Which one should I use? Illustrator vs Photoshop

Which one should I use? Illustrator vs Photoshop

Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop are both powerful tools for creating and editing images and graphics but they work in very different ways. 

So how do you know when to use Illustrator and when to use Photoshop?

This blog will help you decide. 


This blog will show you:

  • What is a vector graphic?
  • What is a raster (pixel) graphic?
  • When to use a raster or a pixel graphic 
  • How to decide whether Illustrator or Photoshop is best for your job
  • How Illustrator and Photoshop can work together

Illustrator vs Photoshop ‐ the fundamentals

The main difference between Illustrator and Photoshop is that Illustrator uses vectors and Photoshop uses pixels. 

OK. So what is a vector graphic?

Vector graphics are made of points, lines, shapes and curves based on mathematical formula and can look something like this:  

Background pattern

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Or this:

A picture containing logo

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A great advantage of vector graphics is that they can be made bigger and smaller without worrying about image quality. They will always look sharp. 

Adobe Illustrator is usually used for creating things like illustrations, drawings, company logos, maps and icons. The result is beautiful, clean, resizable graphics you can use anywhere. 

As a general rule, you should use Illustrator when:

  • You want to create vector images and designs from scratch
  • You image needs to be printed 
  • You need to create artwork that never loses quality when it's made bigger or smaller
  • You are designing a company logo, an illustration or a map
  • You are doing fun stuff with text

What is a raster (or pixel) graphic?

Photoshop images are raster graphics ‐ they are made up of points known as pixels and are usually photographic images like this:

Digital photos are nearly always pixel images. Photoshop is the world's most popular software for working with and editing photos and pixel images. You can do pretty much anything to a digital photo using Photoshop. 

As a general rule, you should use Photoshop when:

  • You need to work with digital photos
  • You need to modify or edit existing digital images or photos
  • You need to make complex or subtle changes to a digital image
  • You need to crop or alter images and export them in the right format to appear in digital publications, magazines, newspapers, social media or online. 

Combining Illustrator and Photoshop

Illustrator and Photoshop are both part of Adobe Creative Cloud and are designed to work together. You can pass images from Illustrator into Photoshop and back again. 

You can even edit an image in Illustrator and the image will automatically update itself in Photoshop. We cover stuff like this on our excellent Illustrator and Photoshop courses. 


So - having looked at the difference between vectors and pixels - the easiest way to determine whether to use Illustrator or Photoshop is to ask yourself ‐ will I be working with photos or vectors?

As a rule of thumb, if you are working with photos you should use Photoshop and if you are working with vector graphics you should use Illustrator. 


If you want to learn more, we run a comprehensive range of Illustrator and Photoshop courses here at Media Training

Media Training is the largest Adobe Authorised Training Centre in the UK. All courses are run at our beautiful state-of-the-art training centre in central London or live online so you attend from your home or your office if that suits you better.

by Julian Woodfield | 05 Dec 23

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