Photoshop or Illustrator - what’s right for me?

Written by Peter
  • Updated

You've probably heard about Photoshop and Illustrator, but have wondered which one you should use. These are two very popular graphic design programs in the Adobe creative suite that do similar things, but actually handle them very differently. Let's go over the differences so you can decide which is best for what you want to create.


Photoshop creates raster graphics using pixels, while Illustrator creates vectors.


We should dig into what those mean:


Raster-based images are created by combining lots of small boxes, called pixels, containing unique color information that come together to create a larger shape. The more pixels that sit side by side together per inch is what determines the resolution of the image. The more pixels you display per inch, the higher quality the image will appear. When dealing with raster-based images, you will notice that scaling them up or down will change the quality rapidly as the pixels and their information are fixed.


Vector on the other hand deals in equations rather than keeping track of lots of individual pixels. When you draw a line or a path in vector graphics, the computer remembers the equation used to form it, and can recreate and alter it using an algorithm. The main benefit of this is infinite scalability. For example, the words you’re reading on screen now are vector based, that’s why if you scale them up or down, they still appear clearly.


With that said - what’s best at doing what?


Illustrator is great for:

  • Projects that need to be scalable to fit different platforms

  • Logo/Icon and web design

  • Projects with a lot of font/typography

  • Work that need to be added to an existing design


Photoshop is great for:

  • Photo editing and enhancements

  • Creating image-heavy designs

  • 3D painting and animation

  • User interface design

Now you understand the differences in the software, you’ll probably realize that both tools can be useful in their own way. A lot of people will even use a combination of the two for their work. As they’re both in the Adobe suite, shortcuts and layout are largely the same, and can both be used with a Creative Cloud subscription.

I hope this information was helpful for your decision. Time to pick one and start learning!