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Illustrator vs. Photoshop: Which One Should You Use?

Updated: October 19,2022

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We all know the feeling - you’re web surfing, and you come across a piece of amazing graphic art or meme, and you think to yourself, “I wish I could make something like that.” But where do you even start? 

There are two main contenders when it comes to graphic design software: Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Photographers, graphic designers, and even hobbyists use one or both of these apps to create digital artwork, illustrations, logos, and more. So which should you choose? Today we are going to pit Illustrator vs. Photoshop and see which one you should use. 

The Main Difference Between Photoshop and Illustrator

The main difference between these two programs is in the way they create graphics. Adobe Photoshop uses “raster” or “bitmap” images, where each graphic pixel is edited to create the image. Adobe Illustrator, on the other hand, uses “vector” images. 

This means that instead of working with pixels, you work with points and lines to create your artwork - think of it as connect-the-dots. Vector images are resolution independent, meaning they can be scaled to any size without losing quality, which is perfect for logos and other graphics that need to be resized often.

It all comes down to what you want to accomplish. So let’s go through both programs in detail and explain what they’re used for.

What Is Adobe Illustrator?

Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based editing software often used by graphic designers to create logos, scalable images, and typographic print projects. A vector graphic is a type of digital image where the shape of the image is defined by math equations instead of pixels.

This means that vector graphics can be scaled to any size without losing quality. This infinite scalability is one of the most significant advantages of using Illustrator: It allows you to resize your designs without losing quality, a feature critical in print design.

Another big advantage of Adobe Illustrator is its variety of features and tools that allow you to create just about anything you can imagine. And if there’s something you can’t find in the toolbox, chances are there’s an Illustrator plugin or extension that will give you the ability to do what you need. However, all these features and tools can also be a bit overwhelming for someone just starting out with the software. 

But creating images is one thing, and editing non-vectorized images is another, and this is also where the difference between Illustrator and Photoshop becomes apparent. A key downside of Adobe Illustrator is the lack of image editing tools and filters - but this software does not include them by design. On the other hand, Adobe Photoshop is specifically designed to be used to modify images and much more, but we’ll get to that in a minute. 

Adobe Illustrator saves to .AI, .EPS, .PDF, .AIT, and .SVG file extensions. You’ll know that you’re working with a vector file whenever you see these extensions. Common vector file extensions have the advantage of being able to be opened and edited in almost any vector editing software, not just Adobe Illustrator.

What Is Adobe Photoshop?

Adobe Photoshop is a raster-based program often used for photo editing, web design, and graphic design. Raster graphic design is based on a grid of tiny pixels akin to a mosaic.

One advantage of working with raster graphics is that they can be edited down to the pixel level, giving you considerable control over your design. You can also create pretty realistic effects with Photoshop that would be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in Illustrator.

However, because raster images are based on a grid of pixels, they can’t be scaled up without losing quality and coming off bleary. So if you need to resize your design, you will have to start from scratch or find a way to recreate the effect at the new size. This can be a pain, especially when working with complex designs.

Therefore, you need to think about what you want to do - build a brand-new design from scratch or modify an existing one. Once you have the answer, you can accordingly opt for Illustrator or Photoshop.

As a plus, Photoshop offers a variety of filters and effects you can use to enhance photos or create images from scratch. Its retouching tools can make your photos look their best or completely change them to give them a new meaning. The program has some great features for web designers, allowing them to easily create responsive designs and slice images for faster loading times.

One of the key differences between Photoshop and Illustrator is how they save files. When you save your work as a raster graphics file, Adobe Photoshop merges all of the layers into one, so you won’t be able to access a specific layer or continue to edit the design in other software programs. 

Because Adobe Photoshop can do so much, it supports many file extensions. The typical raster file extensions are .JPEG, .JPG, and .PNG. Fortunately, you can save the file in Adobe Photoshop’s native file formats - .PSD and.PSB - which keeps the layers for later image editing. 

Where They Came From

Adobe Photoshop was released in 1988 as part of Adobe’s Creative Suite. Adobe Illustrator was launched in 1987, which means it predates Photoshop. 

Photoshop has always been the more popular program of the two, possibly because it was developed for photographers, whereas Illustrator targeted print magazines. In other words, Photoshop has always had mass appeal, while Illustrator has been a bit more niche.

In addition, Photoshop wasn’t created by Adobe like Illustrator was. It was developed by two brothers, Thomas and John Knoll, who first sold the distribution rights to Adobe but were later acquired by Adobe entirely. They were neither the first nor the last company taken over by Adobe

Which Is Better?

Now that we’ve gone over the key differences between Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, it’s time to answer the question: Which is better?

The answer, of course, is that it depends on what you need. We’re talking about two programs that seem similar but are used for very different things. Just think about it. Why would Adobe sell two programs that do the same thing? The answer is it doesn’t.

If you need to do detailed photo editing or create complex designs with a lot of effects, then Photoshop is probably the better choice. However, if you need to create vector graphics or designs that can be easily resized, then Illustrator is the way to go.

Both Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop have unique advantages and disadvantages suited for different purposes. If you’re unsure which one is right for you, then the best thing to do is try them out and see which one you like better. Whichever one you end up using, just remember that practice makes perfect!

Do You Need Both?

If you’re a graphic designer, then the answer is probably yes. Most Adobe Creative Cloud programs go hand in hand; the same goes for Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator.

While you can get by with just one or the other, having both Photoshop and Illustrator will give you the most flexibility and allow you to create pretty much any type of design you can imagine.

Of course, if you’re just starting out, you might want to focus on just one program to get the hang of it before moving on to the other. But ultimately, having both Photoshop and Illustrator in your design toolkit will make you a more well-rounded designer and allow you to tackle any design challenge that comes your way.


Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator are both great programs with a lot to offer to any designer. However, they are best used for different purposes. When used together, they can help create the most amazing designs. So, if you’re wondering which one you should use, just ask yourself what you need to use it for, which will help you decide.

There is a learning curve to both programs, but there are plenty of online tutorials and resources to help you get started. Don’t forget that having software is just one part of the equation. You'll also need a drawing tablet to express your creativity and a suitable stylus pen that you don’t have to battle every day to get it to work. 

If you are just starting your graphic design journey, you have a long way ahead of you. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start designing!


What is better, Photoshop or Illustrator?

It depends on what you need. Photoshop is better for detailed photo editing, web graphics, and complex designs, while Illustrator is better for vector graphics and designs that can be easily resized.

Is Illustrator harder than Photoshop?

No, they are both equally difficult (or easy) to master.

Why do people use Illustrator instead of Photoshop?

There are a few key reasons:

  • Illustrator is better for vector graphics, while Photoshop is better for raster (pixel-based) illustrations.
  • Illustrator offers more control over shapes and lines, while Photoshop has more color and photo manipulation options.
  • Illustrator is a necessary tool for a graphic designer working on magazine covers, ad marketing, and much more.
What is the main difference between Photoshop and Illustrator?

The main difference between Illustrator vs. Photoshop is that Photoshop is better for raster graphics, while Illustrator is better for vector graphics. This is because Photoshop uses pixels to create images, while Illustrator uses mathematical equations. 

As a result, Illustrator images can be scaled up or down without losing quality, while Photoshop images will lose quality if they are scaled up or down too much.

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With a degree in humanities and a knack for the history of tech, Jovan was always interested in how technology shapes both us as human beings and our social landscapes. When he isn't binging on news and trying to predict the latest tech fads, you may find him trapped within the covers of a generic 80s cyberpunk thriller.

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