  • Perspective Warp
  • Oil Paint
  • Render – Flame, Picture Frame and Tree
  • Scrubby Zoom
  • Birds Eye View
  • Flick Panning
  • Smooth Brush Resizing

Features that require a graphics card for acceleration:

  • Artboards
  • Camera Raw
  • Image Focus – Preserve Details
  • Select Focus
  • Blur Galler – Field Blur, Iris Blur, Path Blur, Spin Blur
  • Smart Sharpen
  • Select and Mask

Useful Resources For Building  Graphic Design, Motion Design, and Video Editing PCs

Camden Taylor

Author Camden Taylor

Camden is ARTURTH's Chief Editor, Senior Graphic Designer, and artist from the Pacific Northwest.

More posts by Camden Taylor