The Pros and Cons of Using Illustrator

I recently started using Adobe Illustrator in addition to my main program Adobe Photoshop. This has gotten me thinking of an age old debate, Photoshop or Illustrator? Now, you can never do all the things in illustrator that you can in Photoshop and likewise in Illustrator, but what about for the every day things that you work on like icons or characters?

The Pros of Illustrator

With Adobe Illustrator all graphics that you create a vector graphics. This means that you can re-size the image to be as large or as small as you want while still retaining the proper styling and definition. You can also use Adobe Illustrator to create your business cards or any print media because by default Illustrator is set up to work in the proper printing color format. This means that you won’t create a design that will look completely different once it is printed.

Being able to re-size any image, no matter what size you designed it at, and still retain the right quality was the biggest draw to my for Illustrator. I wanted to be able to design an icon at icon size but still be able to offer a larger size. I can not do this in Photoshop and still get the styling I want, so I decided to head over to Illustrator and try it out. So far I am very happy with the majority of the results I have achieved with icons and character creation the last few days.

Having Illustrator already set up for print media is another great thing for me. I have found myself several times halfway through a print design in Photoshop, its looking fantastic, and I forgot to turn in from RGB to CMKY. This means that I either have to change right away and fix the mistakes that with inevitably pop up or start all over and try to achieve the same result after being immediately put in a horrible mood. With Illustrator I don’t have to worry about that anymore which is a huge load off of my back.

My final favorite thing about Illustrator so far is the ability to save as an EPS document where I can open the vector in Photoshop. The EPS file automatically opens in CMKY so no worries there. I have found myself, already, working on a document in Illustrator and getting it right where I want it so it looks great and I want to use it. Then I will open it up in Photoshop to re-size it and give it a nice background (which I could do in Illustrator but I prefer PS). Then I will start playing with the character or icon and it will just go from there until I have added or tweaked just little things but it makes the character 100 times better. The only thing I don’t like is that you can’t maintain the vector styling if you add things in Photoshop (unless you can and then I would love it even more) but it is easy to bring the styles over to Illustrator and recreate them.

The Cons of Illustrator

I am still pretty new to Illustrator but I have found several cons already. The first thing I have to say is that if you are an Illustrator user from the start and not originally a full time PS user than most of these will probably not bother you. One of my biggest pet peeves about Illustrator is the Gradient Tool. I use Gradients in a little over half of all my work and the gradient tool in Illustrator just does not jive with me. I don’t like the color selector at the bottom, I don’t like having to manually enter in the angle for my gradient, and I don’t like the way it renders gradients.

Like I said the first two are just pet peeves because I have worked in Photoshop for so long that I am used to the way they have you set up your gradients and colors. That being said however I do not think it is just my personal feelings for Photoshop that make the gradients in Illustrator render so strangely. The gradient lining is the worst that I have seen in any image editing program. The edges are rough and once you get past three colors it just renders more and more gradient lines rather than a clean overlay. This may just be my inexperience with Illustrator, and if it is please let me know how to correct it.

Another thing I have found that I don’t like with Illustrator is that you have to manually create a new layer. If you don’t all your paths will be on one layer and if you don’t keep up with the names of your paths then you will eventually get lost in what you are doing. Now, it is set up pretty much like Photshop in that a layer is like a PS Group and the paths are like PS layers, but it just comes from working in Photoshop for so long. My PS use is not the only reason that I have an issue with this, however. I also have a big problem with the fact that you can not create groups with any keyboard shortcut. You can create groups with the pathfind section, but then you have to isolate to see each individual path. It just seems like too much work for something so simple.

So What’s Better?

To be honest I have to say that no matter what Illustrator has to offer if it ever came down to making a choice of keeping Photoshop or Illustrator then I would choose Photoshop without a second thought. I do love Illustrator and everything that is has to offer, and I am sure that as I work a little more with it I will come to love it even more, but there is just something about Photoshop that makes it feel like the better program to me.

Sure, there are something things that Illustrator does better (the vector graphics) but I try not to do too much print and logo work, so if I didn’t have that ability it wouldn’t be very detrimental to my business. If I started working more on print and logos than I would probably change my mind and say I need to keep both of them, but I don’t see that anywhere in my near future. Since my main focus is Web Design, and Illustrator isn’t meant for that, I feel that I can easily say that in a battle of Photoshop vs Illustrator the clear victor would be Photoshop.


So, if the world of Adobe was ending and they said you had to choose just one image editing program, Photoshop or Illustrator, what would you choose? Would Photoshops superior styling trump Illustrator, or will you choose Illustrator’s amazing ability to render in whatever size over Photoshop’s lack of vector abilities?

The time has come for you to choose and post a comment about what you choose!