Illustrator or Photoshop? Find out here the 9 main differences

Illustrator (1987) and Photoshop (1990) have become two of the main programs in the Adobe suite, thanks to the multiple tools that have been integrated over the last decades and that allow the imagination to fly to create all kinds of designs. In fact, for creativity in this software, “not even the sky is the limit” since new universes can be created.

Although both programs have similar workspaces (made up of windows, menus, panels, and tools, among others) and with both programs you can develop excellent design projects, there are fundamental differences and each has its advantages over the other. For this reason, we recommend you to know here what are the 9 main differences between Illustrator (AI) and Photoshop (PS), to define which one best suits your work and achieve a better result. Let’s get started!

  1. Vectors vs pixels

Perhaps the main difference between the two programs is the illustration technique since AI is based on the use of vectors to connect points and build an object. This is done by using a computer algorithm that connects points on a mathematical grid. PS, instead, is based on pixels that can acquire an immense range of colors, although it must be added that with the ‘pen’ tool you can also create vectors.

  1. Image quality. Unlimited zoom?

Starting from the first difference of pixels and vectors between the two programs, some advantages and disadvantages are created for each one. For example, although in both cases you can zoom to a large scale when it comes to Photoshop, the size of the image is limited and will ‘pixelate’ when the magnifying glass gets very close.

That is why, if you are going to work in Photoshop, it is best to use photos or images of great clarity and size, so that the quality is not affected if it is necessary to expand it in the design.

This does not happen in AI, because no matter how close the magnifying glass is to the image, the quality of the vector will not be affected. That is, the size is unlimited and giant scales can be made.

  1. Print

The issue of quality and the size that pixels or vectors allow, also affects the printing possibilities, since the designs made with Illustrator can be used for large jobs, such as billboards. Instead, in Photoshop the size of the print will be subject to the quality of the image.

  1. Logos, photos, websites …?

Although both Photoshop and Illustrator can develop designs with photos; create fonts or logos, the results will not be the same in one program or the other, because each has its specialty.

It is best to use PS when retouching or cropping images, which is also very useful for creating web pages or designing user interfaces. AI, in turn, is a better option for creating fonts or logos.

  1. Images weight

With Photoshop, the weight of images is greater than in Illustrator, because it works with pixels, so the more pixels an image has and the more modifications are made, the larger its final size will be.

In AI it does not matter how many elements are used, the size adjusts to the need of the export. Of course, if a photo is included, the size will increase.

  1. With or without limits? Worktable

When it comes to being creative and letting your imagination run wild, limits are important, including those set in the design program workspace.

In that sense, Illustrator has an advantage over Photoshop, because the designer can work ‘outside’ the table and, in fact, in a single panel it allows to create multiple artboards. In PS, on the other hand, the design must be developed within the limits.

  1. Layers

Although everything must stay within the artboard, the advantage of Photoshop is that it allows you to develop multiple changes or designs and always be able to return to the original image through the layers. This, in turn, helps the organization because each new element (other than itself) is identified with a layer that can be turned on or off.

  1. The reflection of reality

Another advantage that Photoshop has thanks to the use of pixels is the reflection of reality, since shadows, gradients, color transitions, and visual effects can be appreciated in greater detail. This allows for more emotional designs that connect with the viewer’s feelings. AI instead reflects more accurate tones and less detailed tone transitions, with a more corporate feel.

  1. Select and edit objects

While in Illustrator there is an object selection tool, to modify it in any sense (color, size, shape, etc.), in Photoshop the selection is defined by the space that the user wants to cover, since an entity is not defined.

User’s guide

If you still have questions about which program to use in your next design project, Adobe has also developed this mind map that will help you choose between Photoshop and Illustrator or, why not, work with both!

Although the learning process with Adobe and Illustrator can be very self-taught in a first stage in which you know the work area and the most used tools, there are more complex technical aspects for which a guide will be necessary.

A recommended option is to take an online course that also certifies you and helps you score points in your curriculum. If you don’t feel like it, you can start with the Adobe User Guides, which are updated for Illustrator 23.0 and Photoshop 20.0, both from October 2018.

It is also important that you take into account the technical aspects of your computer such as RAM, hard disk space, processor, and other AI and PS requirements, both for Windows and macOS.

In conclusion, neither program is better than the other, as both allow you multiple tools to let your creativity flow and do a great job. The important thing is to identify the needs of your design and which software will give you the best results.

If you want to learn more and master the work areas of the two programs, you can start today.

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