Everyone has general idea of what Photoshop is… but what about Illustrator? Because of Photoshop's popularity, it’s often that thats it’s the only design program graphic designers use. I’m a designer, I went to college for graphic design, and out of the entire Adobe Suite, Photoshop is probably the program I use the least...shock horror :) .... Illustrator however, is my go to program for any of my design projects.
Photoshop and Illustrator are both powerful programs – but each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Although I have a deep love affair with Illustrator, that’s not to say that Photoshop isn’t awesome too. I just don’t happen to work on projects where I would use Photoshop over Illustrator very often. Which program you should be using heavily depends on what you’re using it for.
So which program should you be using?!
Illustrator, however, is a vector-based program.
Unlike JPEGs, GIFs, and BMP images, vector graphics are not made up of a grid of pixels. Instead, vector graphics are comprised of paths, which are defined by a start and end point, along with other points, curves, and angles along the way. A path can be a line, a square, a triangle, or a curvy shape. These paths can be used to create simple drawings or complex diagrams. Paths are even used to define the characters of specific typefaces.
Because vector-based images are not made up of a specific number of dots, they can be scaled to a larger size and not lose any image quality. If you blow up a raster graphic, it will look blocky, or "pixelated." When you blow up a vector graphic, the edges of each object within the graphic stay smooth and clean. This makes vector graphics ideal for logos, which can be small enough to appear on a business card, but can also be scaled to fill a billboard. Common types of vector graphics include Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia Freehand, and EPS files. Many Flash animations also use vector graphics, since they scale better and typically take up less space than bitmap images.
Photoshop is mainly used for creating and editing raster images. Raster images are made up by tiny squares of color, called pixels. Photoshop allows you to edit, move around and change these pixels to create your desired image. This includes adding filters and effects to images, as well as editing things into or out of photos. Because web graphics are also made up of pixels, several web designers will use Photoshop to design and layout their websites as well.
Most images you see on your computer screen are raster graphics. Pictures found on the Web and photos you import from your digital camera are raster graphics. They are made up of grid of pixels, commonly referred to as a bitmap. The larger the image, the more disk space the image file will take up. For example, a 640 x 480 image requires information to be stored for 307,200 pixels, while a 3072 x 2048 image (from a 6.3 Megapixel digital camera) needs to store information for a whopping 6,291,456 pixels.
Since raster graphics need to store so much information, large bitmaps require large file sizes. Fortunately, there are several image compression algorithms that have been developed to help reduce these file sizes. JPEG and GIF are the most common compressed image formats on the Web, but several other types of image compression are available.
Raster graphics can typically be scaled down with no loss of quality, but enlarging a bitmap image causes it to look blocky and "pixelated." For this reason, vector graphics are often used for certain images, such as company logos, which need to be scaled to different sizes.
Logos should be flexible and adaptable to many different contexts (from a website to an envelope). Illustrator is vector based (lines). It will enable you to scale up or down your logo, and try different shades and plain colors as a logo should have.
Photoshop is for graphics, pictures where you have to deal more directly with the pixels rather than the lines or shapes.
Vector images are also ideal for print design. Therefore, Illustrator is the go-to program for print projects. Illustrator also has the capability to save out bleeds for print ). A bleed is any color that runs off or touches the edges of the paper once it's printed. Illustrator will also always ensure that you’re design prints in high resolution – whereas Photoshop requires you to select specific settings in order to produce high-res print projects.
You can technically design web graphics in either Illustrator or Photoshop. Web graphics therefore become more of a personal preference decision, rather than a program capabilities decision. I personally design all of my web graphics in Illustrator and save them out as a raster file afterwards because I find Illustrator way easier to work in. BUT, if you're more comfortable designing in Photoshop, have at it!. There is no real right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing a program for web graphics, so take your pick!
When should I use Illustrator/ Photoshop
What to use Photoshop for:
- User interface designs
- Web pages
- Banner ads
- Video graphics
- Editing pictures for print
What to use Illustrator for:
- Vector graphics
- Logo design
- Print (business cards, brochures, posters, etc.)
- Web graphics