Hello and welcome to the first tutorial in my series of ‘Adobe Basics’. Well, that’s kind of a lie – the first tutorial isn’t really a tutorial. It’s more of an informative article which discusses the different applications available. I know, I know, you’re probably yawning right now – where’s all the exciting stuff I hear you say?! The thing is, it makes sense to talk about which software is right for you before you go creating all your cool designs. Whether you’re a blogger, photographer, small business owner or full-fledged graphic designer, chances are you may need different software to get you started. This post compares Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator so read on to see which I recommend purchasing.
I want to get started but don’t know which software to use
The most popular Adobe product, and the one most people are familiar with, is Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is an extensive software which can be used for so many different things, from designing flyers and websites to editing photos, which probably explains why most people start off with this first (myself included). Why should you buy any other packages if this one promises to cover most aspects? Well, this is sorta true. Photoshop is a bit of a jack of all trades but may not be the best software for you – it just depends on what you need it to do.
Adobe offers so many different products that each have their own unique selling points. There are specific applications for photographers, graphic designers, animators, and video and audio professionals – you name it, they’ve got it. If you’re looking for something to fulfill your graphic design needs, then Photoshop, InDesign and / or Illustrator are the packages I’d recommend – I use these three applications on a near-daily basis.
So which software do you need? Can you get away with using just one or do you need all three? I suppose this is entirely up to you and what you’re looking to get out of the app(s). To help you decide, I’ve outlined the features of each one and what uses they’re best suited to.
Photoshop is a raster image editor, meaning it is great for photos, web graphics and mockups. Raster (or bitmap) images are described by an array or map of bits within a rectangular grid of pixels or dots (hang in there). The issue with raster images is that, as soon as they are scaled, they become “pixelated”, or in other words the pixels begin to show, and they lose their quality and resolution. So while Photoshop can be used to create basic flyers and logos, I find this makes it a limited tool to design scalable items like logos or typography-based items like flyers.
Where Photoshop shines is in its photo-editing capabilities. It offers so many different unique filters, effects and tools to manipulate your images any way you want. You can easily combine and layer up various components and effects because everything is arranged in layers and groups. The customisable brush tool and the basic frame by frame animation tool are also great features offered by Photoshop.
Illustrator works with vector graphics rather than raster images. According to Adobe, “vector images are lines, shapes and other graphic image components stored in a format that incorporates geometric formulas for rendering the image elements”. Put simply, vector graphics can be scaled without affecting the quality and becoming pixelated.
This is what makes Illustrator particularly great for creating logos, illustrations, graphs and any other graphic elements that can be resized as needed. Another great feature of Illustrator is that it allows you to create more than one artboard and put them side by side, allowing you to quickly create and compare different options.
While I would mainly recommend using Illustrator to create scalable graphics, large-scale prints and one-page layouts, more and more designers now also use it to design digital outputs such as websites.
InDesign has been specifically created for publishing, meaning it’s perfect if you’re looking to design something with a lot of text and graphics – think brochures, flyers, business cards, letterheads, etc. It’s basically an advanced, but more user-friendly, version of Word or Publisher. That being said, it also has some pretty sweet digital features such as Digital Publishing which for example allows you to create interactive tablet magazines.
It’s particularly great for multi-page layouts with styles that need to be replicated across various pages and where you need to have more control over the typography (think magazines, books and brochures). Some of InDesign’s handy features include grid layouts, master layouts, character & paragraph styles, text threads and automated page numbers features.
What I use
So, what do I use? Well to be honest, I use a combination of all three depending on what I need to do. As a graphic designer, I tend to create a lot of multi-page documents like brochures and presentations, so I use InDesign like, a LOT. I’ll edit any photos in Photoshop and create any logos, icons or illustrations in Illustrator, and then bring them into my InDesign layout. If I’m creating images for the web or this blog, I’ll use Photoshop and sometimes import elements from InDesign or Illustrator (for e.g. text or graphics that are easier to control in these two applications).
As I’ve outlined in this post, each application has its own unique selling points. If you can only afford to buy one app and you’re only looking to create and edit images for your blog, social media pages and / or your shop, then Photoshop’s the one for you. If you want to design logos and draw illustrations and graphics, get Illustrator. If you’re looking to design stationery, magazines, presentations and brochures, download InDesign. Or if you’re looking to achieve quite a lot, get all three – they work so well together they’re practically best friends.
The good news is they’re relatively cheap to buy! Back in the old days, you’d have to pay for the full license (which was mega expensive btw, unless you managed to bag yourself a student discount) and you would have to buy a new one every time you wanted to upgrade to the latest software. These days, you pay a monthly fee which allows you to access one or more application and any upgrades. To give you an example, Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign are $20 dollars for each app. If you can afford it, I’d definitely recommend treating yourself to the Creative Cloud which currently runs at $50 a month and gives you access to ALL the apps and their upgrades and can be used on up to 2 computers and 1 tablet. Yep, that’s Photoshop, Illustrator & InDesign and all the other amazing apps by Adobe like Premiere, After Effects, Acrobat, Dreamweaver, etc. It’s a bit of an investment, but totally worth it.
Thank you for managing to read this far – I know this was a (very) lengthy post but I hope it was somewhat useful to you guys! Do you already use any of these applications and, if so, what d’ya think to them?
For those of you who want to start using these apps but don’t know your pen tool from your clipping mask, be sure to stick around as I’ll be releasing a series of introductory tutorials for Photoshop, Illustrator & InDesign on the blog very soon!
Still not sure which software you should use? Check out the tables for a comparison below!