Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign; what’s the difference?
Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign; what’s the difference? If you’re creating print assets for your business for the first time, it can be tricky to work out which program you should be using to create your artwork. Let’s clear up some of the confusion…
Raster vs vector explained
Before we explore the pros and cons of each platform, it’s important to understand the difference between raster graphics and vector graphics.
In a nutshell, raster graphics use pixels to represent shapes and colours. Examples of raster graphics include photographs, document scans and digital paintings.
Raster graphics are better for rendering detailed images and continuous colour tones. However, since they’re displayed in a single resolution, bumping up the size of the graphic degrades the image quality; resulting in an ugly pixelated look.
If you want to use the same graphic for print materials of different sizes (for example, on small A5 flyers and giant billboard posters), you’ll generally need to save several copies of the same graphic at different resolutions.
It’s also impossible to edit a raster file once it’s been saved in a raster format (such as a JPEG or a PNG). You can add new edits on top, but unless you have the original project file (such as a PSD), you won’t be able to change or undo any previous edits.
That’s where vector graphics come in. Instead of pixels, these use lines to create shapes, outlines and regions of colour.
While they’re less than ideal for creating detailed graphics and smooth colour transitions, vectors can be scaled up or down as much as you like without losing image quality. It’s also much easier to re-edit vector file formats (such as SVG or PDF).
It’s the ubiquitous visual editing tool for hobbyists and professionals alike; but believe it or not, Photoshop is not always the best choice for print artwork.
That’s because Photoshop is primarily a raster editing tool; fantastic for creative photo editing, blending and effects, and useful for making website graphics, but not so great for creating scalable, future-proof print files.
Photoshop’s workflow is also better suited to working on a single project at a time; so if you’re creating multiple pages for a brochure or magazine, this isn’t the best tool for the job.
That doesn’t mean that artwork designed in Photoshop can’t be printed; if it’s your preferred design tool, go for it! Just keep in mind that Photoshop designs may cause issues for print quality and design versatility down the line.
Illustrator is essentially Photoshop’s vector-based cousin; which makes it great for designing logos, visual branding, geometric shapes and text-heavy page layouts, but not so great for editing photographs and achieving smooth colour transitions.
Remember, vector graphics can be scaled to whatever size you like without losing definition, so a logo designed in Illustrator and saved in a vector format can be reused for pretty much any print project.
However, if you’re still looking for a program that can manage multiple pages, you’re better off choosing…
InDesign is a more specific and less versatile tool than Photoshop and Illustrator; but if you’re looking to create a magazine, catalog or any kind of multi-page document, this is the program for you.
InDesign allows you to set up master page designs, making it quick and painless to maintain consistency across your publication. You also have a lot more creative freedom in displaying and arranging text, which makes it especially useful for text-rich designs.
On the negative side, InDesign doesn’t offer much in the way of raster editing or complex vector shapes; so you’ll still need Photoshop or Illustrator if you want to make photo creations or logos.
Or all three – or none of them!
But here’s the good news – you don’t have to limit yourself to one program. Want to add a photo to your vector design? Simply use Photoshop to work with the photo until you’re happy with it, then import it into Illustrator to finish your design. Need to turn that flyer into an ad page in your brochure? You can easily export that Illustrator file to InDesign and work on it from there.
And remember, while Adobe’s programs are the industry standard for most design work, you don’t have to use them! There’s plenty of alternative raster editors, vector editors and publishing tools out there; some of them are even free to use. As long as you can save your finished design as a PDF, Better Printing can print it for you with no fuss.
Need more help with your design? Take a look at our guide for supplying print-ready artwork – or let us take care of the design work for you with our stress-free design services. Get in touch on 023 8087 8037 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!