Improve Illustrator performance on macOS

Learn what you can do to make Illustrator speedy and efficient on macOS.

Several factors affect how quickly and efficiently Adobe Illustrator performs, for example, operating system and hardware configuration, your workflow, options you select. If you notice Illustrator running more slowly than usual, there are several techniques you can try to optimize not only Illustrator performance, but performance of your other apps as well.

An improvement in performance is more noticeable when you work with large files.

Before you begin

Before working through the tasks below, make sure that you have the latest version of Illustrator or any updates to the version you are using. Software updates often include performance-related fixes or enhancements.

If you're using Illustrator, you can update Illustrator via the Creative Cloud desktop application.

Optimize macOS

Configuring your operating system to run efficiently increases the amount of memory available to apps, which helps them run smoothly. Try these techniques to optimize macOS and improve Illustrator performance.

Manage fonts

Every font you have installed increases the amount of RAM macOS uses. Install only the fonts you need, to improve system performance and the performance of apps that access fonts. Use a font management utility to help you manage many fonts.

Use a PostScript printer driver

Non-PostScript printer drivers can conflict with Illustrator. Therefore, Adobe recommends that you set a PostScript printer driver as the default printer in macOS.

Step 1. Set a PostScript printer as the default printer


To complete this procedure, make sure that a PostScript printer is connected to your computer directly or via a network.

  1. From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences, then click Printers & Scanners.

  2. If a PostScript printer isn't listed, click +, navigate to a PostScript printer, and click Add.

  3. Select a PostScript printer from Default Printer pop-up menu.

Step 2. Configure Illustrator to print to a non-default printer

  1. Open any document in Illustrator, and choose File > Print.

  2. In the Print dialog box, choose Adobe PostScript File or the name of the printer from the Printer menu.

  3. Click Save.

Optimize hardware configuration

The hardware you use affects Illustrator performance: the faster the processor or hard drive, the faster Illustrator can process information. Other hardware enhancements, such as installing additional RAM, using a multiprocessor system, or optimizing and defragmenting drives, can also improve performance. Here are some tasks you can try to optimize hardware configuration and improve Illustrator performance.

Use a faster processor

The speed of your computer's Central Processing Unit (CPU) affects the speed of Illustrator. Because Illustrator manipulates large quantities of data and performs many calculations, its speed depends on the processor's speed. Consider using a computer with a faster processor.

Install additional RAM

If Illustrator has insufficient RAM, it uses hard disk space (that is, a scratch disk) to process information. Illustrator is fastest when it can process information in memory, without using a hard disk.

Optimize disk space

Here are a few ways to optimize disk space:

  • Check your hard disk for errors or defragment files with a third-party disk utility (for example, Norton Utilities). If you're running macOS, the drive shouldn't need to be defragmented but may need to be repaired with a third-party disk utility.
  • Save your files to drives with faster access speeds. For example, use an internal hard drive rather than a network server (network drive) or external drive.

Use Illustrator features effectively

The way you work in Illustrator, especially the way you view artwork, can affect Illustrator performance. Here are some ways to use Illustrator features that can help keep Illustrator running smoothly.

Work in Outline view

Outline View hides paint attributes, displaying the artwork as unfilled paths. Working in Outline View can speed the display of complex artwork, such as objects containing gradients or patterns. Outline View can also make it easier to edit objects hidden behind other filled objects.

To display an Illustrator document in Outline View, choose View > Outline.

Create custom views

You can create custom views of your document. Custom views enable you to quickly change the view mode, magnification, scroll position, and layer options.

To create a custom view of an Illustrator document, set the view attributes you want to save. Then choose View > New View and enter a name in the New View dialog box. The custom view appears in the View menu.

Change raster effects settings

You can change the resolution of raster effects to optimize Illustrator performance.

To change the resolution of raster effects, choose Effect > Document Raster Effects Settings, choose one of the following from the Resolution drop down list:

  • If you are editing files, click Screen. Illustrator uses a resolution of 72 ppi for raster effects, increasing display speed.
  • If you are printing files, click High. Illustrator uses a resolution of 300 ppi for raster effects, decreasing printing speed, but increasing print quality.

Then, click OK.

Hide layers and remove thumbnails

Illustrator redraws the screen faster when you hide layers that contain complex artwork or high-resolution bitmap images.

To hide a layer, click the eye icon to the left of the layer name, clear Show Layer, and then click OK. To hide all but the selected layer, Alt-click the eye icon.

The Layers panel can display thumbnails for top-level layers, nested layers, groups, and objects. To reduce the number of thumbnails so Illustrator redraws the screen faster, choose Panel Options from the Layers panel menu, then reduce the number of thumbnails.

  • To remove all thumbnails from the Layers panel, select Small in the Row Size section, and then click OK.
  • To remove thumbnails for specific elements in the Layers panel, deselect Layers, Groups, or Objects in the Thumbnails section, and click OK.

Disable Overprint Preview

Overprint Preview provides an "ink preview" that approximates how blending, transparency, and overprinting appear in color-separated output. To enhance performance, avoid using Overprint Preview.

To enable and disable Overprint Preview, choose View > Overprint Preview.

Delete unused artboards

Artboards represent the regions that can contain printable artwork. To optimize performance, consider deleting unused or unnecessary artboards.

To manage your artboards, choose Window > Artboards. Then, select an artboard you want to remove, and click Delete.

Change the scratch disk preference

When you work with an embedded bitmap image and your system doesn't have enough RAM, Illustrator uses hard disk space as a scratch disk. It takes longer to access information on a hard disk than in memory. Therefore, using a portion of the hard disk as virtual memory can decrease performance. If you need more memory to work in Illustrator, try adding more RAM.

By default, Illustrator uses the system drive as its primary scratch disk. Change the Illustrator primary scratch disk setting to your fastest hard drive.

To change the scratch disk preference, do the following:

  1. Choose Illustrator > Preferences > Plug-ins & Scratch Disk.

  2. Choose a hard disk from the Primary pop-up menu. If you intend to work with large images and have more than one hard disk, choose another disk from the Secondary pop-up menu.
  3. Click OK and restart Illustrator.

Remove unused elements from document profiles

Illustrator Document Profiles contain the default patterns, gradients, graph designs, colors, color libraries, and brushes that appear in new Illustrator documents. These files also determine zoom level, window size, viewing preferences, and scroll position for new documents. Minimize the file size of new documents by removing unnecessary swatches and brushes from Illustrator new document profiles.

Remove unused elements from templates

Templates let you create documents that share common settings and design elements. You can minimize the file size of new documents by removing unnecessary swatches, symbols, graphic styles, and brushes from templates.

For instructions on creating template files, see Files and templates.

Enable links to images

Embedded bitmap images (for example, TIFF, BMP, or Photoshop EPS) can dramatically increase the size of an Illustrator document, causing slower performance. To improve performance, enable the Link option when you place a bitmap image. The Link option references the placed image on the hard disk.

  • Go to File > Place. In the Place dialog box, choose Link.

If a service bureau requires embedded images, then save a copy of the files. Choose Include Linked Files in the Illustrator Native Format Options or EPS Format Options dialog box.

Use low-resolution EPS previews

If a document contains linked EPS images that have high-resolution previews, Illustrator redraws the screen slower as you edit artwork. To enable Illustrator to redraw the screen more quickly, use low-resolution EPS previews. Do the following:

  1. Choose Illustrator > Preferences > File Handling & Clipboard.

  2. Select Use Low Resolution Proxy For Linked EPS and click OK.

Disable Show DCS Transparency Interactions

The Links Panel Options dialog box includes a Show DCS Transparency Interactions option. If this option is selected, the Links panel displays a yellow icon to identify linked DCS EPS graphics that are transparent or overlap transparent objects. Because this option forces Illustrator to regularly determine if linked EPS files interact with transparency, it can reduce performance.

To disable the Show Transparency Interactions option, do the following:

  1. Select Window > Links. From the Links panel menu, choose Panel Options.

  2. Clear Show DCS Transparency Interactions and click OK.

Hide the Navigator panel

The Navigator panel displays a thumbnail view of your current artwork for easy navigation. The processing time required to update the thumbnail each time you change the document depends on the complexity of your artwork. To improve screen redraw speed and performance in a complex document, hide the Navigator panel.

  • Under the Window menu, deselect Navigator.

You can set up custom views to more efficiently zoom to particular areas of your document.

Disable Anti-aliased Artwork

The Anti-alias Artwork option smoothes text and graphics by blending the color of an object's edge pixels with the color of adjacent pixels. However, this process can cause slow screen redraw. To disable this option, do the following:

  1. Choose Illustrator > Preferences > General.

  2. Clear Anti-aliased Artwork and click OK.

Apply the Simplify command

The Simplify command reduces the amount of anchor points in paths and path shapes, reducing file size and increasing performance. To apply the Simplify command, select the desired path or object, then choose Object > Path > Simplify.

For more information on the Simplify command, see Editing paths.

Disable Smart Guides

Smart Guides allow you to create, align, edit, and transform Illustrator objects relative to other objects. If you have many objects in your artwork, Illustrator requires more time to display Smart Guides.

  • To disable Smart Guides, click the View menu, and deselect Smart Guides.

Find out more information about Smart Guides.

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