Adobe Illustrator vs Photoshop: What is the Difference Between These Two Programs?

Last Updated on 26 June 2022 by Proactive Creative

You’ve probably heard of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. You might even have used one or both of these programs before. But if you still don’t know the difference between Adobe Illustrator vs Photoshop, you’re not the only one! 

They are both amazing programs with so much potential if you know when to use them! 

But each Adobe app has specific strengths. So, knowing when to use Photoshop or Illustrator will help you get the best out of each program. 

As an artist, animator, and graphic designer, I have a lot of experience with the Adobe suite. So, I’ve put together this guide to Illustrator and Photoshop. I’ll explain the difference between the two and when to use each program. 

By the end of this article, you’ll feel more comfortable using Illustrator and Photoshop!   

What Is Photoshop?

what is photoshop

Photoshop is Adobe’s most well-known program. It first came out in 1987, and it was designed as a tool for editing images and photos. But there’s a lot more to Photoshop. 

This program rapidly grew in popularity. It became a household name even among people who’ve never even used it. As a result, the word ‘photoshopped’ entered the popular lexicon. And Photoshop soon became the gold standard in the industry. 

All sorts of professionals use Photoshop for their creative work. It’s very powerful and robust software, but it does have a learning curve. There are even whole courses dedicated to learning how to master Photoshop. 

But of course, you don’t have to be an expert to use Photoshop. There are tons of YouTube videos to help you get started. 

(Check out my reviews of the best tablets and best laptops for Photoshop!) 

You can sign up for the affordable Photoshop and Lightroom subscription at just $9.99. Or, you could go for the full Adobe Creative Cloud at $52.99. 

What Is Adobe Illustrator?

what is adobe illustrator

Illustrator is another excellent program from the folks at Adobe. And just like Photoshop, it’s very impressive and packed with useful features and tools. 

Illustrator has its own use cases, but there is some overlap with Photoshop. I’ll go into more detail on that below. 

But the most important thing to know is that Illustrator is a vector-based program. It’s never got quite as much publicity as Photoshop. Despite that, graphic designers, digital artists, and animators all use Illustrator. 

It’s an essential creative program. Most notably, there’s no limit to how much you can scale your images made in Illustrator. Plus, it’s ideal if you want to create illustrations from scratch. 

As a standalone program, Illustrator costs $20.99 per month. But as with Photoshop, you can opt for the full Adobe suite at $52.99 to access all the apps. 

What is the Difference Between Photoshop and Illustrator

the difference between illustrator and illustrator

A lot of beginners get confused about the differences between Photoshop and Illustrator. But there are some key differences that it’s useful to know. This knowledge will help you get even more out of each program.

Illustrator is the best program if you want to make something out of nothing. You can start with a blank slate and create any kind of digital art you like. There are no limits. 

In contrast, you can edit and improve existing images within Photoshop. The best way to use Photoshop is to import images you already have. But you have also the possibility of creating digital drawings from scratch. 

But in reality, there are many ways you can use these two programs interchangeably. The distinction is quite subtle. Unless you’re an advanced digital artist or designer, it might not make all that much difference to you. 

Vectors and Rasters: What’s the Difference?

Photoshop is a raster-based program. Each image is made of loads or minuscule pixels that come together to create the finished result. So, if you were to increase the image size a lot, you would see the individual pixels.  

A higher-quality image has more pixels. So, you can increase the size without the image becoming pixellated. But creating images with a very high resolution is very power-intensive.  There’s a limit to how much you can increase the pixel resolution. The file sizes become unwieldy, and it would reach the point where your computer can’t cope. 

raster vs vector

In comparison, Illustrator creates vector-based art based on numerical formulas. So, it’s easy for the image to be scaled up without losing image quality. You’re not reliant on blowing up the same number of pixels until they become blocky. Instead, it automatically uses the equation to make a larger image with the same high quality. 

That’s why it’s not recommended to create a logo in Photoshop or any raster-based program. Because if you need to use your logo on a billboard or even just a website, it would be more difficult thereafter to keep the same resolution. But with vector-based images, it will always look perfect wherever you use it. 

Photoshop vs Illustrator for Drawing

photoshop vs illustrator for drawing

Illustrator and Photoshop are both strong contenders for the best Adobe drawing program. They each have a fantastic range of tools for drawing, but Illustrator wins here. Its range is more extensive and built for drawing from scratch. 

However, Photoshop has a user-friendly interface that’s simpler. So, it could be the best choice for a beginner digital artist.

photoshop for digital art

One of the key features for drawing in either program is the wide variety of brushes available. But especially in Photoshop, you can create gorgeous, realistic effects. So, your digital artwork can look just like you’ve drawn it by hand or painted with watercolors

Even better, you can import sketches you’ve started by hand into Photoshop. Then, you can make very detailed, intricate adjustments to create your desired effect.

Whereas in Illustrator, images tend to look more digital. They don’t have the same look as traditional artwork done by hand rather than on the computer. 

But both programs are powerful and allow you to create gorgeous digital drawings.

Photoshop vs Illustrator for Graphic Design

photoshop vs illustrator for graphic design

If you’re wondering which app is the best for graphic design, it’s a little hard to explain. As graphic design is such a huge area, it depends on what kind of design you want to do. 

For example, if you need to create a logo, Illustrator is essential. As it uses vector-based images, you can develop a professional logo for a brand or business. 

Then, you can use it on all sorts of print and digital media without losing any quality. In contrast, if you create a logo in Photoshop, you risk it becoming pixelated when you increase the size. 

 illustrator vs photoshop for graphic design

Illustrator is also ideal for any kind of print media. It’s also handy for web design, as it allows you to resize images quickly and easily. It does a lot of the work for you, so you don’t have to resize each image individually. 

However, many graphic designers do use Photoshop at times. For example, it’s useful for creating images for digital ads, video graphics for Youtube, or website mock-ups. So, you’ll need to think about what kind of designs you want to create. Consider how and where you’ll use them and whether you need the flexibility of increasing the images. That will help you decide whether to use Illustrator or Photoshop. 

Photoshop or Illustrator for Digital Art

photoshop or illustrator for digital art

As mentioned before, Photoshop and Illustrator have very similar tools and features. So for creating digital art, it comes down to how you prefer to work and what you’ll do with your artwork. 

For those who like to sketch by hand, Photoshop is useful. You can scan your drawings and then work on them digitally to enhance them. In that way, it’s possible to create amazing artwork in your unique style.

Photoshop is also ideal for any kind of artwork using photos. Plus, you’ll find it useful if you want to edit or manipulate images with a high level of control and detail. 

But if you want to print your art in various sizes, it’s better to use Illustrator. As it’s a vector-based program, it will preserve the image quality across all media and sizes.

And as it has a wide range of powerful tools, it’s also great for creating digital art. There are no limits to what you can create (other than your imagination!). 

When to Use Photoshop and Illustrator

adobe illustrator vs photoshop, what is the difference between photoshop and illustrator

As you can see, it’s not always easy to decide whether to use Adobe Illustrator vs Photoshop. But there are certain scenarios where one program will work better than the other. 

Photoshop excels when you need to enhance an existing image. It’s the gold standard in photo editing programs. But it’s also useful for creating elements for web pages, digital ads, and video graphics.

You can also use Photoshop for drawing and digital art. But in comparison, Illustrator is amazing for creating illustrations from scratch. That’s what it was designed for (hence the name). But it’s excellent for graphic design as well as digital art and illustration. 

You should use Illustrator if you need to produce an image in different sizes and formats. It maintains the image quality, so it will always look amazing. That’s why Illustrator is better for creating logos or print media. 

The Wrap Up

You might have been struggling to decide whether to use Illustrator or Photoshop. That’s understandable, as the two programs appear very similar at first glance.

The real difference is that Illustrator produces vector art. In contrast, Photoshop designs are raster-based. So, you’ll need to think about what kind of images you want to create. Consider where and how you’ll use them. 

For example, do you need a high-quality image that you can use in various places? Then, you should go for Illustrator. But if you want to edit sketches or photos, then Photoshop is ideal.

The entire Adobe Creative Cloud is amazing. There are many ways to get the best out of each program. And you can even use the programs together to improve the final results.  

As the tools and features are very similar, the best thing to do is to have a go with each program. You can try them out, experiment, and see which one you prefer to use. 

Feel free to ask any questions about Photoshop or Illustrator below. And don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest! That’s where I’ll share all the latest tips, reviews, and articles for creative professionals. 

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, Proactive Creative may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.


Outmane is the founder of Proactive Creative. He is an artist/designer.


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