Photoshop vs Illustrator vs InDesign

Ever wonders what is the difference between Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign?


Adobe Photoshop is a great program for for creating and editing photos and raster (pixel) based artwork. These graphics can sometimes look a little jagged since raster images are made up of individual coloured squares, known as pixels.

The program was originally developed as a tool to enhance photographs, but over time its functionality has developed to the point where it can be used to create user interface designs, web pages, banner ads, video graphics and many more.

Everything in Photoshop is just a series of pixels, so if you’re scaling something up or down, it can lose its quality very quickly. Photoshop is a popular choice for web graphics, photo editing and designs since those projects will stay at a fixed size. Editing photos is awesome in Photoshop, because it includes a lot of unique filters, special effects and tools.

There is so much information about Photoshop in form of tutorials and guides, some people feel that it’s all you need. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The problem is that there are instances when you don’t need to use Photoshop, and should in fact be using Illustrator or InDesign.

  • Do not create logos with Photoshop – It’s a bad idea that will do nothing but cost you time and money. Photoshop is pixel, or raster based. If you create a logo with it, the files that it creates can not be enlarged or manipulated in the same manner that an Illustrator-based logo can.
  • Do not set type in Photoshop for print projects – For type to print at its clearest, it needs to be vector based; Photoshop exports type as pixels. Now, you can save your Photoshop files in as an .EPS file which allows you to export type as vectors, but still this is not a best practice, so just don’t do it.


Adobe Illustrator, as its name suggests, is for creating and editing vector based illustrations, such as logos-brand marks or other design elements.. Unlike Photoshop’s pixel-based format, it uses mathematical constructs to create vector graphics. Vector graphics are scalable images that can be sized as small or as large as you need them to be, and still maintain their resolution and clarity. In Illustrator, a line is composed of two dots connected by a computer algorithm, instead of just a line of pixels. Because of this, Illustrator is used often to create logos or anything that may need to be printed or displayed at different sizes. A vector graphic will never lose its quality if it’s scaled up or down. Illustrator will also give you a better print output since it’s not resolution dependent.

While it is possible to create multi-page documents with Illustrator for items like brochures or annual reports, there are a few drawbacks to using the program in this way.

  • Illustrator can’t be used easily to modify images that are already created the way that Photoshop does, since there are limited filters and image editing tools available to you.
  • Illustrator doesn’t have a way to setup master pages the way that InDesign does. This is a necessary tool when you’re building documents that use templates.
  • Illustrator doesn’t allow you to automate page numbers. This is another feature InDesign supports, which can be especially useful when dealing with larger documents.

Fireworks and InDesign

Now that you know the difference between Photoshop and Illustrator, there are a few other Adobe graphics software like Fireworks and InDesign.

Adobe bought Macromedia, which created Fireworks, in 2005. Fireworks is pretty much still around because it works well with Flash and Dreamweaver, which were Macromedia programs too. Fireworks offers both raster and vector options, but doesn’t excel at either.

InDesign works best when it comes to making multi-page layouts with a lot of written content, like brochures, newsletters, ads, business cards, books or magazines. Virtually anything that is made up of a combination of blocks of text, photos or other artwork. Its purpose is to take the elements that you create in Illustrator and Photoshop and put them together in one place if you’re working on a book or PDF, since you’ll have more options and control over your creations. InDesign also will preserve the vector images you created in Illustrator.

InDesign excels at projects that require multi-page layouts or master layouts where one theme reoccurs on multiple pages. Its text wrap functionality (where you can literally wrap text around images or objects) is much simpler and easier to use than it is in Illustrator.

People can, and do, put together layouts with Photoshop or Illustrator. However, in doing so, they often create files that are needlessly huge or put together in ways that are not optimal for commercial printers to use. InDesign, however, packages everything for you – all of your fonts and images. It does this so that you can hand off these materials to your printer and they can make your layout work in the exact manner that you intended.

While InDesign is a powerful tool, it does have its limitations.

  • InDesign doesn’t have any photo editing capabilities.
  • InDesign does give you the ability to draw vector graphics, like those you might find in a logo, but it doesn’t hold a candle to what you can do with Illustrator.

Comparison List

Adobe Photoshop vs. Adobe Illustrator

  • Photoshop is superior for photo enhancing.
  • Photoshop pixel control is much precise than Illustrator.
  • Photoshop creates precise pixel based UI designs compared to Illustrator.
  • Photoshop layer is straight forward compared to Illustrator. Organizing elements is much easier in Photoshop because of this. Illustrator layers can contain multiple objects within one layer while Photoshop is all grouped into that layer.
  • Illustrator has superior vector support, while Photoshop function to vector graphics are limited.
  • Illustrator has better page layout features, while Photoshop is concentrated to one document.
  • Illustrator is based on “art boards”, while Photoshop is based on a “canvas”.
  • Illustrator has excellent typography output, while Photoshop typography is still pixel based on final output.
  • Illustrator does not handle photo enhancement/correction or manipulation. Photoshop is very powerful for this.
  • Illustrator supports multiple page output for PDF, while Photoshop does not.
  • Illustrator has the “Place” (Importing graphics) command through dynamic file linking. Photoshop Creative Cloud 2014 now supports linked images using the “Place” command.
  • Illustrator exports .EPS file formats better than Photoshop.
  • Illustrator does not handle pixel art the same way as Photoshop does in terms of effects.

Adobe Photoshop vs Adobe InDesign

  • Photoshop has filter effects while InDesign is limited.
  • InDesign is based on pages, supports multiple pages for PDF and print while Photoshop is only focused on one canvas environment.
  • InDesign is all based on object linking from various sources, software and locations in your hard drive. Photoshop is not based on a similar environment as most objects are practically embedded into the Photoshop document (unless you are working with .PSB files or smart objects.)
  • InDesign supports vectors, imports .AI and .EPS with vector data encoded. In Photoshop this gets converted to paths or pseudo vector. The final output is still pixel based.
  • InDesign supports XML, Photoshop does not.

Adobe Illustrator vs. Adobe InDesign

  • Illustrator cannot define page numbers.
  • InDesign has page number, tables of content system and other tools that helps publishing editorial projects an ease, while Illustrator has no such function.
  • InDesign has a master page system that allows you to create a template to use for multiple pages while Illustrator does not have such function.
  • InDesign cannot draw objects as well as Illustrator.
  • InDesign does not have filters as Illustrator does.
  • InDesign has superior type wrapping and linking tools, while it is a bit confusing or non-existent in Illustrator.



You’ll come to find that some people just prefer to use one software over another, but sometimes it’s best to use Photoshop and Illustrator together. For example, you may need to add some text to an image you need to edit. Maybe you need to add a watermark to a photo for your blog or over an image for your portfolio. It’s best not to add any text to an image in Photoshop since it can distort, so transferring the edited photo to Illustrator and then adding the text there will give you the best result.

One is definitely not better than the other, they’re just different. Understanding the basic differences between Photoshop and Illustrator will help you make the decision about which software is best for your next project.

Please leave your comments below.


Experienced IT Consultant working and living in the UK. In early years he was born and raised up in Greece and been to the UK since studies. He is passionate with technology, gadgets and computers, he really likes the internet and IT in general.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *