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How to Fix Photoshop Brush Lag

Published: 24/07/2023

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It's a pain for photo editors or graphic artists when the Photoshop brush keeps lagging while in the middle of complex drawing or retouching, preventing you from putting the brush where you need it.

Over the years, as a photo retoucher, I've experienced various issues with why this happens, and I found ways to solve them so you don't have to. Now, I'm listing different ways how to fix Photoshop brush lag so you can edit smoothly and improve your editing workflow.

How to Fix Photoshop Brush Lag

To fix Photoshop brush lag, reduce brush smoothing and the file size, turn off rulers, remove custom brush settings, allocate more RAM to Photoshop, and enhance scratch disk space. Closing background programs, improving battery performance, setting a higher processing priority to Photoshop, and cleaning your device can also stop brush lagging.

It can be frustrating when you can't continue editing because the brushes won't cooperate. Whether through Photoshop or computer fixes, these are various techniques to remove delays in Photoshop brushes.

Fix Photoshop Settings

When Photoshop brushes are lagging, the first thing you can do is tinker with some settings within Photoshop. 

Increase the Brush Spacing Value

Brush spacing is the space between each dab of the brush tool. When using a brush, you place extremely small dots in every stroke. These dots form a long line or stroke, and the distance between these dots is the brush spacing.

Increasing the brush settings in Photoshop while editing a bedroom

Photoshop automatically sets the spacing at 25%, which is generally enough for most edits. The less distance in the spacing, the smoother the lines the brush can draw. However, a lower spacing can sometimes cause brush lagging.

  1. Click on the Brush tool settings on the right-hand side panel.
  2. Increase the Spacing value to around 30%. Avoid going lower than 25%, as this may cause performance issues.

Reduce Brush Smoothing

Photoshop CC 2018 introduced the brush smoothing algorithm to create cleaner, more natural-looking lines. However, a higher smoothing percentage may also cause brushes to slow down.

Reducing the brush smoothing settings in Photoshop while editing an image of a room
  1. Press B to launch the Brush tool.
  2. Click the drop-down arrow in the options bar. Try to decrease the percentage first. Turn down smoothing to 0% if the brush remains slow.
  3. If there are no changes in the performance, click on the gear icon next to the smoothing percentage. Afterward, untick the smoothing options in the drop-down menu.

Reduce File Size

Reducing the image size of a room through Photoshop

Another way to fix brush lagging in Photoshop is to reduce the file size. There are different ways to bring down the overall size of your file.

Using the Flatten Image in Photoshop for an image of a room
  1. Reduce the image resolution: Go to Image, click Image Size, and choose around 72 DPI for a standard screen resolution.
  2. Lessen the number of working layers: Every layer can take more memory, so try to merge or flatten layers to reduce the file size. Head to Layer, then choose Merge Down/Merge Visible or Flatten Image.
  3. Convert layers to Smart Objects: Converting layers into Smart Objects can also help reduce brush lag. Navigate to Layer, click on Smart Object, and choose Convert to Smart Object.
Choosing the Convert to Smart Object option in Photoshop for an image of a room

Turn Off Rulers

The rulers can help with the proper alignment and placement of objects. However, if you don't need them, you can turn them off in the meantime, so there's one less thing for Photoshop to work on. In this way, Photoshop can focus on the brushes and prevent lagging.

Selecting the Rulers option in Photoshop while editing the image of a room
  1. Navigate to View, and untick Rulers to turn it off.
  2. Alternatively, press CTRL + R (Windows) or CMD + R (Mac) to toggle the rulers in case you need them again.

Set More RAM Space for Photoshop

Selecting the Performance tool in Photoshop while editing a room

Another reason why Photoshop brushes lag might be because there's not much RAM space allocated to the software. Perhaps you have less than 16GB of RAM and tend to work on projects with lots of layers. In this case, it's possible to experience a slow Photoshop performance.

Checking the memory usage in Photoshop
  1. Go to Edit, click on Preferences, and then choose Performance.
  2. Photoshop consumes about 70% of your device's available RAM by default. Depending on your available RAM, you may increase the memory usage to around 75% to 80%. It's not advisable to go beyond 90% since other parts of the system still need RAM to function.
  3. If the brush continues to lag, go to Advanced Settings.
  4. In the pop-up menu, untick the OpenCL, 30-Bit Display, and Anti-Alias settings.
Adjusting the Graphics Settings in Photoshop

Use the Dedicated GPU for Photoshop

The latest settings allow Photoshop to use GPU instead of CPU. As a result, it frees up CPU processing power and speeds up processes within Photoshop, including brush commands.

Checking the Use Graphics Processor in Photoshop

This should be automatically turned on if you're using the latest version of Photoshop with a compatible graphics card. If not, follow these steps to enable the setting.

  1. Head to Edit, click on Preferences, and select Performance.
  2. Tick the Use Graphics Processor checkbox. 

Free Up Scratch Disk Space

Adobe programs use scratch disks as temporary storage locations while you're working offline. Thus, it's essential that you have enough storage for them.

Selecting the Scratch Disk tool in Photoshop while editing an image of a room
  1. Navigate to Edit, click on Preferences, then choose Scratch Disks.
  2. You should see how much space you have left, letting you pick which drive(s) to use as scratch disks. I recommend using a fast SSD with at least 50GB to 100GB of free storage as the scratch disk.
Choosing the Scratch Disk Preference and option in Photoshop

Optimize Computer Performance

Suppose you're still having brush lag issues after tweaking some Photoshop settings. Another way to solve this is to make changes at the operating system level.

Close Background Programs

Background programs can hog performance resources, so close programs or browsers you won't need while using Photoshop. 

Closing the background programs while working in Photoshop

For example, turn off Bluetooth or close the Chrome browser with several tabs opened. You can also press CTRL + Shift + Esc to open the Windows Task Manager to close more running applications. Right-click on the program you're not using, then click on End Task.

Improve Battery Performance

Turn off low-power or battery optimization mode. Let your computer run power normally. Reduced battery power can diminish Photoshop's performance level, preventing the brushes from working properly.

Choosing the battery saver mode in Photoshop while editing the image of a room

Allocate a Higher Process Priority to Photoshop

Giving a higher process priority enables the software to run faster, letting you fix lagging brushes in Photoshop.

Opening the task manager in a PC
  1. Press CTRL + Shift + Esc to open Task Manager.
  2. Open Photoshop and create or open a project.
  3. Go back to the Task Manager. Click on the right-facing arrow next to Photoshop.
  4. Right-click on the project you opened or created.
  5. Click Go to Details.
  6. Right-click on an application called Photoshop.exe, then go to Set Priority.
  7. From the pop-up menu, choose the High option.
Setting priorities in a task manager application

Clean Your Computer or Laptop

Unmaintained computers or laptops can slow Photoshop's performance and cause brushes to lag. Dusting off the screen or wiping down the keyboard are basic parts of cleaning your device. 

What you also need is to maintain your computer from the inside out. This includes cleaning the hard drive, updating software, or removing outdated programs.

It also helps to ventilate your computer. An overheating computer can slow down Photoshop brushes, so it's vital to cool it down. Use case fans to get cool air in and expel hot air.

Related Questions

Why Is My Photoshop Lagging?

Your Photoshop may lag because the software doesn't meet the system requirements. Make sure that you have an up-to-date operating system and that you're using a high-performance graphics card.

Why Is Photoshop Lagging When I Use a Brush?

Photoshop may lag when the custom settings for the Brush is too complex. For example, you're using a high smoothing setting or an increased spacing value.

How Do I Fix the Photoshop Brush?

You can reset the Brush tool to fix its settings. Press the B key to open the tool, then click on the drop-down menu beside the Brush icon. Click the gear icon and then choose Reset Tool to bring the Brush back to its default settings.


To solve brush lagging in Photoshop, you can tweak a few settings, including the file size, custom brush settings, and memory allocation. Another way is to make changes in the operating system and clean your device. With these hacks, you can prevent Photoshop brushes from having lagging issues again.


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