1. Design & Illustration
  2. Problem Solving

Illustrator Errors: Fixing the Disappearing Pencil Tool Preview


The Pencil Tool (N) gives users the freedom of its namesake in sketching or drawing out paths. Whether stroked or filled, the objects created with the Pencil Tool can be as freely formed as those in rasterized drawing programs. With the most recent update to Adobe Illustrator CC, tablet users may have found the preview of their pencil strokes to be missing. This article provides an easy fix!

It's one of the most frustrating parts of the new update for me, since I use the Pencil Tool quite often while creating illustrated content. As you can see below, there's some major lag happening.

Note the lag when drawing with GPU Performance enabled
Note the lag when drawing with GPU Performance enabled.

Solution #1: Use a Mouse or Trackpad

The easiest solution is to not use your graphics tablet in conjunction with the Pencil Tool. Use a mouse or trackpad on a laptop instead, and you'll find the familiar old pencil preview renders in real time as it did before the 2015 update.

This can cause some pretty shaky drawings, however, and it may not be your cup of tea. If the Pencil Tool's smoothing options don't solve that problem for you, then check out the next solution.

Use the pencil tool with a mouse instead
Use the Pencil Tool with a mouse instead.

Solution #2: Disable GPU Performance

For solution number 2, you'll have to head on over to Edit > Preferences > GPU Performance, and uncheck GPU Performance as seen below.

Disable GPU performance under preferences

Hit OK and draw as you did before the update took that previous preview away from you (or severely slowed it up).

Note the lack of lag when drawing with GPU Performance disabled
Note the lack of lag when drawing with GPU Performance disabled.

Know More Solutions?

I hope you found the above solutions helpful in bringing back predictable functionality to a well-loved vector tool. What are some of your go-to solutions for reducing lag while working in Adobe Illustrator? Share them in the comment section below!

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