Illustrator vs. Photoshop: Which is Right for You?

You are probably familiar with Illustrator and Photoshop. These are two of Adobe’s most popular programs and are used by everyone from design professionals to passionate creatives in their free time. They are both user-friendly graphics programs, but if you don’t have experience with the software or if you are just starting out on a project, you may not know which program is right for you.

As a graphic design firm, we use both programs on a daily basis. One program is not necessarily better than the other – it depends on the scope of the project and your desired outcome. Here is our quick guide to determine the differences and decide which software is best for your project:

Photoshop utilizes pixels

Photoshop is made up of small individual colored squares, otherwise known as pixels. These pixels can be arranged and combined to create whatever type of image you’d like. They can be independently altered to give you precise control over your edits. They give you the ability to create intricate designs, however, when scaled up and down they can lose quality and appear grainy or jagged.

Photoshop is best for editing images or photos

Photoshop was first created as a tool for photographers to edit their photos. It has since evolved and is the ideal program for creating web pages, video graphics, banner ads, social media cover photos and more. Using Photoshop is more akin to painting. The program contains a lot of unique filters, tools, and special effects that work great for editing photos that are staying at a fixed size.

Illustrator is vector-based

Adobe Illustrator is vector-based, which means that the program uses mathematical equations to create shapes. A line is formed from two dots connected by a computer algorithm, instead of just a line of pixels. Because of this, using Illustrator is more like drawing or drafting. The benefit of this is that a vector graphic will not lose its quality or clarity when resized. It gives you the ability to resize your creation to fit a number of different formats without sacrificing the dignity of the design.

Illustrator is best for logos or anything that needs to be printed or scaled

Illustrator is ideal for logo creation, or any design that needs to be scaled up or down in size. It is also a great program for anything that needs to be printed, since resolution is not typically a concern. Vector graphics give designs crisp, well-defined edges that won’t look blurry or fuzzy. The functions within Illustrator give the user great control over typography and it’s manipulation, which is why it is an ideal program for any print project.

When it comes down to it, both programs have advantages and disadvantages. Many times, they are used in concert with one another. Several functions are shared between the two, but are usually best handled by only one. We tend to use Illustrator for most of our projects, and usually only work in Photoshop when working with photos or special effects. Learning the ins and outs of each program, before beginning your project, will ultimately save you a lot of time and prevent unnecessary mistakes. Understanding the basic differences will help you determine which program is better suited for your needs, and will help you create more professional looking designs.

What other differences do you think are important to highlight? Do you have any other questions about Photoshop or Illustrator? Share your feedback or questions in the comments below!