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When, if ever, is Photoshop the wrong tool for the job?

There are several tools that slightly overlap with Photoshop in functionality. Adobe makes several ones themselves. Thing is Photoshop is extremely versatile, but even so it has its limits. When exactly is Photoshop the wrong tool? What is the reason for this?

If one needs examples consider example,

  • posters,
  • documents like a CV,
  • video editing,
  • business cards,
  • etc.

In reverse when is Photoshop the right tool? And possibly why should anybody care?

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    So many answers.... Photoshop is terrible and fixing my car, watering my lawn, opening tough jars, cleaning the bathroom, aerating the garden, fixing a flat.... – Scott Oct 7 '14 at 10:20
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    @Scott i wouldnt be so sure about the car fixing, and flat fixing (Because ive used it for both) but certainly the lawn watering is not so good. – joojaa Oct 7 '14 at 11:20
  • You have plenty of quality answers but I'd like to highlight that multi-page documents should favour substance over style and Photoshop is unsuitable for that particular case. Especially don't make the mistake of building a CV in Photoshop to 'stand out'. Even when applying for jobs in graphic design a CV should focus on content presented in a clean and readable style. Demonstrating your skills is what a portfolio is for. – Lilienthal Oct 8 '14 at 9:34
  • @Lilienthal I agree. Just wanted a reference to the topic so taht i dont have to explain all the points to others, and show even others agree with me. But like everything agreement is a bit conditional some people like the oppsite point of view. Whatever works. – joojaa Oct 8 '14 at 10:11
  • Note: One of your bullet points is video editing. Don't use Photoshop for that please... Use premiere or after effects. Photoshop's video tools are so backwards your head will be pointing the other way when you've figured it out. – GiantCowFilms Nov 19 '14 at 0:05
12

Photoshop is a tool just like any. It's not necessarily right or wrong - it just is. There might be better tools or worse tools.

You need to ask:

Can I achieve the necessary result using Photoshop? Will the file be in the correct format and below size restrictions for any other parties involved?

If No to either one, then it's an inappropriate tool. However, it needs to be stressed this has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not its the best tool. That wasn't the question. This is only a statement of when it is not the correct tool.

Some examples:

CV / Résumé

Could work, but too often do you need to send your résumé as a .doc to upload for an automatic reader. A work-around (which is a good idea anyways) is to have two résumés. One specifically for upload purposes in plain text and one that can be styled however you want. If you want to make that "styled" one in Photoshop - fine. In Word - fine. In MS Paint - fine. etc...

Posters

It can be done depending on how you're printing and what you're putting on it. You and/or any sort of file transfer that needs to occur could run into memory issues if it gets very large. Again Photoshop might fail to meet size requirements though you could probably do an entire design in it easy enough. If you're just printing something on a plotter in a university lab it should do just fine though.

Logos

While its certainly not the best tool it can absolutely be done, saved into any format you need, and scaled relatively easily especially if you start with something at a decent resolution. Again, this doesn't mean its the best tool - it just means its not an incorrect tool.

My personal workflow for print ads:

Photoshop is what I know best. I do almost everything in Photoshop and then scrape the images out and recreate the entire thing in InDesign. But I do the whole thing entirely in Photoshop first. Just retype it and rebuild vectors in InDesign / Illustrator after because of how much better the quality will be and how much smaller the files will be. I've certainly been lazy at times or hit deadlines and had to submit straight from Photoshop. Likewise I've met MANY a graphic designer that doesn't know or touch InDesign so will send a final ad from Photoshop over. Is it wrong? No. Is there better? Yes.

  • Yes i expressly dont ask for best because i dont believe it exists :) – joojaa Oct 7 '14 at 3:29
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    I'd say photoshop is indeed an incorrect tool for logos, in as much as we can apply the word incorrect to anything. I mean, you can draw a logo in ASCII art in notepad, extending your logic I guess notepad's not an incorrect tool just not the best? You specifically need something identical at every resolution, from tiny favicons to massive banners, i.e. a vector image. – blmoore Oct 7 '14 at 15:13
  • @blmoore you're welcome to have a different opinion and leave your own answer. And no you don't necessarily need something at every resolution, again that depends on the needs of your job as I said, "Can I achieve the necessary result using Photoshop? Will the file be in the correct format and below size restrictions for any other parties involved?" If your particular logo cannot meet those criteria in Photoshop then its not the correct tool. But really I'd say nearly 99% of logos can be done in Photoshop, it's just not ideal. – Ryan Oct 7 '14 at 15:23
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    @PlasmaHH I'd say it's the other way around -- if know only PS and you need to design a logo, then you are not the right person for the job. – Erbureth says Reinstate Monica Oct 8 '14 at 11:38
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    @Ryan If the logo is to be used for longer than a strictly limited short period or more than several rigorously-defined use-cases, then it needs to be in vector. Period. – Erbureth says Reinstate Monica Oct 8 '14 at 11:46
16

Photoshop is for creating raster-based imagery and editing photos.

For photo editing, it's typically the product you use from start to finish.

For nearly everything else--including all the uses you mention in your question (posters, CVs, video editing, business cards) as well as many others (web design, book covers, album covers, ads, magazines, etc)--Photoshop is merely one of the tools you use to create elements of a design that you will assemble in another tool (InDesign, Illustrator, Final Cut Pro/Aftereffects, HTML, etc.)

In summary, it's an appropriate tool for any time you need to work with raster imagery. It's usually not the appropriate tool for doing everything.

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    I believe this deserves to be the winning answer. – Thriveth Oct 8 '14 at 13:57
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    @Thriveth Its good but it doesn't address why. – joojaa Oct 8 '14 at 17:15
9

The only times I feel Photoshop is the "wrong" or "inappropriate" tool are when:

  • Text sizes are 8pts or smaller (hinting can get lost with smaller type sizes)
  • Multiple pages are needed (booklets, manuals, etc.)
  • Multiple iterations of the layout are needed (business cards, advertising, etc.)
  • Spot colors (yes it can be done in Photoshop but it takes a great deal more effort than any other app)
  • True vector files are needed (Photoshop can't do this despite what some really want to believe)

Beyond that you can use Photoshop. While Photoshop may not be the easiest tool for some layouts, there's certainly no technical reason it can't be used other than what I've listed above.

But just because you can pound in a nail with a pair of pliers, it doesn't mean it's the easiest/best/most accurate way to do it in some cases.

  • 2
    And the down vote because???? – Scott Oct 7 '14 at 18:06
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Rule of thumb is:

Adobe Photoshop is for photography and some illustration.

Adobe Illustrator is for Type, Logos, Illustration, shapes.

InDesign is for all print material (thought I do use Illustrator too) as the prime collections software.

The question you should ask is what is the final going to be? Is it for the web? Is it for print? For the web, Photoshop is key as the ultimate final software to be used. You may be importing files into it from Illustrator, but saving the final as a jpeg. Logos should always be created in Illustrator. Why? Because they have to remain flexible for any size. If you create a logo in Photoshop and then want it to be painted on a truck, the enlarged files will be so pixelated, it will look terrible. Illustrator is a vector software which will give you a crisp file no matter what size you need your file.

  • its a pretty good start for a good answer. You have to understand that im really after a great answer so far @Ryan is closest to one. My aim is to get this done and over with so i dont need to discuss this ever again. I know the answer i just want a reference that can use. – joojaa Oct 7 '14 at 3:25
5

I'm going to expand on DA01 and Ryan's answer a little here since you ask for "whats the reason for this".

As stated by DA01 Photoshop is for creating raster-based imagery and editing photos but it is also a tool for batch processing and an image processor. Since many designers cannot comprehend code and do not understand how Imagemagick works Photoshop is a good tool to manipulate a large number of image editing processes/tasks when needed.

One fault when some use a program is they try to only stick with that program and it is why I feel the following should be considered:

CV /resume

Many years ago the standard for sending a resume was in a .doc format but with today's technologies some would argue the standard is a PDF, especially if you're sending a resume to a print or design company. A good tool to use Photoshop is for the background or any design element that you want to generate on a raster level. Typically, some would then just add the text but in an ideal workflow they should bring the design in InDesign and typeset their typography or any text they need to help generate a decent file size for delivery. One problem with typography in a raster file is it adds an enormous file size that some will not want to get and there are limitations to what you can send.

Posters

Same rule applies as above, if an element is needed to be raster generated it could be done in Photoshop but some should ask themselves if I am creating this can I create this in Illustrator? Am I limiting my success because I'm scared to use or learn another program? At times the answer would be "yes, I can create this in Illustrator" but some still try to only know and use one program.

Logos

When it comes to logos I use the logic that it should never be done or rely on a raster based program like Photoshop and if I used Photoshop would it cause an unpleasant experience when scaled. I say that because when I design a logo for myself or someone I try to picture the scope of how the logo is to be used and that is typically a large area of print. I would say if the logo was only to be used in a web environment it would be ok but now with SVG I can generate a better logo for a website that can be scalable in Illustrator.

Illustration

As someone has pointed out Photoshop could be used for illustration but I would only extend that realistic illustrative work to include high detail that would be an issue to do in Illustrator or would take longer to do in Illustrator (time is money).

So to answer when is Photoshop the right tool?

  • Some could say when the generated output of the design could be better executed in Photoshop compared to another program that would not hender on delivery or file size
  • Image manipulation
  • Image resizing
  • Image color correction
  • Image processing
  • Image design development that would decrease in workflow time and still be used in other realms of the production process
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There are times that the overhead of loading PS isn't worth the time, so I'll pop open IrfanView to do something small.

Working with vector files is the next obvious answer. You'll probably want to use Illustrator for that.

I was not aware of PS video editing features before seeing this question, so that brings up another point. PhotoShop is the correct tool for the job IF it does what needs to be done AND you it's the tool with which you are most comfortable doing that particular job. For me, video editing in PS would be inappropriate, but for someone else, it might be the perfect choice.

2

I would say it's the right tool when it comes to photo retouching and illustration work that doesn't need to be in vectors, animated gifs. It's commonly used for website design too but other tools could be argued for depending on the type of websites.

Tools can be wrong for all sorts of things so I don't think listing wrong uses of Photoshop would be particularly useful. Then again, when it comes to using any tool, if that's all you have at your disposal, it's often possible to make do of it, just not the best.

  • You could include a why its good for those and ill be happier. Anyway cant say I agree with the later part i mean I have used photoshop as a simulator for heat diffusion in a engineering project, but its clearly the wrong tool for the job :) Just because you can does not mean you should. – joojaa Oct 7 '14 at 2:17

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