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Photoshop Vs Illustrator - What Is The Difference?

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Being in the world of digital design, whether you are a photographer or designer, you may have encountered many photo editing software but two names stand above the rest- Adobe’s Photoshop & Adobe Illustrator. These two are the most popular Adobe graphic design platforms.

However, if you are working on a new project, you might be having a hard time choosing between these two programs to get the best out of your work, since they seem so similar. The selection between Illustrator & Photoshop can leave you in a dilemma especially if you are new in the industry. Deciding on which one of the two you want to work with depends on what you want to create the most. 

So, What Is The Difference Between Illustrator & Photoshop? 

Well, the main difference is the type of graphics each application delivers. Photoshop creates raster-based graphics using pixels while Illustrator creates vector-based graphics using mathematical formulas rather than a set amount of pixels. 

In this article, we have compiled some of the main differences between Illustrator & Photoshop by Adobe to help you make an informed decision regarding which tool will be the best one for you to get the desired results. But first, let’s understand what Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop are.

What is Adobe Illustrator?

Illustrator is an advanced vector graphic design & editing software tool which is mainly used to create logos, cartoons, and fonts etc. Unlike Photoshop that uses pixels-based format to create/edit raster graphics, Illustrator uses mathematical constructs to create vector graphics. 

But what is a vector in Illustrator? 

It is a line consisting of two dots connected by a computer algorithm, instead of a line of pixels. These vectors are the reason why Illustrator is used to create graphic design or anything that needs to be printed or displayed at different sizes.

How? Vector images or graphics are made of points, lines, shapes or curves based on Mathematical formulas instead of a set amount of pixels, and therefore can be sized as small or large as you want while maintaining the same image quality, clarity & resolution.

Illustrator uses mathematical constructs to create vector graphics. For example, if you have drawn a line, every time the software displays the line, it redraws it using the equation it has stored in its memory fed by you in the first place. 

So, undoubtedly, we can say that the Illustrator tool never loses its quality even if the images are scaled up or down. It will always deliver you a better image quality since it is dependent on mathematical formulas, instead of pixels. Illustrator is considered the best application for:

  • Logo and icon creation.
  • Infographic creation.
  • Projects with extreme use of linings such as graphs and charts etc.
  • Custom font creation.
  • Print objects with extreme typography etc.

What is Adobe Photoshop?

Adobe Photoshop is a raster-based graphic editing tool that uses pixel-based format to edit or modify already-created images. It is one of the most popular Adobe programs from the Adobe family of software. Editing photos is amazing with Photoshop as it comes with some great features, filters, special effects & tools. 

What is raster in Photoshop?

Raster graphics are simply the kind of graphics that use small squares, called pixels, arranged side by side to create images. The computer stores the defined arrangement of these pixels into its memory and uses that to display the picture. The files in Photoshop are saved with extensions PSD, so that the editing tasks could be started from where we left. Typical raster file extensions are JPG and PNG. 

Photoshop is a great tool to modify already created images or graphics ie. photo editing as these projects will have a fixed size. Another benefit of using Photoshop is that you can have complete control on every edit of the image as it goes pixel-by-pixel. Photoshop is the best application for:

  • Photo editing and improvements.
  • User interface design.
  • Image composition with gradient.
  • 3D painting and animation etc.

Photoshop Vs Illustrator - Find The Difference

Photoshop and Illustrator have many things in common, but the major difference is the type of graphic format they use. Photoshop is a raster-based editing application while Illustrator is a vector-based editing application. Let’s understand these differences in detail:

Raster Graphics

As we have mentioned above, Raster-based editing application ie. Photoshop uses pixels to create images. Millions of pixels of different colors are combined to create the image. When you zoom in, you can see the pixels individually especially if you look at the edges of the image but from a great distance, they are unnoticeable. It means that Photoshop uses millions of tiny squares of different colors to make an image. 

Vector Graphics

Vector-based editing programs such as Illustrator use mathematical constructs to create images. Vectors are the clear shapes made with lines or nodes. For example, each vector in Illustrator is not a line of pixels, rather is created by two dots connected via a computer algorithm. Each of these lines are called a vector path and together they make a vector object.  

Moreover, they can be scaled to any size that you want without hurting image quality. It means the image will remain smooth, no matter how far you zoom in or out. You will never get to see pixels. In simple words, a raster is like a painting brush. From afar, it may look crips, but when you get close, you can see the texture, and any discrepancies in the brush stroke. A vector is like you cut up an image and glued it on the canvas. 

This is why Illustrator is a prime choice when there is a requirement of creating an image but in different sizes with the same image quality. For example, if you need to create a logo, it is important to make sure that it is a vector image, so that the quality can be maintained while it is being used in big banners or posters. 

File Formats - 

Now that you know the main difference between these two, now let’s learn about their file formats:

Adobe Photoshop

The standard file formats for Adobe Photoshop include JPEG, TIFF or PNG. Here, JPEG & PNG are the typical raster file extensions. Moreover, working in Photoshop allows you to save your edited images in PSD format so that you can open the image anytime in the application and start editing from where you left it. 

Since it is a pixel-based editing, you have better control on every single pixel editing, so in case you want to Undo any action, it can be done easily. However, once you have saved the file as JPG or PNG, all the edits will be applied and you cannot Undo the actions. These are the file formats you get as the final results of your editing process. 

Adobe Illustrator

The standard file formats for Illustrator include AI, EPS, and SVG. They are the common vector file extensions. Unlike Photoshop, these files are the final project files in Illustrator ie. the final products. The vector file will contain all the layers of any shapes or texts that you have used in your project. To share this file, simply open the file and continue where you have left off. 

These vectors can be edited, making it a perfect application for teams where you need to share work every day or separate people. Moreover, you can export the projects as a JPG or PNG. 

Illustrator vs Photoshop - Pros And Cons

Adobe Illustrator 

Pros

  • A vector image will never lose its quality even if it is scaled up or down.
  • It will always give you a better print output as it is not resolution-dependent.
  • It is a perfect choice for creating logos and drawings.
  • Great for basic vector artworks and graphical illusions

Cons

  • It can’t be used to modify raw images or ones that are already-created. 
  • It has a limited number of filters and image editing tools. 

Adobe Photoshop

Pros

  • It is a perfect application for image editing such as raw images.
  • It keeps projects at a fixed size.
  • Comes with plenty of editing tools & filters.
  • Give complete control of edits as you can edit pixel-by-pixel.
  • Good for adding special effects 

Cons

  • Not a good choice to create logos or drawings.
  • Raster images can sometimes look jagged since they are made of pixels. So if you are scaling the size up or down, it will lose its quality.


Adobe Photoshop Adobe Illustration 
 Price $9.99 per month (Annual Plan)  $20.99 per month (annual plan) 
Free Trail   Yes  Yes
 Includes  Photoshop, Lightroom, Lighting Classic  Adobe Illustration on desktop and iPad, 100GB of cloud storage, Adobe Portfolio, Fonts, and Spark.

So, you see that Adobe Illustrator is more expensive than Photoshop. 

When To Use Each Tool?

Adobe Illustrator when you need to:

  • Work on vector-based graphics.
  • Create image and designs from scratch.
  • Have smooth edges.
  • Get images in different sizes.
  • Create a logo or banner.
  • Create scalable images that never lose their quality if scaled up or down.
  • Create brochures, layouts, digital publications, digital designs, annual reports etc.

Adobe Photoshop when you need to:

  • Edit or modify images and raw photos.
  • Edit or make image adjustments.
  • Need to work on every pixel.
  • Don't’ want to have smooth edges.
  • Design and edit images in Magazines, digital publications, digital designs, Books, Websites etc.

Which Tool Should I Use?

If your project doesn't need too much editing and mostly focuses on drawing or creating logos or anything else in different sizes, then Adobe Illustrator is the right tool for you. But if you need to perform several editing & modifying tasks in your projects for regular or raw images, you should go for Adobe Photoshop.

Using Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator Together

Some people prefer to use one software over another but it will be best to use Photoshop & Illustrator together. You can start a project in one tool, transfer it to another tool and switch between these two until you get the desired final results.

For example, imagine you need to add some texts to an image like a watermark etc. It is best not to add any texts to an image in Photoshop as it can spoil the image. You can transfer the edited photo to Illustrator and then make changes to get the best results. This is why it is recommended to use these both products if you have a chance to do so.

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