An image of a baby crocodile created with Photoshop vs an image of a logo created with Illustrator

What's the Difference Between Photoshop and Illustrator?


Updated 10/9/2019

Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator are two of Adobe's massively popular graphics programs. If you're working on a new project, you might have a hard time figuring out which of the two programs will work best for you, since on the surface they seem so similar. 

We've compiled some of the main differences between  Illustrator vs. Photoshop to help you get started.


An graphic of a sliced orange created with Adobe Illustrator

What Is Adobe Illustrator?

Adobe Illustrator is an advanced, vector-based editing software used to create logos, graphics, cartoons, and fonts. Unlike Photoshop, which uses a pixel-based format, Illustrator uses mathematical constructs to create vector graphics. What’s a vector in Illustrator? It’s a line that’s composed of two dots connected by a computer algorithm, instead of just a line of pixels. Because of vectors, Illustrator is used often to create logos or anything that may need to be printed or displayed at different sizes. 

Pros of Adobe Illustrator Software:

  • A vector graphic will never lost its quality if it's scaled up or down
  • Illustrator will also give you a better print output since it's not resolution-dependent

Cons of Adobe Illustrator Software:

  • It can't be used easily to modify images that are already created, since there are limited filters and image editing tools available to you.

How well do you know Illustrator?


A graphic of a basketball player created with Adobe Photoshop

What Is Adobe Photoshop?

Adobe Photoshop is a great program for modifying already-created images or graphics—like photos—and is Adobe's most popular program. Editing photos is awesome in Photoshop, because it includes a lot of unique filters, special effects, and tools. 

Pros of Adobe Photoshop software:

  • Photoshop is also a popular choice for web graphics, photo editing and designs since those projects will stay at a fixed size
  • Another great benefit of Photoshop is that you can have complete control of your projects, since you can edit your graphic pixel-by-pixel

Cons of Adobe Photoshop software:

  • Raster or bitmap graphics are created in Photoshop and these graphics can sometimes look a little jagged since raster images are made up of individual colored squares, known as pixels. Everything in Photoshop is just a series of pixels, so if you're scaling something up or down, it can lose its quality very quickly.

How well do you know Photoshop?


An image of an open magazine created with Adobe InDesign

What about Fireworks and InDesign?

Now that you know the difference between Photoshop and Illustrator, there are a couple other Adobe graphics software packages you probably have wondered about, like Fireworks and InDesign. 

Fireworks works well with Flash and Dreamweaver.  Fireworks offers both raster and vector options, but doesn't excel at either. 

InDesign works best when it comes to making multi-page layouts with a lot of written content, like magazines or books. It's still best to stick with Photoshop and Illustrator to create graphics and then send them over to InDesign if you're working on a book or PDF, since you'll have more options and control over your creations. But don't worry, InDesign will preserve the vector images you created in Illustrator.

Using Photoshop and Illustrator Together

You'll come to find that some people just prefer to use one software over another, but sometimes it's best to use Photoshop and Illustrator together. For example, you may need to add some text to an image you need to edit. Maybe you need to add a watermark to a photo for your blog or over an image for your portfolio. It's best not to add any text to an image in Photoshop since it can distort, so transferring the edited photo to Illustrator and then adding the text there will give you the best result. 

One program is definitely not better than the other, they're just different. Understanding Photoshop vs. Illustrator will help you make the decision about which software is best for your next project.

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