Adobe Illustrator running slow on Mac? Try this speed up trick.

Best Ways To Speed Up Illustrator On Your Mac

Anyone who’s spent any time at all using Illustrator will know that it’s one of the most demanding apps out there, with the average .ai file taking up tens or even hundreds of MB of space. It’s no surprise that, for users of Adobe Illustrator, slow performance is a common issue.

Sometimes the problem is easily solved: it may be that you simply have too many documents open at once or that your computer has a lot of active apps and needs a quick restart. However, it’s sometimes the case that large Illustrator files will slow your Mac down even if you’ve just done this.

There are various ways to speed up Illustrator with more consistent results than rebooting and hoping for the best, and most of them require very little technical knowledge. Here are a few steps you can take when you start noticing your Adobe Illustrator running slow.

Quick Fixes For Adobe Illustrator Slow Performance

When the issue of the day is Adobe Illustrator running slow Mac users will typically want to look to the source: Illustrator itself! 

Many of the tips that follow are pretty simple, but it’s easy to forget that many Illustrator users (especially those who are self-taught) fall into bad habits and fall back on the excuse that “it’s how I’ve always done it.”

Adobe suggests using Outline View to hide paint attributes and speed up the display of complex objects, or creating custom views to make it easier to magnify, scroll, and switch between layers. Speaking of layers, turning off any that are unnecessary can also make tasks run a little quicker, as can ditching any artboards (and unused elements from document profiles and templates) you’re not working with.

Using links to images, such as TIFF or BMP files, can increase the size of .ai files and slow things down, so employing the Link option wherever possible is always a smart move. Likewise, turning on low-resolution EPS previews will give you a clear idea of what you’re doing but use less RAM.

Disabling thumbnails, or hiding the navigator altogether, is another thing that seems small but can have an impact on the time it takes for screen redraw. 

If you have multiple drives available, or partitioned drives, consider transforming one into a scratch disk. This allows Illustrator to use a portion of another hard disk as virtual memory and while not as effective as increasing the amount of RAM available to the app it can still help.

Additionally, if you’re working with large images, it’s possible to set yet another disk as a Secondary scratch disk.

Counterintuitively, one last resort for those looking to speed up Illustrator CS6 might be to ditch the app altogether and make the move to CC 2019. Using Adobe’s monthly cloud subscription service means that you’ll always have access to the latest version of the app which should, in theory at least, be the most efficient and bug-free on the market.

Effectively tweak macOS settings

If you’ve tried all of the above, it may be time to take a less granular approach and look at how tweaking your operating system might speed up Illustrator. For example, many designers are guilty of clogging up their system with countless fonts that they keep “just in case.” Using a font management utility, or simply ditching any you haven’t used in a while, will free up RAM.

It’s difficult to imagine that a printer driver could be the cause of Adobe Illustrator slow performance, but it’s one that Adobe themselves recognize as a common factor in sluggish Illustrator speed.

If you have a PostScript printer, make sure you’re using it as your default one. You can also configure Illustrator to print to a non-default printer by choosing File > Print, then selecting Adobe PostScript File, and clicking Save.

Optimize your use of hardware

Naturally, all of the usual steps you’d take to improve the performance of any other app also apply when you’re trying to speed up Illustrator: use a faster processor, install additional RAM, and optimize your hard disk space.

Freeing up hard disk space and available memory is something you can try to do manually but, for a quicker and easier solution, download an app like CleanMyMac X, which allows you to identify and (with your approval) delete all the unnecessary and temporary files, clean up duplicate content, and so on.

To optimize your hardware with CleanMyMac X:

  1. Download CleanMyMac X with a free trial
  2. In the left-side panel, click on Smart Scan > Scan
  3. Review Details and delete everything you don’t need
  4. Repeat the process with other CleanMyMac X tabs as required
CleanMyMac X - Smart Scan complete

CleanMyMac X is by far the best way to turn your Mac in the speedy state it was when you bought it. Remember that if you just use it to improve your efficiency (e.g. by reducing the time spent waiting around for Live Trace previews to render) by as little as 10%, it’ll be freeing up 4 hours of time every week for those working 8-hour days.

Automate your Mac maintenance

At least one of the above tips should help you seriously speed up Illustrator on your Mac, unless it really is time to replace your machine, but the easiest way to ensure that Illustrator doesn’t get sluggish is to make sure that your Mac has plenty of disk space and RAM for the app to make use of.

That’s a task you can tackle manually, searching your hard drive for duplicate files and other junk you no longer need, but it’s a lot easier to automate the process (not to mention digging out hidden files and outdated caches) with an optimization app such as CleanMyMac X.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

Your Mac. As good as new.