I am a huge Photoshop guy, been one for like 10 years now. But I see more and more resources around Illustrator, I realize Illustrator is great for vector based graphics. But is it better for 'creation' in general?

What I mean by creation is creating images from scratch for use on your site or application. Is it a more ideal tool for that scenario? It seems Photoshop is good at this specific task, but it might be more targeted towards Photo manipulation rather than creation, although I have no such evidence to back this up.

My question is more driven by the ever increasing of tutorials and resources around Illustrator rather than Photoshop. Especially when it comes to Iconography, and Web 2.0 type stuff...

I welcome anyones input! If you prefer another software product like Fireworks, please specify why...

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    You are asking if a hammer is better than a screwdriver.
    – DA01
    Mar 22, 2011 at 18:48
  • I don't think you understand that this question was designed to encourage conjecture. I wanted peoples opinions, experience, etc. If it were designed to encourage a point of fact then yes, it would be like I am comparing a hammer to a screw-driver. But if you realize the goal of the question then it is useful. Mar 22, 2011 at 18:57
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    Both applications are tools for creating images. Just as a carpenter uses both a screwdriver and a hammer, a visual designer uses both raster and vector image creation and manipulation tools.
    – DA01
    Mar 22, 2011 at 19:11
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    Pretty sure random conjecture is off-topic on both sites where you posted this. Mar 22, 2011 at 20:33
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    I disagree as its not random conjecture, its about graphics design tools and how people use them in their daily work routine. This information is useful despite both of your opinions on the subject. Mar 22, 2011 at 20:54

6 Answers 6



Creating curves and complex shapes is what Illustrator excels at. To that end, it makes a lot of sense to use it when creating icons and such from scratch, or when vector format is a requirement.


By contrast there are a lot of photographic effects that Illustrator is not so great for, and you may actually have to import whatever you create in Illustrator to Photoshop to finish it off. For web graphics, Photoshop is almost always the final step before HTML for me.


One other tool that's worth checking out is Fireworks. It has a limited feature set by comparison. But it supports both vector and bitmap-based graphics. And it's been designed from the ground up for web graphics. With all of its built-in styles and shapes you can actually be very efficient with your time in Fireworks. And I've seen some really good web designs come out of it.


If your design is for the web, of course, there may not be a huge advantage of doing everything in vector form. In the end you'll probably be using PNG's and JPG's anyway. But if you're doing it for something like Silverlight, WPF, Flash, etc, then vector form is often preferred. With all that said, I simply haven't been able to pick a favorite tool from the list above. Sometimes in fact I'll use two tools for a given project. It all depends on the job.


There was a time when Illustrator and Photoshop served two different purposes, vector based illustration in one and bitmap based painting and drawing in the other. But in the later versions they have began to overlap in purpose and use.

Web 2.0 design leans heavily on illustration style artwork so more designers are using Adobe Illustrator and other vector based tools. If you like the Web 2.0 style Illustrator is a great tool to use if you have it, but if all you have is Photoshop then know that many of the effects created in illustrator may also be created by using Photoshop.

I love Illustrator and use it a lot even though I feel I have more skills using Photoshop because I have been creating line drawings, charts, and curvy lines. Then I import them as smart objects in Photoshop, tweak on them maybe adding something photographic, and save them as PNGs.

I use both apps and enjoy creating artwork in them both pretty equally, so to answer your question of "...is it better for 'creation' in general?" I don't think it is better, but is equal and can be very complimentary.

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    I think it's interesting how much has happened in web design in the five years since this answer was submitted! :) Now it seems we're moving more and more towards graphically simplistic material design instead of advanced glossy buttons and such.
    – damd
    Apr 7, 2016 at 11:47

In terms of user interface technologies, having all of your resources in a vector format is quite useful because of scaling. Not only are displays increasing in resolution, but operating systems are increasing support for resolution. For instance, the addition of 256x256 icon support starting with Windows Vista (or 512x512 with OS X) had a lot of people scrambling to create new icons. Those who had those icons designed in a vector format in the first place were already set.

Taking that one step further, you have technologies like WPF/Silverlight coming around where the entire user interface can be rendered with vector graphics. There are tools for UI designers working in WPF or Silverlight to have their assets exported directly from Illustrator directly into vector formats that .NET programmers can use (XAML).

Your only recourse with Photoshop is to hope you designed things oversized enough to start with that you have room to support increasing resolutions.

That's why I find it important UI designers are producing vectorized assets. Now, onto moving from Photoshop to Illustrator. I went through the same dilemma a while back. I'd grown very accustomed to doing things in Photoshop, and was even doing vector concepts to some extent (using layer styles and the likes). I found a useful entry path into Illustrator was to practice with Vector Tracing. That is, actually tracing over a stretched out pixel image to produce a illustrated version of it. Find some good tutorials on how to take a photo (something simple, like a leaf or something), and start tracing it so you have a vector illustration of that leaf. You'll slowly get a good feel on the toolsets as well as how to break down complex gradients into simpler ones, an important concept in scalable iconography.

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    Kinda, yeah, but, no. I mean.. Yeah, sure, if you're ready to work your textures in photoshop and then apply them to Vector stuff, where you still hit the roof with scaling, and the benefits are questionable. The real problem being the quality that vector tools today provide are nowhere near the raster tools. I mean, when it comes to digital painting, and 2D graphic effects and manipulation, Photoshop still provides the ultimate results. You can and should use it in co-operation with Illustrator, but you shouldn't rely on Illustator alone just because you can avoid redoing stuff that way..
    – Ars Magika
    Apr 11, 2011 at 17:23

I find the hammer and screwdriver analogy to be flawed. The question asked is whether Illustrator is better for image creation. So a more accurate analogy would be: Is a hammer better than a screwdriver for hammering a nail?

And the answer is obvious.

If you're creating a vector image, use a vector tool. If you're manipulating an image, use an image manipulation tool. I gave up Photoshop years ago, when I realized that I was always trying to twist photo manipulation features to do my vector bidding. It tool a while to get Illustrator under my fingers, but now I use nothing else for vector work.

It's also false to say "Both applications are tools for creating images". Photoshop was never designed for creating images; it stumbled backwards in to the lives of web designers.

  • 'image creation' is not the same as 'vector illustration'. Photoshop is a powerhouse image creation tool as much as adobe illustrator is. But they are used for different types of image creation. So, perhaps the analogy I should have used was "which is better, phillips of flat head" ;o)
    – DA01
    Apr 11, 2011 at 21:56

Personally I like drawing vectors in Flash better than Illustrator. If you've never tried it, Flash takes a very different approach to how the lines are constructed. For example in Illustrator if you draw a line, then draw a second line crossing the first, you now have two independent vectors that happen to overlap. In Flash if you draw a line then draw a second line crossing the first, you now have four line segments that meet in the middle.

I find it a much more fluid way of drawing while still having the resolution-independent advantages of vectors.

(Incidentally I could talk your ears off about the history of why the drawing tools in Flash work that way, but long story short it's on Wikipedia.)


I am also, and have been for over 10 years as well, a huge fan of Photoshop. Just recently I noticed that there's tons of vector work that doesn't even look vector, and in contrast to the normal vector stuff I've seen (which seemed all to be "retro" to defend the fact that drawing with Illustrator Pen Tool is "a bit" more time consuming than Photoshop Brush with Wacom Tablet).

So, excited about these new artworks, I grabbed my Illustrator and started to play around with it. So far it's been 50% in co-operation with Photoshop and 50% stand-alone. And to me, in the future, it seems it's gonna be a lot more co-operation than stand-alone. I do work a little with print stuff as well so in that respect it's gonna be a huge benefit to discover the possibilities, but I see tons of use with the web as well. One being the already mentioned Web 2.0 trend (not a huge fan of trends but I'm not always being asked, ha ha.)

Another one being the flexibility and reusability of vectors, oh my... I'd say, if you got web stuff coming out, leave the drop shadows and that stuff for Photoshop to handle, and concentrate on just the forms. I've heard someone saying Illustrator is better with gradients than Photoshop but I've got no evidence to back it up.

Illustrator definitely provides killer tools for clean objects like icons and buttons etc, with all the cool gradient "shadings" for the popular realistic-like-but-not-THAT-realistic-looks.

So, is it worth the time for Photoshop enthusiasts? Hell yeah. Even if I just manipulate my photos? Well, no, it's not that good.

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