Brush Lag in Photoshop


Today’s Question: For some time now whenever I’m using a brush tool in Photoshop the paint stroke lags way behind my mouse cursor. I assumed this would get fixed in an update, but the problem remains. Do you know if there is a way to resolve this issue?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The behavior you describe is a result of the Smoothing setting for the brush (on the Options bar in Photoshop) being set rather high. You can use a lower value for this setting to avoid the lag between the brush and your mouse cursor but note that your brush strokes won’t appear quite as smooth then.

More Detail: The Brush tool (and the related Pencil tool) include a Smoothing setting, which enables you to have Photoshop smooth out your brush strokes. For example, if you draw a basic “S” shape with the Brush tool you’ll likely find that the curves of the “S” don’t have perfectly smooth curves. Instead, you will probably see that there are minor bumps along the curve, depending on how smooth a hand you have.

For photographers who are using the Brush tool for things like dodging and burning, modifying a layer mask, and other tasks that involve general painting without necessarily needing perfectly smooth curves for each brush stroke, a high value for Smoothing is probably not going to provide much benefit. More to the point, a high value can cause a frustrating lag between the mouse cursor you’re painting with and the actual brush stroke that appears in your image in Photoshop.

Therefore, for photographers I recommend using a very low value for Smoothing, perhaps as low as 0% (which is what I use) but probably not higher than about 10% or so. This will minimize the behavior of Smoothing, so the brush strokes will follow your mouse cursor more closely.