Brush Lag in Photoshop


Today’s Question: When I use the Brush tool in Photoshop, such as for painting on a layer mask, the actual painting lags far behind my mouse cursor. This makes it extremely difficult to paint on a layer mask, for example, because I never quite know exactly where I’m painting. Is there a way to fix this? My computer is relatively fast, and I’ve not seen any other performance issues.

Tim’s Quick Answer: This issue will most likely be solved if you set the value for the Smoothing control on the Options bar for the Brush tool to 0%.

More Detail: The Smoothing setting for the Brush tool (and other related tools) enables you to create smoother brush strokes, without the somewhat jagged appearance that can occur especially with longer curved brush strokes. However, it can also create a bit of a lag that you may find frustrating (as I do). Note that the Smoothing feature was added in the 2018 release of Photoshop.

With the Brush, Pencil, Mixer Brush, and Eraser tools, you’ll find the Smoothing control on the Options bar after selecting the applicable tool. At a value of 100% the smoothing effect is at its maximum, which means the lag for your brush strokes will also be at a maximum.

For the type of work that photographers typically perform with the Brush tool, such as painting on a layer mask, dodging and burning, and other refinements, in my view the Smoothing control can create a problem. I find that it is easier to be precise when there isn’t any brush lag, and that the Smoothing option doesn’t provide a real benefit for the type of brush strokes that are common when working with a photographic image.

So, I suggest setting the Smoothing control down to the minimum value of 0%, only increasing the value in specific situations where you want to ensure the smoothest brush stroke possible. That would especially be applicable for relatively long, curved strokes, such as if you are applying a signature with flourish to an image.