What's the Difference Between Photoshop and Illustrator?

Photoshop and 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 Photoshop and Illustrator to help you get started. photoshop_new


Adobe Photoshop is a great program for modifying already created images or graphics, like photos, and is Adobe's most popular program. Raster or bitmap graphics are created in Photoshop. 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. Photoshop is a popular choice for web graphics, photo editing and designs since those projects will stay at a fixed size. Editing photos is awesome in Photoshop, because it includes a lot of unique filters, special effects and tools. Another great benefit of Photoshop is that you can have complete control of your projects, since you can edit your graphic pixel-by-pixel. Our friends over at Smarterer have a great test you can take for free to see how well you know Photoshop. Adobe Illustrator image


Adobe Illustrator is an advanced vector-based software. So, unlike Photoshop's pixel-based format, it uses mathematical constructs to create vector graphics. In Illustrator, a line is composed of two dots connected by a computer algorithm, instead of just a line of pixels. Because of this, Illustrator is used often to create logos or anything that may need to be printed or displayed at different sizes. A vector graphic will never lose its quality if it's scaled up or down. Illustrator will also give you a better print output since it's not resolution dependent. A drawback of Illustrator is that 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. To see how well you already know Illustrator, check out this Smarterer test. Adobe InDesign image

Fireworks and InDesign

Now that you know the difference between Photoshop and Illustrator, there are a few other Adobe graphics software that you probably have wondered about, like Fireworks and InDesign. Adobe bought Macromedia, which created Fireworks, in 2005. Fireworks is pretty much still around because it works well with Flash and Dreamweaver, which were Macromedia programs too. 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.


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

Please select a contributor for this blog post