With graphic design programs costing what they do, it can be scary trying to decide which of the two flagship programs - Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop CC/CS6 - to invest in first, or whether you need both at once. We take a look at both to help you make an informed decision.
Illustrator And Photoshop CC/CS6 Are Both Adobe, Right?
Yes, this is correct - and on the surface they can appear incredibly similar. In this article, we’ll take a look at the main benefits of each program, and which fields each best suit. Remember, however, that most graphical professionals and artists will end up owning both pieces of software to help them.
What Is Adobe Photoshop CC/CS6?
Adobe Photoshop CC/CS6 is perhaps Adobe’s best known, and most popular product. It’s one of the best image manipulation programs on the market currently, and the industry standard for many design jobs. That said, however, it isn’t actually the best program for creating imagery from scratch - it is better at manipulating already existing products. Photoshop CC/CS6 works with base images that are rasterized- or, in other words, made of pixels. These can, at large magnifications, look blocky. Of course, this is because pixels are blocks of colour data!
This makes Photoshop CC/CS6 not an ideal product if you’re going to be scaling a picture a lot. If, however, you need to add effects and digitally manipulate the image, this is the perfect product for you. You literally have the freedom to edit pixel by pixel. However, you will not be able to ‘zoom’ your product too far without creating pixilation at the edge of the graphic and blocky, unclear lines. If you use masks, the clipping layer in Photoshop is below the graphic. Each object layer will be treated as one whole in Photoshop.
Photoshop CC/CS6 is used heavily by web designers, as it works in a pixel format and the anticipated size variances are not huge on websites. Photoshop CC/CS6 is also usually the major tool for the graphical and digital artist, although both products can be used depending on the needs and style of the art itself. Most work will be finished in Photoshop, even if the base of the art is created in Illustrator. That said, Illustrator can be more useful for graphical, comic book styles.
What Is Adobe Illustrator?
Adobe Illustrator is your baby if you need to create vector-based graphics. This includes applications where you need to be able to seamlessly scale your graphics without pixilation occurring. Instead of being joined by a physical line of pixels, two points in Illustrator are joined by a computer generated algorithm - meaning you can scale something from a tiny 10px x 10px right up to a building wrap without loss of quality and sharpness. It also creates a high quality print output, since it is not resolution dependant. An image created as a vector can truly be resized to any size- the algorithm will simply recalculate and re-render the image, not rely on existing pixel data.
Where Illustrator falls down considerably is that it can be used for only minimal alteration of existing images - it has very little options for altering images. No matter how much you ‘zoom’ an image, it will give you clear, sharp edges. If you use masks, the clipping layer is above the graphic. An individual layer can have multiple objects in Illustrator.
Illustrator’s stand out field is logo design. When you’re creating a business logo, you need to think ahead. Your client could be using this on anything from his business card to the front sign on the building. The ability to scale the logo, and thereby keep their corporate branding identical across all platforms, is a must for them, and Illustrator is the product to help you do that. Illustrator can be used effectively on web designs, although that’s usually a Photoshop arena. It’s also a great tool for sketching and wireframing.
Which One Should I Choose?
The general split for Illustrator and Photoshop is as follows: Designers use Illustrator, Artists use Photoshop. That is, of course, an incredibly simplistic way of looking a the matter, and depending on the range of services you offer you may well need to use services from both, but as a rule of thumb your most important program will be one of them, depending on your profession and main use for it. Remember Illustrator helps with vector images, Photoshop with pixel images. Basically, if you rely on vector graphics more Illustrator is your baby, and Photoshop for rasterized products.
What About The Rest Of The Adobe Suite?
There are a host of other Adobe products too, from Firework to InDesign. Some of these were acquired as a result of Adobe buying out other software companies - like Macromedia, the creators of Firework - or are simply specialised offerings. InDesign, for example, excels at multi page flyer and magazine layout. Some of these may be of use to you. Firework coordinates well with things like Dreamweaver, which also used to be a Macromedia product. However, in the end most of your graphic creation will happen with either Photoshop or Illustrator, and these will be used as secondary tools. Even InDesign itself suggests creating the graphics in one of these programs and exporting to them for the layout. While they are all useful products, they are not the primary tools that both Photoshop and Illustrator are.
I’ve Seen Freeware Offerings?
There are freeware alternatives (or rather they will tell you they are alternatives) for both suites. GIMP is perhaps the most famous of these alternatives. They have their place- if you only occasionally need to tinker with graphics, or only open a vector file once in a blue moon, then a freeware alternative that doesn’t chomp your budget is great. However, if you work daily with graphical products, you will soon find that these freeware alternatives, while powerful in their own right, don’t quite match up to the baseline set by Illustrator and Adobe. You will also run across the issues that these two programs are considered the industry standards. If you are liaising with other people in your field, or need to send your work on for approval, you may have compatibility issues opening and saving files that you won’t have working within the Adobe suite. In short, freeware is fine for occasional use but if you have any inclination to work in the industry you need to sort yourself out and fit yourself up with the correct products. The industry has decided that Illustrator and Photoshop are it.
So What’s The Verdict In Illustrator vs Photoshop?
In the end, both of these are valuable Adobe products. If your budget stretches to it, for most designers and artists you will want to look at acquiring both. If you are more limited, of course, then start with the one which best aligns with your needs.
Illustrator vs Photoshop is less a debate then a matter of both your personal taste and creation style and your needs as an artist and designer. Opt for the program that best matches your needs, and work up to owning both of these critical graphic development programs.
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