When to Use What? The Difference Between Illustrator, Indesign, and Photoshop

One of my biggest pet peeves as a designer is having to work with a file that was created using the wrong Adobe program. Not understanding the difference between Illustrator, Indesign, and Photoshop can result in pixelated images, blurry text and massive files. Not to mention the time a designer will spend trying to fix or get around the file issue. We all have our favorite programs to work with (mine happens to be Adobe Illustrator) but there are certain times when one program should be used over the other. Despite the distinct difference between Illustrator, Indesign, and Photoshop, the three programs still work together to make up for what the other is lacking and help the us achieve some amazing designs. Read on to learn the purpose and difference between Illustrator, Indesign, and Photoshop. Then download the infographic below to see how each program compares to one another.


Adobe Illustrator

Illustrator’s main purpose is to edit and create vector designs. Vector-based illustrations are scalable and will maintain their resolution and clarity at any size. This is why Illustrator is the ideal program for creating logos, brand marks, and graphic illustrations. Creating a logo in Photoshop can result in pixelation because it outputs in raster instead of vector and Indesign can create vector designs,  but its capabilities are basic compared to those of Adobe Illustrator. Nevertheless, this program does has its limitations when it comes to creating master pages for template designs and automating page numbers.


Adobe Indesign

Luckily, Indesign was designed to achieve what Illustrator can’t and is the ideal program for layout design and print projects. Indesign is capable of outputting both raster and vector, and is useful for unifying elements created in Illustrator and Photoshop. So when you’re designing brochures, newsletters, magazines, books, ads, or business cards, you want to use Adobe Indesign. This program has superb text wrapping abilities and can create multi-page layouts, as well as master layouts. This allows you to create a template with design elements that are used on every page such as a logo or header. Indesign is also capable of automatically implement numbers, which is useful when designing complex books and magazines. It’s no secret that Indesign is restricted when it comes to creating vector graphics, but it is also restricted when it comes to photo editing.


Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop was originally created as a tool for enhancing photographs but the program has evolved into a tool that does so much more. This program is ideal when you want to edit photos, build web pages, create user interface designs, design web banners or make video graphics. Everything created using Photoshop is raster-based design so the program uses with pixels, as oppose to the calculated angles used in vector-based design. This means it shouldn’t be used to create logo designs. Logos created in Photoshop are limited in how they can be manipulated and can result in unnecessarily large file sizes. Adobe Photoshop is also not ideal for text and setting type; fonts should be vector-based to print at its clearest.


In the end, knowing the difference between Illustrator, Indesign, and Photoshop is critical for designers everywhere. Each tool has a specific purpose but combine with a designer’s imagination, the possibilities of each program are endless. Wherever one program lacks, another can be used in its place and together all three can be utilized to create some pretty amazing designs. But don’t just take my word for it! See for yourself in this infographic that shows the difference between Illustrator, Indesign, and Photoshop:



Difference Between Illustrator, Indesign, and Photoshop

Like what you see? Share and print the Ai vs. Id vs. Ps Infographic here!

Ariana Nicole
1 Comment
  • Thank you! The most straightforward and useful review of the three packages I’ve found. I feel much more certain of what I’m talking about!

    May 12, 2016 at 7:00 am

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