So you’ve purchased Adobe Suite or Creative Cloud for graphics… now what?

At first it can be hard to figure out what each shiny new program is meant to do. It’s a bit dizzying really. So do you use Photoshop for graphics and logos, illustrator for drawing? What the heck is InDesign? Why do I need all of this? As I hear these questions often from peers in professional practice, I’ve created the following simple breakdown which tackles these questions. I’ll expand on individual program use (and more) in future posts.

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Photoshop is used primarily for manipulating photos and images. With it you can resize, crop, re-touch and alter images. Photoshop deals in something called raster graphics which are pixel (or dot) based images. Photoshop can manipulate high-quality/larger size images required for print, or create lower-quality/smaller-size images for web graphics. Images can generally only be sized down without loss of clarity and raster graphics are frequently saved in lossy formats which can degrade with repeated saving in those formats. While it can be tempting to use Photoshop for everything, it is NOT the ideal tool for designing logos, manipulating text, print layouts or for sending media to print.

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Adobe Illustrator is used to create vector graphics/lineart/logos. Vector graphics are mathematical line drawings that never lose quality or clarity when sized up or down because they are composed of points, lines and curves. The program appropriately re-scales these mathematical dimensions as needed, therefore it is best suited for logos and scalable graphics.  Illustrator does not handle photos well or have adequate tools for editing or manipulating images. Illustrator is also not good for print media layout.

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Adobe InDesign is a print media/publishing software geared towards precise layout, print and prepress production. It is primarily used for combining and positioning of a mix elements (type/text, vector/lineart and raster/photos) to produce magazines, books, brochures, news letters etc. It has advanced features for text layout and handles other elements through placement (linking) rather than direct embedding. It is thus a container to combine, position and manipulate external elements with text. Illustrator and Photoshop can be launched from within InDesign to update or adjust external (placed) files as needed. It can also package or gather files for export to other destinations including images, colour profiles, printing instructions and even type faces.

A short Youtube video demonstrating these differences:

Image by  Michael Carian / CC BY SA 2.0