Illustrator vs. Photoshop

From Dream Infinity

Adobe Photoshop

What is Photoshop?

The most important thing to know about Photoshop is that it is a pixel based program. Photoshop was primarily created in the beginning as a photograph enhancing tool and not so much anything else like it is used today. Adobe has recognized that many users were starting to use Photoshop to create elaborate UI designs, web page graphics, banner ADs, text effects and more. Adobe then started rolling out features that help designers create images for print, web, motion graphics and so on. However, again, the problem is that there are certain times when Photoshop is not needed (gasp!) to create certain projects.

Photoshop is generally used for:

  • Photo enhancement/Photo color correction
  • Software/Web/Mobile UI design
  • Web graphics
  • Motion graphics
  • Special effects

Common mistakes/misconceptions

One common misconception is the idea that it is good to use Photoshop to create stationary systems and logos. For your sake, please throw this idea out the window. Let’s talk about business cards as an example. There is an alarming number of tutorials online that shows you how to create business cards in Photoshop. These are what I call “bad tutorials” that teache you the wrong way of creating a business card. Despite the result and outcome of these tutorials being amazing, or perhaps you can even get it printed and it will look fine, it is a bad practice to get into an habit. Just because the result looks fine don’t mean the practice is the best way.

First off Illustrator type is by far superior in print output than Photoshop is. Yes Photoshop can output type, and even in vector “paths”. Yes Photoshop can bring in vector objects as “smart objects”. Yes Photoshop can draw paths using the pen tool. But the most important thing out of all this is that IN THE END, it is outputted as pixel data. Yes I am aware that it also depends on the file output. For instance, .TIFF does not output vector data but does output layer information and transparency. But .EPS does support vector output, yet it still doesn’t mean this is the best practice to do so. So should you never use Photoshop to create business cards? There are times you actually want to use Photoshop to create business cards.

When it is justified to use Photoshop for business cards and other print projects

If your business cards contain any textures, photography, special effects, blurs (not that I am encouraging this), or any type of pixel based design, Photoshop is obviously the best way to go. However, remember to output ANY pixel based art work in 300 ppi resolution with CMYK color mode. Do not output it RGB. If you have Photoshop filters in your artwork, changing your work to CMYK mode, or even applying certain filters in CMYK mode seem to look desaturated or not look too good.

The work around to this: Create all your special effects, filter effects, etc in RGB mode. Flatten the work (merge layers) after you feel that your work in Photoshop is complete, and change the color mode to CMYK. Again, you will regret not switching color modes to CMYK after you send it off to the printer. Your result will look significantly different than you hoped for.

When you should never use Photoshop for print projects

For the love of all things that you love, do not use Photoshop to set type in your print projects. It is important to note that I am not saying you should never use the type tool in Photoshop. I am stating that it is not a good idea to use it in print projects.

Never use Photoshop to create logos. The obvious reason is because pixel data cannot be enlarged without distortion. If you create the logo in vector format, your logo will be scalable to any size forever.

Adobe Illustrator

What is Adobe Illustrator

Well as the program states, Adobe Illustrator is a vector based drawing program. It is primarily used to create vector graphics that require to be scalable in print and for future uses. Adobe Illustrator is very similar to drawing programs like Adobe Fireworks (Macromedia Fireworks in the early 2000′s), and Corel Draw. It is superior in creating logo’s and logotype, and has an awesome type setting system within the program. Adobe Illustrator does one thing Photoshop can never meet up to its standard, and that is vector output. Whatever you create in Illustrator is scalable to the infinite power.

Illustrator is generally used for:

  • Logo/Logotype/Monogram/Insignia design
  • Type setting for stationary systems/print campaigns
  • Web graphics
  • Motion graphics
  • Vector paintings/Illustrations

Common mistakes/misconceptions

Although Illustrator can be used to create websites in the fullest degree, Photoshop is still ideally the best program in creating UI designs and other graphical elements for your website. Of course it will not be as harmful as creating business cards in Photoshop, but you will quickly find that the snapping feature in Photoshop is much precise in terms of pixels than Illustrator is.

Illustrator cannot do animation. If you are looking to do flash animation, Illustrator will not do this for you. The best practice is to create graphics in Illustrator and bring them into Flash for the principle animation.

Illustrator filters do not work the same way as Photoshop filters. You will be surprised in how many people think the filters work the same way as Photoshop. This is false.

The prime time to use Illustrator

As stated above, Illustrator is excellent for logo design, trademark design, logotype, type setting stationary systems, and creating greeting cards or wedding invitations.

After the release of Illustrator CS4, it is now possible to create simple to complex brochures, annual reports, and even books in Illustrator CS4 and up. The only draw back to this is that it does not have master page utility in Illustrator like Indesign. It also does not support book templates and page numbers like Indesign. Although Illustrator CS4 and up has support for multiple artboards to create “pages”, it is simply there to create short page brochures, or when you want to output multiple PDF pages of your design variations to show your clients.

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